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Motion Sensing within Consumer Electronics

Accelerometers -- devices that sense motion -- have been with us for a long time, but only recently have they have been miniaturized as silicon-based devices.

Consumer electronics (CE) makers who saw their hidden potential and built new products such as Nintendo’s Wii, Apple’s iPhone, and Activision’s “Guitar Hero” game around them have achieved huge market success by revolutionizing the user-interface.

Manufacturers of the MEMS (Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems) accelerometers at the heart of these radical interfaces, firms such as Analog Devices (Wii), STMicroelectronics (iPhone), and Freescale Semiconductor, are reaping the rewards as well.

ABI Research senior analyst Douglas McEuen says, "The MEMS accelerometer market will see strong, solid growth in the next five years, driven mainly by the technology's great potential for user interface transformation across multiple industries. We expect the market to show a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent to 2012.”

Being first in these market segments yields the greatest rewards, he adds, but the followers can expect substantial returns too: even a small part of a global market such as wireless handsets will produce very satisfactory revenue. The huge health and exercise market is another fertile and largely unexploited territory.

Some applications of MEMS accelerometers will have to wait for unit prices to fall, however. According to a new ABI Research study, true mass market traction will only begin when individual unit prices fall below $1.00. “MEMS accelerometers are a silicon technology,” says McEuen, “so prices fall as mass volumes are reached. They should break the $1.00 barrier in 2010.”

How can CE vendors optimize their market positions in this new touchy-feely world?

"The key is to keep your options open,” McEuen advises. “Motion-sensing is going to find its way into a lot of different industries and applications. You’ll be able to do a lot of new things to a lot of old technologies, and finding out which and how will be a key to success. The possibilities are endless, and the goal is to be first in.”

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