Panel evaluates future prospects for MEMS sector
The MEMS Executive Congress Europe conducted a panel outlining several issues concerning the opportunities and threats that MEMS components in consumer products have in prospect. The panel described that while the MEMS sector is experiencing what seemed as a market uptrend, average selling prices are under pressure. Also, while multiple sensors get integrated in fewer packages, some are omitted from smartphones to minimise cost. Lastly, the hot market that is the wearables does appear to be temporary and the much sturdy IoT market could take many years to mature.
The panel was moderated by Roland Helm, head of microphone and reliability at Infineon Technologies AG. He started by asking panelist Jean-Christophe Eloy, president and CEO of market research firm Yole Developpement, to identify the type of devices that are in smartphones today and in the future.
Eloy actually enumerated the seven principal types as seven although the number of MEMS sensors is likely to be higher. There are about seven types of sensor in most smartphones, he said: microphone accelerometer, gyroscope, bulk acoustic wave (BAW), magnetometer, pressure and humidity sensor.
However, Eloy then pointed out the strong trends in sensor fusion with acc/gyro/magento being packaged together as inertial measurement units and pressure, humidity and temperature being linked as an environmental unit.
"What's next is gas chemical sensors for the next mobile phone and IR imaging. IR is a very interesting development because it allows, gesture and facial recognition and nightvision," said Yole.
But within these categories some sensor counts are increasing. So microphones are going from one up to as many as five to help with noise cancellation and improved audio. At the same time Eloy described the trend towards sensor hubs with local processing. "The sensor hub microcontroller is a coming trend. The calculation was all done on the apps processor. Now Bosch, ST, InvenSense have launched hubs," Eloy told the audience.
Teemu Ramo, senior manager of audio hardware at Nokia Lumia, now part of Microsoft, agreed saying that Nokia sees interest in "Kinect-style" gesture recognition and also in microphone arrays.
Yannick Levy, vice president of corporate business development at French consumer electronics company Parrot SA, took the role of the MEMS user on the panel and started with a demonstration of a Parrot quad-copter drone. "A drone is a flying mobile phone. We ended up with ten sensors to locate the drone in space; a mix of gyros, accelerometers and pressure sensor as barometer."
Moderator Helm then asked the panellists to get more specific about whether there would be one hub or multiple hubs inside mobile equipment. The consensus was that multiple hubs would develop around sets of sensors; So optical functions close to the CMOS image sensor will naturally group together and manipulated with an image processor; pressure, temperature and humidity form an environment cluster, inertial sensors form a motion cluster.
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