STMicroelectronics (STM) Is Dominating the World of MEMS
Back in 2006, Nintendo's Wii cast a spotlight on Swiss tech company STMicroelectronics (STM), which together with Analog Devices manufactured the MEMS (micro-electrical-mechanical systems) used in the Wii's original motion controllers. MEMS, which are motion detecting microchips, are everywhere these days -- in smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles. Daily Chart
STMicroelectronics has since become the 800-pound gorilla in the MEMS industry, finishing 2012 with the highest market share and logging a year-on-year revenue growth rate of 10% to $1 billion.
Privately-held Robert Bosch is ranked second, followed by Texas Instruments (TXN
) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ
). The entire MEMS industry also reported 10% sales growth in 2012 -- a year when the entire semiconductor industry slumped 2%. Yet there are far more applications for MEMS technology beyond smartphones and video games. Let's explore some other industries where MEMS have been gaining ground over the past several years -- one such field is fitness and healthcare. Pedometers use accelerometers to digitally record the number of steps taken daily. They are the easiest illustration of how MEMS work -- each simple jerking movement forward is logged as a step and transferred into a digital signal. Hearing aids have also benefited from MEMS, since the chips can stabilize the devices as the wearer is in motion -- thanks to the microphones developed by STMicroelectronics. STMicroelectronics also produces a revolutionary "lab on a chip" which can test small amounts of bodily fluids through a tiny on-chip cartridge. For example, a blood sample could be directly placed on the disposable "biochip" for an immediate reading, without additional lab actions which could result in cross contamination. It could also analyze DNA and scan for diseases much faster than other testing methods, due to the chips' pre-programmed set of instructions. MEMS have also been placed into "smart" contact lenses to detect glaucoma by measuring eye pressure, and can measure the blood pressure of the entire circulatory system. Therefore, it's easy to see why the healthcare industry has been exploring innovative new ways to fully utilize MEMS technology, as it appears that scientists and engineers have yet to scratch the surface of this integral piece of technology in "smart" healthcare. Texas Instruments also has a strong foothold in smart healthcare. The company manufactures several products which link together via Bluetooth to create a "wireless body sensor." The technology can be combined with a humidity sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and barometric pressure sensor to funnel data into a centralized product which can organize the data into a dashboard interface for patients or doctors to use. The tech, healthcare and the energy industries are only three major sectors which will benefit from the rise of MEMS. However, the retail sector could also soon be pulled in by the rise of wearable technology. As more companies find new ways to utilize MEMS in their products and services, the publicly traded market leaders in this field -- STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, and Hewlett-Packard -- could experience strong sales growth over the next few years. Other News About STM STMicroelectronics Chip Controls Pebble Smart Watch
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Published on Sep 26, 2013
By Leo Sun