The boom in smartphones equipped with cameras and advancements in vehicles has caused massive demand for image sensors — as a result, countries in the Asia-Pacific region and capitalizing on this market growth.
Very simply, image sensors are devices that take optical data and convert it to an electronic signal. The primary use for image sensors is in digital cameras and imaging devices, converting light received by the camera lens into a digital image.
With the boom in camera-enabled smartphones over the last decade, the demand for image sensors has soared. And this market continues to grow thanks to the increased use of image sensors in medicine and as a result, the adoption of sensors in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) for autonomous cars.
Many countries are attempting to position themselves at the forefront of this burgeoning field of technology. Among these are the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, particularly India, China, and Japan.
Image Credit: VideoFlow/Shutterstock.com
The image sensor market accounts for a substantial amount of the semiconductor market. In August 2022, Research and Markets1 published a report that estimated the image sensor market was worth $26.1 billion USD. This is projected to reach $38.6 billion USD by 2027. The global image sensors market is segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and the Rest of the World.
According to a Techsci Research report2, the image sensor market can be segmented into categories based on the type of technology : Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) or Charge-Coupled Devices (CCD). The sensors can be further split into 3D and 2D sensors.
Asia-Pacific has a prominent image sensor market share thanks to a growing population and rising demand for smartphones in emerging countries such as India, China, and South Korea. The launch of sensor production facilities in these countries has been boosted by the availability of raw materials in the region. Additionally, companies are encouraged to set up production centers in the Asia-Pacific region due to the low cost of building and labor.
China and Facial Recognition
Among the Asia-Pacific countries, the growing economy of China and its increasing share of the global electronics market has found it leading the image sensor market.
In addition to having its own large customer base, China is exporting larger and larger amounts of camera-equipped smartphones across the globe. Some major players operating in China's CMOS image sensor market include Panasonic, Sharp, Canon, Himax Technologies, Hamamatsu Photonics K.K., Samsung, and Semiconductor Components Industries.
A 2020 report3 says that companies and research institutes ins China are investing considerable resources in the R&D program in sensor technology. In 2019, for instance, Xiaomi, a Chinese smartphone manufacturer, officially opened an R&D arm under the moniker Xiaomi Finland Oy in Tampere.
Aside from playing an important role in the country’s economy and global electronics market share, image sensors have become vital to China’s infrastructure.
The Social Credit System employs extensive facial recognition of the country’s citizens to behavior and trustworthiness. The scheme depends heavily on facial recognition technology, and the implementation of this technology and cameras across the country is expected to further drive the sensor market.
Tencent reported that 176 million surveillance cameras were installed in China during the fiscal year of 2017, reaching 621 units by 2021. This has led to China investing heavily in all aspects of facial recognition technology, including sensors.
Image Sensors in Japan
In a move that is unlikely to help China’s sensor market share, following the outbreak of COVID-19, Japan announced a stimulus package worth $2.2 billion USD to help Japanese manufacturers move out of the country as it was being hit with supply chain disruption. Of this, $2 billion is specifically designated to companies that move to manufacture back to Japan.
It is impossible to discuss image sensors without mentioning Sony, the Japanese firm that leads this market. In late 2021, the semiconductor division of Sony developed the first stacked CMOS image sensor technology.
Equipped with two-layer transistor pixels, the new device is capable of gathering twice the light. This double capacity arises from separating photodiodes and pixel transistors onto separate substrates stacked on top of each other rather than side-by-side.
According to Sony, this stacked architecture allows for optimizing these layers doubling the saturation signal level compared to conventional image sensors.
Other than Sony and its Semiconductor Solutions Corporation, major players in the sensor market in Japan are Toshiba, Panasonic, Renesas, Brillnics, and Hamamatsu Photonics.
Thanks to the abundance of raw materials needed to construct image sensors, the market is rapidly growing in India. The Techscieresearch report says that 3D sensors are expected to dominate the growing image sensor industry in India, highlighting the country’s main players as ON Semiconductor, AMS, Himax, Teledyne, Samsung, Sony, Canon, and Panasonic, among others.
References and Further Reading
Image Sensor Market by Technology (CMOS Image Sensors), Processing Technique (2D Image Sensors, 3D Image Sensors), Spectrum, Array Type, Resolution, End-User (Consumer Electronics, Automotive) and Geography — Global Forecast to 2027, Research and Markets, Available at: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/image-sensor-market-by-technology-processing-technique-spectrum-array-type-resolution-end-user-and-geography---global-forecast-to-2027-301672839.html
India Image Sensor Market, By Technology (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS), Charge-Coupled Device (CCD) and Others), By Spectrum (Visible Spectrum and Non-Visible Spectrum), By Array Type (Area Image Sensor and Linear Image Sensor), By Processing Type (2D Image Sensor and 3D Image Sensor), By Vertical (Automotive, Industrial, Commercial, Consumer Electronics and Aerospace, Défense, & Homeland Security), By Company and By Region, Forecast & Opportunities, 2018–2028, TechSciResearch, Available at: https://www.techsciresearch.com/report/india-image-sensor-market/2074.html
China CMOS Image Sensors Market 2019–2025, Research and Markets, Available at: https://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/4991472/china-cmos-image-sensors-market-2019-2025