Wireless consumer devices reenergize magnetic sensor IC sector

August 6, 2012 — Magnetic sensor semiconductors — Hall-effect and magneto-resistive semiconductor ICs — are robust but steady in application sectors like automotive, military/medical, and data processing. But the devices saw 50% growth in one segment last year: wireless/consumer, according to IHS.

Global revenue for magnetic sensor integrated circuits (ICs) in 2011 expanded to $1.5 billion, up 22% from $1.2 billion in 2010, according to IHS’ iSuppli Magnetic Sensor Market Tracker. Expect 13% growth in 2012 to $1.7 billion, and a 5-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.3% to 2016, when the market will hit $2.3 billion.

Magnetic sensors for automotive applications saw $731.3 million in revenues last year, up 13% from $648.9 million in 2010.

In the joint wireless/consumer space, magnetic sensor revenues increased by 50% to $549.9 million in 2011, up from $347.7 million in 2010. Also read: MEMS bring magnetic sensors growth in mobile applications

The industrial-military-energy-medical sector grew 6% to $153.3 million and the data processing segment grew 2.5% to $64.6 million.

Table. Worldwide magnetic sensor revenues ($M). SOURCE: IHS iSuppli Research, August 2012.

  2011 2010
Automotive  731.3 648.9
Wireless & consumer  549.9 367.7
Industry, military, energy, medical  153.3 145.3
Data processing  64.6 63.0
Total  1,499.2 1,224.9

The top suppliers of magnetic sensors last year were Asahi Micro Devices; Allegro MicroSystems, part of Sanken Electric; Infineon Technologies AG; Micronas; Melexis NV; and NXP Semiconductors. These 6 suppliers accounted in 2011 for 80% of the magnetic sensor IC market.

Magnetic sensors are increasingly used in consumer devices to track rotational speed and linear angles, or to detect and process magnetic fields to establish positioning, said Richard Dixon, Ph.D., principal analyst for MEMS & sensors at IHS. Driving growth are applications in safety — like airbag sensors and fault detectors in solar panels — functionality — like seat position memory in cars or better navigation in a cellphone — and energy efficiency — high-efficiency industrial motors and intelligent fans. In the other segments, magnetic sensors find major use in the measurement of currents and motion-control positioning, particularly in the burgeoning industrial motor space as well as for motor drives and solar inverter markets.

The largest segment — automotive — uses magnetic sensors for diverse applications across the vehicle.

Magnetic sensors are also big in multiple-axis-measurement electronic compasses, now found as a standard feature in cellphones and tablets equipped with global positioning systems (GPS).

Consumer electronics applications such as gaming consoles, laptops and geotagging-equipped digital still cameras will also benefit from the sensors.

Other implementations for magnetic sensors include their use in data processing and peripherals, such as fax machines and printers; in consumer electronics, such as in white goods like coffee machines for water-level detection; and in various military, agricultural and transport applications.

IHS (NYSE: IHS) provides information, insight and analytics in critical areas that shape today’s business landscape, including energy and power; design and supply chain; defense, risk and security; environmental, health and safety (EHS) and sustainability; country and industry forecasting; and commodities, pricing and cost. For more information, please visit www.ihs.com.

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