The CMOS image sensor market is on track to grow 15 percent in 2015, reaching $10.1 billion, after a strong increase of 19 percent in 2014, according to IC Insights. This is after only four percent growth in 2013 due to price erosion and inventory corrections in the camera phone market, said the market researcher.
The 2015 edition of IC Insights’ O-S-D Report—A Market Analysis and Forecast for Optoelectronics, Sensors/Actuators, and Discretes finds the CMOS image sensor market in the middle of a strong growth period driven by a broad range of applications. The market researcher forecasts CMOS image sensor unit shipments to grow 19 percent in 2015 to a record-high of 3.7 billion after increasing 20 percent in 2014 and 2013.
Although digital cameras in cellphone handsets have been the dominant system application for CMOS image sensors over the past 15 years, growth rates for these devices will be driven higher by new automotive and machine-vision applications, security and surveillance systems (including body cameras), medical imaging, and a variety of optical-sensing nodes tied to the Internet of Things (IoT), according to IC Insights.
About 70 percent of CMOS image sensor sales ($6.2 billion) were for embedded cameras in cellphones in 2014, but analysts expect that percentage to fall to 49 percent in 2019 ($7.3 billion), which represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.4 percent. In comparison, total CMOS image sensor sales is expected to grow by a CAGR of 11.1 percent over the forecast period to reach $15.0 billion in 2019.
As a result, IC Insights expects growth to come from several other markets including automotive safety systems, security systems, and medical and scientific instrument applications.
- Analysts expect CMOS image sensor sales for automotive safety systems to grow by a CAGR of 57.4 percent to reach $2.1 billion in 2019 and represent 14 percent of the market’s total dollar volume that year compared to three percent in 2014.
- CMOS image sensor sales for security systems and surveillance applications is forecast to grow by a CAGR of 38.4 percent over the forecast period, reaching $899 million in 2019. This segment will represent six percent of the market’s total sales that year compared to two percent in 2014.
- CMOS image sensor sales for medical and scientific instrument applications is expected to grow by a CAGR of 36.0 percent to $824 million in 2019 or about six percent of the total market compared to about two percent in 2014.
- Toys and video game applications also are expected to drive CMOS image sensors by a CAGR of 32.7 percent to $255 million by 2019. This represents two percent of the market’s total revenue compared to one percent in 2014.
As a result, leading CMOS image sensor manufacturers are making changes to their product portfolios to meet this shift in growth over the next five years. For example, Sony expects to become the largest supplier of imaging solutions for automotive systems by the middle of the next decade after taking the top spot in camera phones in the past few years, said IC Insights.
OmniVision also has been expanding beyond mobile devices. The company has recently developed several new products for advanced security and medical applications. For example, OmniVision introduced an ultra-compact CameraChip sensor in a 0.9- x 0.9-mm package with a width of 1.65 mm and height of 5 mm, making it well suited for reusable endoscopes. In addition, the OV6946 delivers high quality 400 x 400 resolution images and video at 30 frames per second (FPS).
Despite some of these shifts, suppliers like Toshiba continue to develop and improve image sensors for smartphones and tablets. Toshiba recently rolled out its T4KC3 16-megapixel (MP) BSI touted as the industry’s smallest 16-MP chip. The T4KC3 also features 30 fps at full-resolution output with power consumption of 240 mW or lower.
Market leader Sony grew its CMOS image sensor sales by 31 percent in 2014 to about $2.8 billion, accounting for 32 percent market share of the market’s total revenues. Other leaders include U.S.-based OmniVision ($1.4 billion in 2014) Samsung ($1.2 billion), Sharp ($720 million), SK Hynix ($488 million), and China’s GalaxyCore ($360 million), according to IC Insights’ supplier ranking.