Feature Article

May 29, 2013

Mobile Device Micro Sensors and MEMS Market to Hit Almost $8B by 2018

A new report from U.K.-based Juniper Research, “Mobile Sensors & MEMS: Market Prospects 2013-2018,” points to a rapidly growing market for the mobile Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) sensors and components tech segment. In fact, the market is very likely to reach $8 billion in 2018. That is certainly representative of the times we are moving toward, with so many portable, mobile - and wearable - devices now becoming an intimate part of our daily lives.

Such components, including microphone and camera devices embedded within smartphones, tablets, eReaders and wearable devices, are certainly key components of the MEMS market. But there are many others that fit the bill, including such things temperature and pressure gauges, as well as the biometric sorts of sensors that measure things such as heart rate and blood pulse. The recently introduced Samsung Galaxy S4 is currently the king of such sensors, packed as it is with every conceivable type of MEMS device.

MEMS sensors are crucial to mobile device functionality and enable services such as augmented reality, context awareness and navigation. Apple truly began it all with its introduction of accelerometers and gyroscopes in its iPhones. And as noted above, Samsung has now taken the entire market to an entirely new level.

They drive applications such as gaming, imaging and videography. The new Juniper report also suggests that the MEMS sector will be further driven by the emergence of wearable technology, though this is hardly a surprise, especially given the already substantial popularity of devices such as Nike's Fuelband and Jawbone's UP monitoring devices. Health and fitness is already the top application-producing market segment, and will continue to play a key role as it will rely heavily on MEMS sensor technology to measure temperature, pressure, physical activity and other key aspects of the body.

The Juniper report suggests that the latest mobile device camera technology will also require the use of a growing number of MEMS devices. For example, the report points to such new features as a camera having multiple points of focus (something Nokia is investigating with the likes of Pelican Imaging) that will allow viewers to choose which points within an image have the main focus. Recently, DigitalOptics also demonstrated a camera module based on a MEMS actuator capable of multiple points of focus at the 2013 Mobile World Congress.

The point here is that once one vendor begins to deliver, all of them will need to - leading to greatly increasing demand. MEMS cameras, per Juniper, will begin to hit the market in the next 12 to 24 months - though in fact we believe it may happen sooner, in time for the 2013 holiday buying season.

Report author Nitin Bhas notes, “With Apple and Samsung paving the way, device manufacturers are integrating multiple sensors, and combining these to enable future services. The need for better performance and stronger device specifications - that will in turn provide service differentiation - will drive the demand for sensor integration. This means the industry will witness increasingly greater levels of innovation in terms of MEMS based components and sensors in the mobile device area.” There is certainly nothing to argue with there.

Juniper claims that the Far East and China will be the largest region in terms of sales revenues in 2018, followed by North America and Western Europe. That is probably accurate - certainly Japan and South Korea will drive a great deal of the Asia Pac region growth through huge high-end mobile device sales. We're not entirely sure we believe China will have as much of an impact - the Chinese market, unlike the Japanese and South Korean markets, will find most of its mobile device sales at the lower end of the spectrum, where devices are much less MEMS-rich.

Mobile Sensors & MEMS: Market Prospects 2013-2018” is available directly from Juniper for purchase. In addition, a complimentary white paper, “MEMS - Sensing the Mobile Future,” is available as a free download.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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