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Sensing Changes in 2012: MEMS continues to lead on many fronts


As we near the close of 2011 and look forward with hope for 2012, it would be easy to bring up the disappointments and challenges that 2011 brought so many.  But there were many bright spots this year and the cementing of microelectromechanical sensors' (MEMS) continued climb was certainly one of them.

Given that smart wireless devices (SWDs) were at the fore (and the notable exception) this year, in an otherwise demand-sparse market, it is little wonder that MEMS would be high on the component gainers and winners list for 2011.  But there is more to the still expanding and growing MEMS sector than the sensors that smartphones and tablet PCs have so well leveraged to drive demand through interactive and intelligent feature sets.  MEMS penetration continues to expand along a rich class of end-products for a widening array of market sectors, such as:

  •  consumer electronics' gaming and SWDs;
  •  healthcare's implantable and portable monitors and drug delivery systems;
  •  automotive's safety and efficiency mandates and infotainment options plus electric and hybrid electric vehicles (EV & HEV);
  •  utility's smart grid, smart metering, and consumer smart thermostats;
  •  industrial's monitoring capabilities and advances in robotics; and
  •  semiconductor's new architectural possibilities for MCUs from sensor fusion (a dedicated and integrated MCU for governing heavy load applications) on the horizon, MEMS holds the potential to improve centralized processing with fewer, ever lower-powered MCUs, as reported here by iSuppli); to name but a few!

It is little wonder then that MEMS is expected to continue on its course of 23% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2010's US $1.5 billion to the forecasted US $4.4 billion (as posited earlier this year here by iSuppli and MEMS Industry Group (MIG)).  But more than likely, this forecast will prove to have been too conservative, particularly if we accept (which we should) iSuppli's most recent forecast for multi-sensor packages ("combo sensors") used in consumer and automotive products.  iSuppli forecasts a 120% increase over the 2010-2015 period, growing from US $24 million in 2010 to US $1.2 billion, for this subsector of MEMS alone, and with the steepest increases to occur through 2013.

If we broaden our view to the wider semiconductor trend of the growth in system on chip (SoC) designs as including multi-packaging, then we begin to understand this phenomenon in MEMS is not one undergone in isolation.  Granted, the growth forecasts are more restricted, but the industry trend is clear: there is a significant drive to more multiplex and multi-governing chipsets which, in turn, satisfy the demands of increased performance, power & dissipation management, and smaller form factors.

Looking into 2012, the innovations and demand drivers are going to come in the form of solutions that are "smarter", more sensor-rich, and "greener."  For more on the "smart" and "green" connection, as well as our component round-up and forecast, see Smith's just released MarketWatch Quarterly available now with a free subscription here, or to the general public early January here.

Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.
Written on Wednesday, 21 December 2011 14:08 by Lisa Ann Cairns, Ph.D.

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