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Sensor Sales Finally Catch Fire

By Dylan McGrath, EE Times

Sales of semiconductor sensors set a new all time high in 2016 thanks to the growth of embedded control, wearable electronics and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, according to IC Insights Inc.

According to market research firm's report on the market for sensors and actuators, several of the largest product categories in the segment—including acceleration/yaw and magnetic-field sensors and actuator devices--finally broke through to achieve double-digit sales increases in 2016 after years of intense pricing pressure and lackluster unit volumes.

Sales of IC sensors grew 14 percent last year, reaching an all-time high of $7.3 billion, according to the report. Meanwhile, sales of actuators increased by 19 percent to $4.5 billion, IC Insights (Scottsdale, Ariz.) said.

IC Insights sees more growth ahead. The firm forecasts that sensor sales will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5 percent for the next few years, reaching $10.5 billion in 2021. Actuator sales are projected to grow at a 8.4 percent CAGR over the same period, reaching $6.8 billion, the according to the firm.

Last year marked the first time in five years that all categories of sensors and actuators grew, partly due to the easing of price erosion, IC Insights said.

In terms of shipment volume, shipments of sensors and actuators grew 17 percent to 20.3 billion units in 2016, a record-high, IC Insights said.

Roughly 82 percent of sensor and actuator revenues in 2016 came from chips with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology—including pressure sensors, microphone chips, acceleration/yaw motion sensors and actuators that use MEMS-built transducer structures to initiate physical action in a wide range of devices, IC Insights said. MEMS-built products represented 48 percebt of total sensor/actuator shipments in 2016, or about 9.8 billion units last year, the firm said.

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