El Segundo, Calif. — Samsung is the largest buyer of MEMS combo sensors, spending $183 million or 41 percent of the total combo sensor market in 2013, according to new analysis from IHS Technology. Purchases included 6-axis inertial measurement units (IMUs) from STMicroelectronics, InvenSense, and Bosch for the Galaxy S4 smartphone, Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, and for some Samsung Galaxy Tab tablets, respectively. Samsung was also the top purchaser of 6-axis compasses, “even though discrete implementations involving magnetometers and accelerometers on their own remain more competitive than 6-axis compass modules,” said IHS.
Combo MEMS sensors incorporate accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers and pressure sensors in a single package compared to devices implemented as discrete devices.
Other top purchasers of these combo sensors include LG and Sony. LG spent $47 million or 11 percent of the market in 2013, almost equally divided between 6-axis IMUs and 6-axis compasses, according to IHS. LG’s top suppliers included Bosch, STM and InvenSense. In third place is Sony, spending $44 million or 10 percent market share. The company’s purchase of combo sensors were used in its handsets, tablets, and gaming devices.
After the top three buyers are eight OEMs that make up the next tier of purchasers, spending between $10 million to $16 million last year, said IHS. The group consists of U.S.-based Amazon and Motorola; Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei and Coolpad from China; and Taiwanese companies HTC and Asus.
Other big brands like Apple and Nokia did not use combo sensors in their devices last year, but IHS expects them to incorporate them within two years.
The report also finds that STMicroelectronics, InvenSense and Bosch are the top suppliers of combo sensors, accounting for 99 percent of the MEMS combo sensor market in 2013. STM tops the list with 40 percent revenue share, thanks to Samsung’s purchase of its 6-axis IMUs as well as a smaller 6-axis compass business with the Korean maker, said IHS. STM increased its combo sensor revenue to $179 million in 2013, up 79 percent from $104 million in 2012.
InvenSense follows with 38 percent market share. The component manufacturer’s biggest customer, Samsung, made up 44 percent of the company’s combo sensor revenue, which increased 110 percent to reach $170 million in 2013, according to IHS.
Bosch tallied sales of $86 million in 2013, up 145 percent from 2012. The component manufacturer is the leader in 6-axis compass modules with 57 percent of that market, according to the report. IHS reports that revenue for Bosch’s six-axis IMU grew nearly sixfold as it started shipping that device in volume to Sony, HTC and LG.
The combo MEMS sensor market is forecast to grow 37 percent in 2014 “after two years of already phenomenal increases,” according to IHS. Global revenue for combo sensors in consumer and mobile applications is projected to reach $608.2 million this year, up from $443.0 million in 2013. IHS expects combo sensor revenue to cross the billion-dollar threshold by 2017 at $1.03 billion, which is equivalent to a four-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 23 percent from 2013.
“The main reason for the success of combo sensors is their convenience,” said Jeremie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS, in a statement. “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 report reveals that 6-axis IMUs that incorporate a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope hold 79 percent share of total combo sensor revenue, followed by the 6-axis compass category, with $85 million in revenues last year. These devices combine magnetometers, or electronic compasses, along with accelerometers in the same package. The 9-axis IMU that integrates accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers produced 5 million units in 2013.
Smartphones and tablets gobbled up most of the combo motion sensors with a 95 percent share of the market. Other big opportunities include wearable electronics and gaming, said IHS.