In agreeing to acquire 100 percent of the shares in AppliedSensor, ams is following a strong strategy to grow from an analog semiconductor IC company to a diversified sensor and interface IC player, and with this acquisition, to more a highly integrated sensor solutions company with differentiated technology.
Historically, ams has very successfully provided ASICs for sensors—IHS estimates that ams holds 60 percent of the ASIC business for MEMS microphones for instance. Ams also is successful with interface ICs for inductive sensors and for medical imaging systems.
Ams added Hall based magnetic position sensors mainly for industrial and automotive applications. The company has a small share with this activity so far (estimated 2 percent) but shows some growth with recent contracts for chassis systems from Continental. It is commercializing a 3D Hall approach that will make it competitive with other major Hall suppliers like Melexis.
Its first major acquisition began in mid-2011 with its acquisition of the leading light sensor supplier TAOS, which gave it access to top positions for light sensors with 37 percent market share (source IHS Light Sensor report). With this acquisition ams became the sole supplier of ambient light sensors for Apple's Phone and iPad for instance. ams provides also the sophisticated light sensor in the Samsung Galaxy S5 with a combined color, proximity and gesture sensor in a single package as revealed by IHS teardowns.
Targeting the handset market?
IHS believes that ams targets the handset market with the acquisition of AppliedSensor. The main application today for this gas sensor technology is air quality in cars. However IHS believes that MEMS gas sensors such as developed by AppliedSensor will enter smartphones in the next three years for air quality monitoring and for breath analyzer. This is most probably the real motivation for ams's moves.
AppliedSensor is not the only company with this MEMS gas sensing technology. SGX Sensortech (Switzerland) is also in volume production e.g. for air quality in automotive. Other players are emerging with a similar technology such as the US start-up Synkera or the Swiss company Sensirion. IHS believe that ams chose AppliedSensor for following reasons:
AppliedSensor is the first company having managed to break into consumer applications until now with this gas sensor technology. AppliedSensor's technology is for instance the heart of Reckitt Benckiser's Air Wick FreshMatic Odor Detect Products in stores since January 2011.
One should mention that ams is already partnering with AppliedSensor and Samsung in a European project on gas sensors since January 2014.
- IHS Technology MEMS & Sensors Page
- Small Systems with Big Functionality for the IoT