Friday, May 24, 2013

MEMS and MCUs helping each other grow, but change is in motion

USA: MEMS and microcontrollers work closely together in many applications. In the simplest case, a sensor provides an input to an MCU. The sensor will detect an activity or condition in the environment and convert this to a signal that the MCU uses for its algorithm.  In some cases the MCU may drive a MEMS such as an actuator.

A MEMS device offers many advantages to system designers.  Nevertheless, MEMS cannot function by themselves but in conjunction with a controller. The MCUs are sometimes referred to as the "brains" of the system. The MEMS provide vital data for the algorithms embedded in the MCU which controls the actions of the system.

The most advanced designs are sensor fusion systems for smartphones, tablet PCs and Ultrabooks.  These are solutions with advanced controllers which are connected to multiple sensors and other data sources and have complex algorithms.

Early MEMS development work was in automotive, robotics and aerospace applications.  These sensors provide input and feedback to microcontrollers. Until 2012 the largest market segment for MEMS in terms of unit volume was automotive.  The MCUs and MEMS work together to enable important safety features in vehicles such as air bags, engine control, stability, tire pressure monitoring (TPMS) and more.

MEMS have been designed into many new applications in recent years. The smartphone market consumes the most MEMS today. Most of the growth has been in consumer electronics, computing and smartphones. The MCU market, exclusive of IC cards, has seen strong growth due to MCUs designed with MEMS. Today, exclusive of IC cards, half of the MCUs shipping work with MEMS.

Semico Research's latest report, "MEMS and Controllers: Dynamics of Competition",

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