Key Takeaways from the 2017 European MEMS & Imaging Sensors Summits

By Anne-Marie Dutron, SEMI Europe, and Frederic Breussin, Yole Développement

Grenoble, France, the “Imaging Capital of the World,” was the site of the 2017 European MEMS & Sensors Summit, co-located with the 2017 European Imaging & Sensors Conference. This first combined SEMI MEMS and Imaging Summits events was a great success. Nearly 400 professionals gathered to hear the latest in MEMS and Imaging Sensors and utilize the networking as an opportunity to highlight new products and innovations. It attracted large companies (e.g., ST Microelectronics, Occulus/Facebook, Airbus); research institutes (e.g., CEA-Leti, Fraunhofer and VTT); and press and analysts.  Presentations were high-caliber with a good mix of informative and intriguing developments, current technology and future opportunities in terms of markets and products.

Key markets, such as IOT, automotive, and smart phones, for MEMS and Imaging sensors are maturing into strong and growing segments with advancements coming at a steady pace.  Concern over price erosion is clearly a driver to greater and greater levels of performance.  Full-system solutions steadily entering the marketplace bring promising market ─ entry points – very noticeable in the smart-city and environmental sensing sectors.  These systems include the hardware, the processing and the software to deliver intelligence to the user – as opposed to just data – enabling more plug-and-play capability.

But two fields are really coming out as the key drivers for at least the next ten years:  Autonomous vehicles and AR/VR. One word took the general attention, because it was present in practically all talks: Intelligence!

Artificial intelligence will help up make the most of all the sensors. Thanks to AI, we can get much more from sensors than only a measure of a physical parameter or an image.

As explained by LG Electronics, they don’t need trillions of sensors, but for sure smarter sensors.  More than simple transducers, sensors are becoming key elements for Human machine interface, in AR/VR applications, for autonomous driving, but as well in medical, industrial applications.

We saw great examples of microphones for voice control like in the Google Echo system, as well as Ultrasound transducers, TOF sensors and haptic sensors for gesture recognition.

A key trend was outlined the increasing stringent performance requirements for sensors, even in mobile phone applications

  • Higher and higher SNR microphones are required in mobile phones, for voice recognition, noise cancellation
  • Very high accuracy inertial sensors will be needed for accurate navigation of autonomous cars
  • 3D imaging is entering the mobile phone market to enable face recognition and new social media applications

These high requirements are putting pressure on the manufacturing, packaging and testing of the devices. Still many challenges are ahead.

The industry has major talent in innovation ─ that was confirmed at the MEMS Technology Showcase Session. The Tech Showcase was a highlight of the Summit, with attendees buoyed by the hands-on demonstrations after the talks. 

The five finalists (Bosch Sensortec, Fraunhofer IPMS, Hap2U, Philips Innovation Services, and Si-Ware Systems) provided energetic bids for attendee votes as they touted the advancements and unique properties of their products (see graphic on right and read “Technology Showcase Finalists Revealed for European MEMS & Sensors Summit). Si-Ware’s Spectrometer on a Chip, won the most votes and the competition.  In unscientific polling, attendees were impressed with the size shrinkage since the first generation and the significant impact on the spectrometer’s usage model, and ultra-sound imaging in particular.  .”

Regarding Imaging sensors, for visible imaging, it seems that the pixel race is definitely over, but it does not mean that the performance race is over. Performance is now evaluated in terms of data rate, dynamic range, 3D capabilities…

We are entering what can be called the (3D)^2 era:

  • 3D tracking process for faster pixel processing
  • For 3D applications

Pertinent data are more important than a huge amount of data, which means that computing and data processing within the sensor is essential to take real time decisions in autonomous cars, in industrial applications…

To conclude, MEMS and Imaging technologies are not so different:

  • The driving applications are the same
  • They both contribute to enhanced man to machine and environment to machine interfaces
  • Smarter devices are needed and Artificial intelligence will bring them to the next level
  • And last but not least, after a long period of race towards the lowest priced, Hardware differentiation seems to be back.

Don’t miss the next Edition of the European MEMS & Sensors Summit and European Imaging and Sensors Summit in Grenoble, September 20-22, 2018 ─ a unique event covering MEMS and Imaging Sensors.

Follow the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group on Twitter (@MEMSGroup).

Global Update
October 17, 2017