Widespread popularity of MEMS sensors accelerates the arrival of the Internet of Things era

Sensors are an indispensable key component in the construction of the Internet of Things. With the development of IoT applications in various industries, sensor demand for motion, imaging, temperature, humidity, ultraviolet, air pressure and organic gases has risen sharply. Businesses are actively researching and developing new products to seize this business opportunity.

The beautiful life that the Internet of Things is about to build is full of imagination. Humanity will conduct comprehensive community communication and information sharing through a giant intelligent network infrastructure shared by hundreds of millions of people around the world, and through the integration of physical objects and virtual analysis and integration, to achieve ubiquitous detection, identification, Control and service.

MEMS传感器广泛普及 加速物联网时代的到来

The Internet of Things can collect and record all the target information of interest through hundreds of millions of intelligent sensing devices distributed throughout the body, outside the body and the surrounding ring, and use advanced analysis technology to process these huge amounts of data to continuously create predictive algorithms. Or intelligent systems to achieve energy efficiency, provide quality medical services, increase comfort and convenience, reduce security risks, or increase productivity.

In 2014, at the annual meeting of the Taiwan Semiconductor Industry Association (TSIA), Zhang Zhongmou gave a speech on the topic of “Next Big Thing”. He said that the next Big Thing is the Internet of Things, and IoT business opportunities are expected to sprout in five to 10 years.

Sensing Technology IoT Infrastructure Core Project

In the future world of infinite sensing and Internet of Everything, it will be filled with a variety of intelligent technologies, such as unmanned vehicles that drive automatically and make driving safer; smart appliances provide convenient and comfortable life butler and security services; plant factories Accurately master the crop production process and solve the food shortage caused by climate change; Industry 4.0 achieves safe and efficient human-machine collaboration and improves product yield and quality.

Telemedicine networks bring better and more convenient medical services; smart grids increase the efficiency of urban energy use, drive economic growth, and slow down the global greenhouse effect. For individuals, mobile and wearable devices will provide ubiquitous information services and life care.

The overall structure of the Internet of Things is basically composed of the sensing layer, the network layer and the application layer. Its three key technology categories include sensors, network communication and big data analysis. In particular, sensor technology is the core project in the intelligent infrastructure of the Internet of Things.

According to market statistics, in 2007, 10 million sensors connected a variety of devices to the Internet; in 2013, the number of connected sensors increased to 3.5 billion. It is estimated that by 2030, the number of sensors connecting the Internet of Things will exceed one hundred and ten.

Such a large sensor demand scale will bring lucrative market opportunities to existing and emerging manufacturers. According to Yole's research, the global Internet of Things industry will reach a size of US$400 billion in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42%. The sensor market revenue that must be applied to the Internet of Things is expected to grow by more than $14 billion by 2022.

The popularity of sensors accelerates the arrival of the Internet of Things era

In 2014, the number of global mobile phone shipments has exceeded 1.1 billion. The smart phone is the most convenient online tool at present, and it is also the consumer electronics portable device with the largest number and the highest user adhesion. Because it has the best conditions of sensing, networking and computing storage, just use a mobile phone. It is able to access all the information in the world and is therefore recognized as the best core terminal device in the era of the Internet of Things.

In 2007, Apple first applied the microelectromechanical system (MEMS) accelerometer to the iPhone to open the sensor revolution in the mobile phone industry. The scale and diversity of MEMS sensors in mobile applications are still growing rapidly.

For example, Apple alone has more than 350 invention-related invention patents, including touch, image, motion, vibration sensing, data calculation, drop perception, and brightness perception. Wait, it can be seen that it is actively arranging the ambition of smart sensors in the future market.

At present, there are many mobile devices such as mobile phones, notebook computers, digital cameras, etc., and MEMS components have been widely used in the system to obtain better control performance and innovative functions. With the rapid rise of MEMS technology application, it has also made the thin and thin and become the new fashion trend of consumer electronics.

With the mature advantages of semiconductor wafer processing, MEMS sensing components have the characteristics of high sensitivity, uniform performance, low cost, and batch production. They are not only suitable for popular use in a large number of consumer electronics industries, but will also become the Internet of Things in the future. Sensing revenue highlights in the application market. According to IC Insights, total shipments of MEMS sensors are expected to reach 9.3 billion units by 2018, and the value of production will reach $12.2 billion.

If the demand for IoT sensor application breaks out, the first wave of enthusiasm will definitely still be mobile devices and smart wearable products, followed by the vehicle Internet of Things, and then will actually enter the industrial Internet of Things with wide variety and variety. (IIOT).

The so-called industrial Internet of Things here covers traditional industrial applications such as medical, navigation, military, aerospace, seismic exploration and process control, as well as new types of industrial products that are currently being defined in the industry and utilizing MEMS sensing element technology. Networking, this emerging application includes asset tracking systems, smart grids or intelligent building automation.

According to IHS agency forecasts, global MEMS will reach $5.7 billion in consumer electronics and mobile devices in 2018, which is much higher than the $134 million revenue in the industrial Internet of Things market. In these industrial applications, building automation, including smart meters, Smart Home, Smart City, etc., will be the main source of revenue.

It is expected that the biggest business opportunities and technical challenges of MEMS in the Internet of Things in the next 10 years will still be related to mobile devices and smart wearable products. Figure 1 shows the popular sensing components for consumer electronics and wearable devices and their time-to-market.

Wearable devices become an emerging application opportunity for MEMS sensors

Smart wearable devices are currently the hottest emerging products, and most of the sensing components used are still the same as those of smart phones. Mainly compared to mobile phone applications, sensors used in wearable devices often face more stringent requirements in terms of size, power consumption, sensing sensitivity or component reliability.

At present, smart watches that are already in the market contend, even if the design allows the design space and battery capacity are much smaller than the mobile phone, but the user has the same expectation as the mobile phone for the performance of sound control, motion perception, or endurance.

Therefore, most of the sensors must be successfully commercialized on the smartphone before being transferred to the wearable device for use. Its most successful component cases are inertial sensors and MEMS microphones, including many well-known manufacturers such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Motorola, all of which have integrated these two components into their own wearable devices. Its sensors are standard.

According to observations, the two major functional items of smart wearable devices with the most business potential in IoT applications are Quantified Self and portable environmental safety monitoring. The so-called quantitative life refers to the input (such as diet content, walking steps, ambient air quality, etc.), status (such as mood, skin tone, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc.) and performance (including psychological and Physiological orientation) An activity in which data is recorded in conjunction with scientific and technological changes.

The goal is to effectively assess the quality of life of individuals by analyzing specific self-measurement data. For example, through the continuous monitoring and recording of physiological information on the smart wearable device, future medical diagnosis will be based not only on the patient's local symptoms, but also from the root causes of eating habits and lifestyles, towards integrated preventive care. Service model.

The common sensing functions for the wearable device IoT application are as shown in Table 1, which may roughly include four categories: activity sensing, image sensing, environment sensing, and physiological sensing. The application of MEMS components on wearable devices is to achieve miniaturization, low power consumption, high performance and multi-functional integration. The two most important functional requirements are sensing and wireless communication.

As shown in Table 2, the most promising MEMS components that are widely used in mobile devices include motion perception, voice recognition, wireless communication, and environmental detection. In terms of wireless communication, smart wearable devices usually require a wireless front-end module with a small size and low power consumption to carry out long-term networking and data transmission of the wearable device system.

In order to reduce the size of the wireless system, in addition to reducing the internal radio frequency (RF) components, it is also necessary to improve the Q value (quality factor) of the component at the same time, so as to reduce the interference effect of environmental noise and provide a wireless signal that meets the demand. Transmission quality.

In terms of the application of MEMS sensors, the largest market is still inertial sensors and MEMS microphones; and recently, including the two components of altimeter and gas sensor, the application demand is expected to grow substantially. The MEMS components with the most potential for market explosion in the future will likely be infrared image sensors.

More and more wearable devices use composite inertial sensors to achieve fitness monitoring functions, and achieve intelligent energy saving and attitude control. Revenues of global hybrid inertial sensing components in the consumer electronics and mobile device market are expected to grow from approximately $443 million in 2013 to over $1 billion in 2017.

The biggest reason for the widespread acceptance of the hybrid multi-axis inertial sensor is its ease of application.

System vendors can buy a composite inertial sensor to replace the original two to three inertial components, and the best sensor fusion solution for the sensor is also available from the supplier.

IHS market research shows that the next phase of reasonable market evolution will be seen in the application of more and more six-axis or nine-axis composite inertial sensors in smart wearable devices.

MEMS microphones are currently the fastest growing components in the MEMS industry, and their demand for consumer electronics is continuing to increase; for example, in smart phones, the number of MEMS microphones is only growing from one to the other. Up to five to help eliminate noise and improve sound quality.

According to the Yole market research report, the global MEMS microphone market value reached 785 million US dollars in 2013, and it is expected to continue to grow rapidly with 13% CAGR in the next few years, and reach about 1.65 billion US dollars in 2019. Market size. The global shipments will reach 6.6 billion in 2019, which will grow even more than the 2.4 billion shipments in 2013.

In applications that wear mobile devices such as Google glasses or smart watches, the “voice” approach is the best option for the most natural interaction and manipulation between humans and computers. For applications such as voice control and high quality radio, MEMS microphones are an indispensable key component.

It is expected that MEMS microphone technology will develop toward the "high signal-to-noise ratio", "ultra-wide frequency response" and "high sensitivity" technologies to fully meet the high-quality voice and identification applications of future wearable mobile devices. However, how to gain an advantage in the product's patent layout and cost yield is still the key to whether competitors can gain huge business opportunities in the future market.

Pressure/gas/UV MEMS applications follow the trend

The Barometer is an absolute pressure sensor, and the development of the pressure sensor originated in the 1970s. It has long been a mature product technology in the MEMS field. As indoor map information becomes more complete, the addition of its height detection function will enable complete pedestrian navigation planning, helping pedestrians to plan the fastest route including crossing underground, department stores, general roads, or flyovers.

In addition, by combining the cloud network, the so-called LocaTIon Based Service (LBS) can be further implemented, and the user can provide real-time assistance such as a local tour guide or a surrounding store search. Therefore, in the future, in the indoor positioning and navigation function of wearing mobile devices such as smart glasses or smart watches, there is also a great potential for application development.

The gas sensor is used on a mobile device to detect harmful environmental gases such as carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2) or gas (gas) at any time, or a disease metabolic gas such as nitric oxide when exhaled by a person. (NO), ammonia (NH3), etc., timely provide users with life care reminders on safety and health.

If it combines sensing functions such as humidity, pressure, ultraviolet (UV) or temperature, it can form a so-called environmental sensor. Environmental sensors are still rarely used in consumer electronics. However, 2015 will be the year in which environmental sensors will take off, including well-known companies such as Bosch, Figaro, Sensirion and Cambridge, all of which have launched their own gas sensor products.

According to IHS forecasts, gas sensors will officially enter the mobile device market in 2015. Chinese mobile phone manufacturers will take the lead in using environmental sensors to monitor air quality, and Samsung's Note 6 phones, which are expected to be available in 2016, will also use MEMS gas sensors in their products.

The infrared sensor mainly detects the temperature change of external objects, and its application fields are very wide, including driving night vision assistance, industrial safety monitoring, gas composition analysis, night preservation monitoring, medical image detection and the like. In recent years, with the increasing image quality and resolution of infrared image sensors, the maturity of process technology, and the gradual decline in component prices, the application of infrared thermal imaging has become more and more popular.

At the beginning of 2014, FLIR launched a FLIR ONE mobile phone case with high-sensitivity infrared image sensing function, which allows individuals to detect temperature images including body temperature, food or surrounding environment at any time, as a convenient portable tool in life.

In September 2014, SEEK also introduced a miniature infrared image sensing module that can be connected by USB. It is expected that in the near future, infrared image sensors will have a good chance to become standard equipment for mobile devices and smart wearable devices, and become indispensable in many emerging applications of Internet of Things, such as driving night vision, smart home appliances and intelligent robot vision. Important MEMS components.

In fact, the technology of smart wearable devices has been developed for more than 20 years. In recent years, with the maturity of MEMS in the application technology of smart phones and tablet devices, the technical threshold for the commercialization of wearable devices has been greatly reduced.

According to IC Insights, the MEMS product market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 11.7% between 2013 and 2018; by 2018, MEMS annual sales will reach $12.2 billion. The number of sensor market shipments of global wearable devices will grow from 67 million in 2013 to 466 million in 2019, and will grow nearly 7 times in 6 years.

Cheap sensing terminal realizes the foundation of all things

The two key factors driving the rapid development of the animal networking industry are cheap sensors and enough network addresses. The rising Internet of Things is the first intelligent infrastructure revolution in history. It wants to connect all the objects or devices in the world to form a giant intelligent network composed of communication, energy, logistics, medical, security and other networks. The need to meet the high-speed transmission of its vast amounts of data, and the number of network addresses that accompany it, is unimaginable.

According to IDC, by 2020, there will be more than 21 billion connected devices worldwide, and the required sensors will be estimated to be more than one hundred and more in 2030. The current network protocol IPv4 provides 44.3 billion independent network addresses, and the global population connected to the Internet has reached more than 2 billion. Therefore, the shortage of network addresses has greatly affected the development of the Internet of Things industry. Obstacles.

However, this issue has recently been resolved, and the International Organization Internet Engineering Group (IETF) has developed the next generation of network protocol IPv6. IPv6 uses 128 bits to address the Internet nodes. The address space is up to 2 to 128 (the 32bits are expanded to 128bits). It is estimated that everyone on the earth can be assigned to one million IP addresses, so the future will be from the glasses. Any items such as watches, mobile phones, home appliances, automobiles, and even building facilities or factory equipment will have a unique IP address, which can be updated via the Internet or remotely controlled. It is large enough to accommodate two trillion devices that are expected to connect to the network in the next 10 years.

Not only the Internet of Things, but all objects that require interaction and intelligent judgment require a large number of sensors. For example, more recent high-end vehicles have been equipped with more than one hundred sensors, including inertial sensors, pressure sensors, temperature sensors, and position sensors, to achieve optimal handling performance with highly electronic control. Driver safety and comfort.

Recently, it has been reported that a large number of MEMS microphones and gas sensors are also about to enter smart car applications to greatly improve the environmental quality of the cockpit. The global automotive MEMS sensor market was $2.6 billion in 2013 and is projected to reach $4.7 billion by 2020.

As the demand for sensors grows explosively and the variety diversifies, the challenge for supply chain vendors will be how to enable these new components to be mass-produced faster and at lower cost to ensure Market competitiveness of products.

In 1995, when the concept of the Internet of Things was just put forward, its development was not smooth, and it even showed a gradual shrinkage. A large part of the reason was that the cost of sensors built into various objects was still too high. A number of international research institutes have already proposed forecasts for the Internet of Things market. Most of them believe that the total number of connected devices will reach 10 billion in 2020, but to support such a large number of device interconnection scenarios, the cost of any sensing node is It must be less than $1 to speed up the construction of a complete IoT road.

MEMS sensors have been successfully used in smartphones and have undergone rigorous commercialization challenges, and their sensor prices have dropped from an average of $1.30 to $0.6 in the past 10 years. Therefore, it is no longer an unattainable goal to reduce the cost to less than US$1 after packaging with the computing processor and wireless transmission module. However, how to make the sensor manufacturing price cheaper will still be the key to the success of various MEMS manufacturers in the IoT market.

Sensing components for IoT applications face extreme challenges in terms of cost and performance. Industry analysts pointed out that MEMS customers used to develop their own product processes, and then asked the foundry to copy and improve according to the process, but now more and more customers tend to directly use the process standard platform that the foundry has established. Go to design and develop products.

This is not only a relatively stable process, but also a relatively inexpensive process, and can significantly shorten the time-to-market. In addition, in order to save the cost of packaging and reduce the size of the sensor, more and more MEMS sensing components are also oriented toward a large number of emerging process technologies, such as wafer bonding or bulk etching.

In order to respond to the diverse sensing functions of IoT in different application areas and significantly reduce the number of sensing nodes, the adoption of a general-purpose chip integration design concept is also an important development trend in the future; manufacturers have begun to consider using the same process platform. Several sensors are designed and integrated directly on the same chip, and then the required sensing function is triggered by software according to the customer's needs.

In order to significantly reduce the cost of sensors, MEMS has recently begun to develop cheaper technologies for new technology development, such as printing or using paper as a substrate. MEMS sensors that are expected to enter the IoT market in the future will face major changes and competition challenges in terms of materials, processes, design, and even manufacturing processes.