As MEMS motion sensor market continues to evolve, new applications and niche markets are emerging. We recently spoke with Dave Rothenberg, Worldwide Marketing Manager at Movea. As a system integrator that develops MEMS motion sensing platforms, Movea offers an interesting perspective. In this interview, Mr. Rothenberg discusses emerging applications, such as interactive TV, eHealth, and sports and comments on the current MEMS sensor cost trends. Dave also highlights some of the key challenges that MEMS system integrators are currently working through. In addition, Mr. Rothenberg provides an overview of key players and competitors in this market segment including such companies as Hillcrest, Philips, PrimeSense, Xsens and Garmin.
MEMS Investor Journal: What are some of the most interesting emerging applications for MEMS motion sensors?
Dave Rothenberg: It’s a very exciting time for MEMS motion sensor development. Some of the most emerging applications include interactive TV where MEMS enabled remote controls enable point-and-click and gesture based controls. In some geographies, this market is really crystallizing right now and we think this trend is the future of the Interactive TV.
Specifically, point-and-click and gesture based controls are great for reducing the button overload of traditional remote controls and allow for faster and simpler control of different types of media from different sources. They also allow for more intuitive user interfaces through a vastly improved interaction mode utilizing widgets or apps within internet enabled TVs.
Customized sign-on gestures enable simple user authentication, targeted advertising, intelligent content recommendations and parental control of TV content.
MEMS Investor Journal: What are the main trends in the interactive TV market?
Dave Rothenberg: We see that market showing significant growth over the next 4 years. Combined shipments of set-top boxes (STBs) and internet protocol television sets (IPTVs) are forecast to grow from 246 million units in 2011 to 350M units in 2014. IPTV shipments alone will show a 14% CAGR over that time period.
We estimate that smart remote controls with MEMS sensors will grow from <1% of IPTV/STB shipments today to about 50% of shipments by 2014. This will drive a growing demand for sensors and for software and IP that deliver the advanced motion features consumers will come to expect. As a result, we see the total market for software- and IP-based motion processing technologies in IPTV reaching more than $500 million by 2014.
MEMS Investor Journal: What about other emerging MEMS motion sensor applications, aside from interactive TV?
Dave Rothenberg: Other applications include gaming, mobile phone sports and fitness, and health and wellness. Specifically, within gaming applications, motion allows for a more immersive game play with easy-to-use and finer control than camera-based systems, at a fraction of the cost. Motion technology in mobile phone applications can power scenarios such as pedestrian real world navigation (i.e. augmented reality, indoor navigation) and mobile phone control through gestures (i.e. gesture recognition, gaming). In the sports and fitness category, motion is beneficial for monitoring, analyzing and improving athletic performance.
One of the very interesting trends we see is the convergence of health and wellness with gaming and mobile devices.
MEMS Investor Journal: Specifically in biomedical and health applications, what are some of the most interesting emerging applications that you see right now?
Dave Rothenberg: There are a wide range of applications for motion in the health and fitness markets. For example, motion technology enables body motion analysis for rehabilitation, diagnostics and exercise. Game-driven motion physical therapy and rehabilitation also assist in improving patient compliance and patient outcomes. Additionally, for in home patient care and elderly monitoring, motion-based applications can help track movement and monitor activity on a daily basis.
Back on the topic of convergence, motion-based gaming applications combine the motivation of gaming and entertainment with the health benefits of exercise and movement. We’ve seen the Wii Fit, Xbox Kinect and Sony Move all serve health and wellness roles and this trend will grow further with mobile devices playing a role in getting people out of the house and taking their healthy gaming with them outside.
MEMS Investor Journal: What types of MEMS sensors do you use in your systems?
Dave Rothenberg: The main sensors we use in our systems are MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, and pressure sensors. However, we’re also open to any new (and low cost) sensor option that brings motion information.
Gyroscopes have recently experienced a dramatic drop in cost and are therefore being utilized in many new applications.
MEMS Investor Journal: For each sensor type, who are the leading suppliers?
Dave Rothenberg: We see the leading suppliers for gyroscopes as InvenSense and ST. We also think Analog Devices is a new comer in 2011 in this market and is a company to watch. For accelerometers, we see the leaders as ST, Freescale, Kionix and Analog Devices. AKM, Honeywell and ST (Honeywell technology), we believe, are leaders in magnetometers.
MEMS Investor Journal: Who are the suppliers that you would not use and why not?
Dave Rothenberg: Being sensor agnostic, there are no specific providers that Movea would not use. However, we want to provide reliable procurements for our customers and therefore focus on reliable sensors providers.
MEMS Investor Journal: What’s the cost range for the sensors you use?
Dave Rothenberg: Prices are dropping quite fast. We're currently seeing per-axis costs running as follows.
MEMS Investor Journal: Who are Movea's main competitors?
Dave Rothenberg: Some of the companies that are active in our market segment include Hillcrest (interactive TV), InvenSense and ST (sensors), Philips and PrimeSense (entertainment), Philips (health) and Garmin (sports).
Movea is the leading company providing full inertial measurement unit (IMU) sensor fusion that combines 3A, 3M, 3G + P for a range of markets covering sports, health, fitness, pointing devices, gaming and mobile. We see limited competition today but expect this to change over the next year as these markets begin to emerge. In certain select niche markets, we’ve seen competition from Xsens, as an example. But, overall, we don’t see any another company addressing this breadth of technologies and markets.
MEMS Investor Journal: What about Xsens? Are they a competitor?
Dave Rothenberg: Xsens is not a direct competitor in the major segments we address. They focus on the movie and animation segments of the entertainment market. Xsens' technology does overlap with Movea's at the motion tracking level. But we add much more value in our core markets such interactive TV, eHealth, and sports.
MEMS Investor Journal: What about InvenSense and ST? Are they your competitors or suppliers?
Dave Rothenberg: InvenSense and ST are sensor providers who also offer limited solutions for fusing sensor data. As such, sensors from Invensense and ST include signal processing offerings that compete with Movea's technology for some applications such as the mobile phone. However, we focus much more on the signal processing technologies which live on the microprocessors and DSPs that are integrated with the sensors.
Overall, our differentiation is in the 250+ man-years of we’ve invested in the development of motion signal processing algorithms to address significant market needs for advanced motion features in end-user applications. Our advanced motion features differentiate us in the market and our software capabilities grow the market for sensor providers. We’re also much closer to the end-user applications.
MEMS Investor Journal: For your overall system costs, what are the main categories of each individual costs such as the MEMS sensors, ICs and others? For each, what is the cost percentage from the overall system cost?
Dave Rothenberg: We see the cost split evolving to 50% hardware and 50% IP and software, although of course these are rough figures. In recent presentations, we’ve heard market analysts confirming our belief that it’s not about the sensors anymore; sensors by themselves will become a commodity. It’s about the software and IP that deliver the high level motion features required by next generation applications and consumer electronics devices that will be increasingly demanded for mobile devices and other consumer electronics products, as well as the added value that they deliver to end users.
MEMS Investor Journal: What are the most difficult aspects with building your systems? What are the main challenges that you run into?
Dave Rothenberg: The main challenge we face is compromising between the cost of the motion feature and performance. We have to address the following when building our systems.
First, determine the number of sensors needed and, if we use fewer sensors, ensure that performance is not degraded. From there, we evaluate the amount of processing power required and make a compromise between the performance and the cost of the computation for each application, as well as whether or not processing needs to be embedded or can be external. Also, when building a system, power consumption needs to be considered – for example state machine, idle mode management, and smart power for toggling sensors on and off. Finally, we address the overall solution design, which includes calibration and testing capabilities; these things do not matter to the end user but do matter for optimizing manufacturing processes.
New motion features may also be very challenging and we have to analyze whether or not we can we include a specific feature and if there are new sensors that could be used. This can be extremely time and effort consuming, but this is the place for brand new disruptive ideas.
MEMS Investor Journal: What are some of the most promising MEMS startups that you see right now?
Dave Rothenberg: One of the promising MEMS startup right now is Baolab, integrating multiple sensors and processing on a nanoscale embedded mechanical system. Baolab brings together 3 elements that are key to success in MEMS today: the need for sensor combinations at the die level of semiconductors, the need for processing power within the sensors to make them smarter, and the need for smaller semiconductor devices allowing for cost reduction.
This article is a part of MEMS Investor Journal's ongoing market research project in the area of MEMS motion sensors. If you would like to receive our comprehensive market research report on this topic, please contact Dr. Mike Pinelis at [email protected] for more information about rates and report contents.
Copyright 2011 MEMS Investor Journal, Inc.