As OEMs rush mobile products to market, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) sensor makers are benefiting from the competitive fray. IHS Technology says the combo sensor market is set for continued substantial growth in 2014.
"The main reason for the success of combo sensors is their convenience," Jeremie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS, said in a press release. "They are expedient for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) who can buy just one device instead of two or three separate MEMS sensors. They also lend themselves to easy implementation as all combo sensors can be sold as plug-and-play solutions with their embedded sensor fusion algorithms, making for easier, more elegant deployment."
The market research firm predicts in its recently released Motion Sensors Report that revenue will grow 37% this year. That's a paltry figure when compared to the unprecedented 417% increase in 2012 and the strong 94% increase in 2013. However, the market has reached a substantial size. Global revenue for combo sensors in consumer and mobile applications is expected to rise from $443.0 million in 2013 to $608.2 million this year.
And the robust growth is expected to continue, with sales reaching $1.03 billion in sales by 2017. That's a compound annual growth rate of 23%.
Combo sensors, which deliver an accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, and pressure sensor in a MEMS package, are a must-have for smartphone makers. Marwan Boustany, senior analyst for MEMS and sensors at IHS, said in the release that six-axes inertial measurement units (IMUs) accounted for 79% of combo sensor revenue last year. These devices bring together a three-axis accelerometer and a three-axis gyroscope. Six-axis compass IMUs, which combine a magnetometer or electronic compass with an accelerometer, were the second-largest category last year and generated $85 million in sales.
Smartphones and tablets represented 95% of the market for combo sensors and will continue to take up the lion's share of sales for the foreseeable future, IHS said. Six-axis IMUs have largely taken the place of discrete gyroscopes in devices like smartphones and tablets for several OEMs. Samsung was the largest combo sensor consumer last year. By 2017, these applications will still represent four out of five combo sensor sales.
The next biggest opportunity for combo sensors is in wearable electronics. Six-axis IMUs are already found in smart watches such as Samsung's Galaxy Gear. Nine-axis IMUs have also made inroads, most prominently in Google Glass. Gaming is another frontier for MEMS sensors as they are integrated into consoles and handheld devices.
— Hailey Lynne McKeefry, , Editor in Chief, UBM's EBN