The inertial sensor market for consumer electronics is growing very quickly due to the fast adoption of accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers in mobile phones, tablets, game stations and laptops….Indeed, according to Laurent Robin, analyst for the MEMS & Sensors market at Yole Développement, 20.3% annual growth is expected from $847M in 2009 to reach $2.56B in 2015.
The MEMS accelerometer market will be strategic because many applications are expected to rely on 3-axis accelerometer + 3-axis gyroscope in a single package within 2015. There is thus a strong synergy between accelerometer and gyroscope technologies and players.
The gyroscope market is really thriving thanks to the successful introduction of 3-axis devices by ST Micro and InvenSense. While adoption in handsets is only starting to surge, (with iPhone since June 2010 and now with Android smartphones) the gaming market is quickly growing and additional markets are emerging like tablets or remote controls.
Compasses are also gaining strong market traction. 2010 was an incredible year for digital compass in handsets, but the market will find growth outside of the mobile phone area as well: on gaming, on DSC for advanced geo-tagging. It will be particularly interesting to monitor strategies of newcomers to compete against AKM who is way ahead in the market, notes Robin.
Competition is gaining in intensity as the motion sensing market becomes increasingly attractive. More than 50 companies are targeting this business including large players and small companies. But in the consumer market only a few companies are really making money out of this business, while the others are struggling to make a decent profit.
Several levels of competition are shaping the market:
- Competition among companies trying to offer a complete product family (accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers), either internally or with partners (ST is partnering with Honeywell for example on electronic compass).
- Competition among devices: accelerometer, gyroscopes and electronic compass can provide functions, either alone or in combination with each other. So companies have to propose the best sensor or sensor combination for a dedicated function.
- Competing business models: fabless companies (InvenSense for example) are competing against integrated device manufacturers (ST, Kionix, Panasonic, Epson Toyocom, Freescale…). Optimization of the production cost is one of the biggest key success factors. It is thus necessary for all players to work hard in order to really get the costs lower and produce on 8 inch wafer lines at a reasonable yield.
- Hardware competing against software: companies such as Movea start to impact the traditional supply chain model by bringing a novel expertise in software and sensor fusion.
- Technology competition: companies are proposing discrete devices (a 3-axis accelerometer, a 3-axis gyroscope…) or sensor combination (acceleration sensor plus gyroscope, gyroscope plus electronic compass…) either in a system-in-package or on a single die, along with a transition from a sensor offer to a solution offer (with sensor fusion).
Which company, business model, device… will win?
It is both a booming and fragmented market so multiple companies can have an important part of