Tablets, Smartphones Drive Record-Breaking MEMS Revenues

The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) market in consumer electronics and mobile communications devices is set to generate record growth in 2011, spurred on by its exposure to the tablet and smartphone arenas. According to the IHS iSuppli Consumer & Mobile MEMS Market Tracker report, revenue for consumer and mobile MEMS will hit $2.25 billion in 2011. That represents a 37% jump in growth, which eclipses the previous high-water mark of 27% in 2010 when revenue reached $1.64 billion.

Overall, the five-year revenue forecast starting from 2010 calls for the market to expand by a factor of nearly three to $4.54 billion in 2015, equivalent to a compound annual growth rate of 22.5%.

Beyond the three-axis gyroscopes, accelerometers, microphones, and bulk acoustic-wave filters already found in tablets and smartphones, a new class of emerging MEMS sensors is stimulating growth. Such devices include thermopiles, varactors, timing devices, pressure sensors for indoor navigation, RF MEMS switches, and actuators used for autofocus functions in high-megapixel cameras and pico projectors.

The real blockbuster this year, however, is the three-axis gyroscope. When used with an accelerometer and a digital compass, the gyro allows for more accurate, smoother, and faster motion sensing for applications such as gaming and augmented reality.

IHS predicts that revenue in 2011 for three-axis gyroscopes will soar to $420 million, up from $127 million last year. Overall, IHS says gyroscopes will generate the second-highest revenue among consumer and mobile MEMS this year, second only to accelerometers.

The gyros can be found in smartphones like the iPhone 4 from Apple Inc. and the Galaxy SII from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.; in virtually all tablet devices, including the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab; as well as in gaming devices like the PlayStation Move motion controller from Sony Corp.

Not surprisingly, mobile handsets—including smartphones—will be the largest application for MEMS this year. IHS forecasts handset MEMS revenue will reach $1.21 billion, approximately 50% of the total consumer and mobile MEMS space.

Second and third places will belong to gaming, with $221.49 million in revenue, and media tablets with $158.64 million. MEMS revenue from tablets, in particular, will show the fastest growth, up 331% from $36.83 million in 2010. Expect to see it leap into second place over gaming next year.

IHS says gaming will decline this year and next because of the saturation of the casual gaming market. Expansion is expected again in the 2013-2015 time period, upon the arrival of new platforms using motion sensors. Unlike gaming, however, nearly all other segments in the space will boast continued growth.

Two new MEMS devices were introduced earlier this year. The first was a MEMS joystick launched in April by Knowles Electronics. It forgoes optical or magnetic sensors, is slimmer, and consumes less power. IHS believes the device will soon find its way into gaming accessories for handsets and tablets.

The second new MEMS device is a thermopile, introduced in May by Texas Instruments Inc. The thermopile, a contactless temperature sensor, can be placed into a phone or tablet next to the processor to monitor their case temperature. By controlling the dissipated heat, the thermopile helps to better tune the operations of the processor as well as push its limits to extract optimal performance.

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TAGS: Mobile
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