Sensors are among the hottest technologies in the electronic components market these days, as the drive to connect everything from industrial systems to health monitoring equipment to the Web creates new demand for sophisticated products that incorporate a higher number of sensors. This is especially true in the wearable electronic devices market, where sensor shipments are expected to increase nearly seven-fold between 2013 and 2019, according to a recent industry report from researcher IHS Technology.
IHS predicts that shipments of sensors for wearable electronics will hit 466 million units by 2019, up from 67 million units in 2013. Sensor shipments will rise more quickly than the market for wearable devices themselves, the researcher added, forecasting that wearable devices shipments will increase to 135 million units by 2019, compared to 50 million in 2013.
“Wearables are a hotbed for sensors, with market growth driven by the increasing number of these components in each product sold,” said Jérémie Bouchaud, director and senior principal analyst, MEMS & Sensors, at IHS. “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 smart watches and smart glasses. Instead of using a single sensor like the simpler devices, the more complex products employ numerous components for health and activity monitoring, as well as for their more advanced user interfaces.”
The average wearable device shipped in 2019 will incorporate 4.1 sensor elements, up from 1.4 in 2013, according to IHS. The researcher also expects components such as humidity sensors and pulse sensors to move from handsets to wearables, further boosting sensor sales. Smart watches from brands such as Samsung and Apple are just one example.
Ramping up in 2015
Many industry-watchers say 2015 will mark an acceleration point for sensors. IHS points to a doubling of wearable sensor shipments next year, for instance. Sensors were also a key topic at October’s Electronic Components Industry Association Executive Conference, as manufacturers and distributors discussed their potential across industrial, automotive, health, and fitness categories.
“We think it’s a big growth opportunity,” said Lew LaFornara, vice president, supplier marketing and product management, for electronics distributor TTI, Inc. “And it plays into everything being connected.”
LaFornara pointed to Honeywell’s new line of thermostats that can be controlled by an iPhone as one example. He also noted that recent acquisitions in the sensor manufacturing market—TE Connectivity’s purchase of American Sensor Technologies is one example—are helping distributors add or expand sensor lines to take advantage of the growing market.
And in a presentation on the sensor market during the ECIA event, Dr. Janus Bryzek explained that sensors have the potential to change the global economy. He said sensor usage by mobile devices increased by more than 200% from 2007 to 2012, and that demand will surge into the trillions over the next decade. He cited the digital health market—which is predicted to be a $50 billion market by 2018—as one of the greatest opportunities for makers and sellers of electronic components.