Sensors for wearables market to double in 2015

Sensors for wearables market to double in 2015
Market news |
Market analysis and forecast organization IHS thinks that Apple's Watch, will stimulate and set a standard for fitness and health monitoring features on wearable electronics devices.
By eeNews Europe


As a result the market sensors in wearable electronics is set to double in 2015, in terms of units shipped. This will likely benefit STMicroelectronics NV (Geneva, Switzerland), the market leader in sensors for wearables, IHS said.

The strength of user demand for wearable gadgets is such that shipments of sensors used in wearable electronics will rise by a factor of seven from 2013 to 2019, IHS added. So that’s 67 million units shipped in 2013 followed by about 85 million units in 2014. And next year the market will double to 175 million units before continuing its rise to 466 million units shipped in the year 2019, as presented in the figure below.

The market for sensors will rise more quickly than the market for wearable electronics as more sensors are included with each equipment iteration. So in contrast, IHS forecasts the market for wearable equipment will move from 50 million units in 2013 to 135 million units shipped in 2019.

Worldwide MEMS and sensor shipments for use in wearables (millions of units). Source: IHS.

The average wearable device shipped in 2019 will incorporate 4.1 sensor elements, up from 1.4 in 2013.

IHS expects components like humidity sensors and pulse sensors to move from handsets to wearable devices, such as companion smartwatches introduced by Samsung, Apple and others. This will further boost shipments of sensors in wearables.

The doubling of the market in 2015 will be driven by the Apple Watch, which not only employs and an accelerometer, but also a gyroscope, a microphone and a pulse sensor.

"Similar to the iPhone and iPad, IHS expects the Apple Watch will set a de facto standard for sensor specifications in smartwatches," said Jeremie Bouchaud, senior principal analyst for MEMS & Sensors, at IHS Technology, in a statement. "Most other wearable OEMs will follow Apple’s lead in using these four devices – or will add even more sensors to differentiate."

STMicroelectronics is by far the top MEMS and sensor supplier for the wearable market. The company consolidated its leadership position in 2013 with a 26 percent share of revenue, up from 20 percent in 2012.

Beside its leadership in the discrete accelerometer market, STMicroelectronics’ success with wearable sensors is because of its strong bundling strategy. The company often sells its sensors as part of a packaged deal along with its other semiconductor offerings, such as 32-bit microcontrollers and wireless chips.

Sensor types

The types of sensors used in wearables are MEMS motion sensors, sensors for user interfaces, health sensors and environmental sensors.

Motion sensors represent the dominant technology in the wearables segment and comprise the component categories of accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, pressure sensors and combo motion sensors. MEMS sensors for user interfaces include MEMS microphones, proximity sensors and MEMS displays. The health sensor area is represented by pulse, pulse-oximeters, hydration and skin temperature sensors. Environmental sensors include humidity, temperature and ultraviolet (UV) components.

"The main factor propelling this phenomenon is a transition in market share away from simple products like pedometers and toward more sophisticated multipurpose devices such as smartwatches and smartglasses," said Bouchaud.

"Users want health and fitness monitoring, and they want wearable devices that act as extensions of their smartphones. However, there’s no real demand from consumers for environmental sensors. Instead, the rising adoption of environmental sensors such as humidity and UV devices is being pushed by both sensor suppliers and wearable original equipment manufacturers (OEM)."

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