However, a recent study by ABI reports that the WSN market should begin to realize its potential in 2007. The report also found that many WSN devices use IEEE 802.15.4 chips. ABI adds the well-known ZigBee protocol competes with Zensys’ Z-Wave and SmartLabs’ Insteon for use in residential WSNs.
Sam Lucero, ABI’s senior analyst, says WSNs will play roles in residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Residential products typically are first to market because applications are simpler, and testing and reliability demands are less stringent. Commercial and industrial solutions will likely follow.
However, market dynamics also will change as the industry grows. Today many WSN chips—really systems-on-a-chip (SoCs)—are packaged in modules that may include added circuitry, stack networking, layer software, and antennas. ABI adds component manufacturers can use these drop-in components to WSN-enable products without needing to know a lot about RF engineering or having to do extensive testing.
“In this early market, we see a place for these module makers to help [component] OEMs,” says Lucero. “However, as volumes increase and cost becomes an issue, we think that [device manufacturers] will begin to forego the modules because they add a variable cost. They’ll develop products based directly on the SoC, where their costs are fixed and spread over many units.”
The report adds modules also can continue to thrive in certain commercial segments and in industrial plant monitoring. Volumes will be low enough for [device] OEMs to forego expensive in-house development of RF expertise and use the module. Also, many modules come with supporting software, bundled as a system that makes it easier to deploy a complex network.
U.S. sensor demand to exceed $12 billion in 2010
U.S. demand for sensor products (sensors, transducers and associated housings) is projected to increase 3.7 percent annually to $12.1 billion in 2010, according to a new study from The Freedonia Group, which represents a noticeable improvement from the 2000 to 2005 period. The improved outlook for many sensor-containing products (e.g., motor vehicles, aerospace equipment, industrial machinery and electronics) will support gains in sensor demand.
The fastest growth will occur in sensors based on more advanced, sophisticated technologies and those sensors likely to be used in dynamic applications such as automotive safety and security systems, medical equipment, military and aerospace equipment, and information technology.
Products such as advanced proximity and positioning sensors, optical chemical sensors, complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) and thermal imaging sensors hold especially good prospects through the end of the decade, the study finds. Demand for certain types of physical property sensors, particularly those utilizing advanced technologies -- such as speed sensors based on micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) technology -- is also expected to advance at well above the pace of the overall market.
Imaging sensors will see the fastest demand growth of any major sensor product category through 2010, rising 6.2 percent annually. Moreover, value gains understate the unit growth that will be achieved in the face of relentless price declines. Imaging sensors are integral components of numerous high-growth electronic products including cellular phones, digital cameras, electronic toys and games, and the like.
Proximity and positioning sensors will also see above average gains. The large automotive market will drive much of the growth, as safety products such as side airbags continue to achieve greater penetration, thereby increasing demand for related sensing products. In addition, more advanced occupant position and crash detection sensors will continue to penetrate the US motor vehicle market, although these technologies are not expected to become as widespread as airbags. Beyond the motor vehicle sector, proximity/positioning sensor demand will be supported by the ongoing recovery in the industrial sector -- the other significant market for these products.