Yannick Levy, vice president of corporate business development at French consumer electronics company Parrot, took the role of the MEMS user on the panel and started with a demonstration of a Parrot quad-copter drone. "A drone is a flying mobile phone. We ended up with 10 sensors to locate the drone in space -- a mix of gyros, accelerometers, and pressure sensor as barometer."
Moderator Roland Helm then asked the panelists to get more specific about whether there would be one hub or multiple hubs inside mobile equipment. The consensus was that multiple hubs would develop around sets of sensors. So optical functions close to the CMOS image sensor will naturally group together and be manipulated with an image processor; pressure, temperature, and humidity form an environment cluster; inertial sensors form a motion cluster.
Nokia's Ramo said: "I like hubs -- it allows modular solutions that can be bought from the market. We don't know all the opportunities [there are to make applications] so it makes sense to have hubs."
Eloy from Yole was clear that wearables are the near-term opportunity and that the IoT needs more time for markets and market-enabling standards to emerge. "What is IoT? It is a big name for many things that are not well defined. We need more time for that."
Parrot's Levy made the point that, while wearables that talk to the smartphone are a hot topic and a likely opportunity for many MEMS component vendors in the near term, any individual device could be short-lived. If it finds success in the market it will likely be swallowed up into a next-generation smartphone.
Levy made the point that right now there are lots of fitness wearables that communicate with a smartphone, but such functionality could be easily added to the smartphone just as camera functions have. He offered a statistic to illustrate the growing influence of the smartphone in the chip market: Two or three years ago the smartphone was responsible for 12 percent of the semiconductor market, and it is now responsible for about 24 percent. For this reason, Parrot is looking at the wider Internet of Things domain where cannibalization by the smartphone is not possible because of a link to the physical world. Levy gave the example of domestic usage such as sensor networks for house plants.
To this point, the discussion had essentially been focused on continued growth focusing on the additional depth and breadth of opportunities coming for MEMS in consumer applications. Helm then asked the intriguing question: "What is disappearing?"
It used to be that we chucked everything in. We are seeing a move back to "less is more." For example, indoor navigation has not panned out as planned. So the pressure sensor may get dropped from the mobile phone. We have to ask what is the added value for any given sensor, so the air pressure sensor may go.