Image sensors consist of picture elements or pixels; they register the amount of light falling on them and convert it into a corresponding number of electrons. These are then converted into voltage and transformed using an analog to digital (A/D) converter. The global market was valued at USD 6,854 million in 2012, with estimated shipments of 1,469.5 million units in the same year. Since image sensors find application in digital cameras, they are expected to witness high demand over the next few years. Growing demand for personal electronics such as smartphones which are equipped with image sensors is expected to fuel market growth on a global scale. Additionally, proliferation of professional cameras such as mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and DSLRs is estimated to positively impact the industry over the forecast period.
Image sensors could be classified into Charge Coupled Device (CCD) or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors. The host of benefits offered by CMOS image sensors over their counterparts is expected to be favorable for market growth over the next six years. CMOS chips contain amplifiers as well as A/D converters, which results in lowered cost of the target camera. Additionally, they provide benefits including higher noise immunity, lower power consumption, as well as smaller system size. Along with provider better image quality and low light sensitivity, CMOS image sensors facilitate random pixel access, enabling functions such as electronic tilt and pan. Increasing preference and focus on reducing the specification of consumer electronics has led to need for improving sensor resolution. In order to ensure overall effectiveness, camera manufactures have designed backside illumination or BSI. In this approach, the chip is turned upside down, and the light falls on the flipside. As a result, there is reduced light loss and noise; this is expected to spur product development over the forecast period. CMOS image sensors could be passive pixel or active pixel in nature. Passive pixel image sensors suffer from noise that appears as a background pattern in the resultant image, which is overcome using active pixel sensor technology.
Consumer electronics are expected to be the largest application segment in terms of volume and revenue over the next six years; it accounted for over half of the overall market share in 2013. This can primarily be attributed to surge in demand for smartphones and related electronics in developed and developing markets alike. Increasing need for high quality images has fuelled product development and innovation. Decreasing sensor prices are also expected to contribute to shipments during the forecast period. In the automotive sector, increasing safety regulations and adoption of advanced driver assistance systems have resulted in high proliferation of CMOS image sensors. Automotive applications also include automatic cruise control and lane tracking among others. The medical segment is expected to grow at the fastest rate of 9.9% from 2014 to 2020.
Global CMOS Image Sensors Revenue, by Application, 2013
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North America accounted for 35.2% of the overall market share in terms of revenue in 2013. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing regional market, with an estimated CAGR of 6.6% from 2014 to 2020. Growing penetration of smartphones equipped with primary and secondary cameras to enable applications including video calling is expected to drive regional growth. In addition, adoption of digital cameras which are fitted with larger image sensors coupled with the trend of social networking and sharing images is estimated to give impetus to the industry in Asia Pacific, which is characterized by a large number of first time buyers. Replacement demand for portable electronic devices is expected to be the key driving force for the market in Europe as well as North America.
Industry participants include Sony Corporation, Canon Inc., Aptina Imaging, OmniVision and Samsung Electronics among others. These companies have been following strategies such as product development and innovation to secure competitive advantage. This is particularly important due to continuous upgrades in the field of consumer electronics and increased focus on image quality.