In the wake of the continuous advancement of semiconductor manufacturing processes, sensing technology has been popularized, which empowers the rise of many new technologies and drives the demand for sensors. According to Yole Developpement, aside from mobile applications, the emergence of other application demands has been seen, such as automotive, healthcare and security. The development is expected to drive the continuous growth of the CIS market in the future, and the global market size is even anticipated to expand to US$31.5 billion in 2026.
Status of CMOS Image Sensor Industry 2021 report. Yole Developpement, 2021
ASM Pacific Technology (ASMPT) Assistant Vice President — CIS, Benny Au points out that the rapid development of smartphone design from single-camera to multi-camera indicates the assembly technologies of major CIS cameras are progressively becoming mature. ASMPT has long been optimistic that the application of CIS is a key factor leading the world to an intellectualized future and therefore, we have been utilizing the advantages and experience of the smartphone camera market to accelerate the development of CIS in different fields. Today, we have successfully set foot in the two major fields - automated driving systems and the Metaverse.
ASM Pacific Technology Assistant Vice President — CIS, Benny Au
One of ASMPT's observations is that consumers have ever-changing expectations for automobiles. Vehicles are no longer just a means of transportation and overall driving safety needs to be ensured with the incorporation of intelligentization and safety technologies. Therefore, major automobile manufacturers are advancing the use of technologies like AI and machine learning to build a brand-new possibility of smart mobility. Regulations, clarification of responsibilities, and safety guidelines, however, are the biggest challenges for the development of autonomous vehicles. In addition, different markets and countries have different views on the technology and thus, we will continue to keep a close eye on the changes and trends in different markets in order to provide the products in demand.
Camera quality plays a vital role in driving safety
Autonomous vehicles are highly anticipated by consumers on account of the ability to actively detect changes in the surrounding environment of the vehicle through camera lenses and sensor technologies, such as LiDAR, millimeter-wave radars, and ultrasonic radars. Other than reporting abnormal conditions, the connected mechanism including accelerating, steering and braking will also provide car owners with assistance to cope with emergencies as well as ensure driving safety.
Although the aforementioned sensor technology is progressing significantly, camera is capable of capturing the actual state of the surrounding environment directly, allowing car owners to comprehend the surrounding situation accurately when driving. Cameras, therefore, play a crucial part in driving safety.
ASMPT believes that the image processing capability and back-end algorithm of the system are not the only criteria for assessing autonomous vehicles' ability to detect the surrounding environment. On the other hand, cameras' ability to capture high-quality images carries much more weight. Different from the camera requirements of consumer electronics, automotive cameras involve road safety and even personal safety. Therefore, the majority of automobile manufacturers have extremely strict quality requirements for camera products. They will even formulate purchasing standards for the cameras according to the characteristics of their own automated driving systems and algorithms.
"As the market demand for cameras has increased remarkably, the competition between camera module suppliers has also become fierce. Many industry players have gone down the path of price competition. This way, the focus of camera assembly has switched from quality to cost, bringing uncertainty to the safety of autonomous vehicles," Benny Au explains. "In contrast, we pay full attention to product quality. Apart from purchasing high-precision manufacturing equipment, we have also established a holistic set of precision monitoring mechanisms in the production line. In this way, manufacturers are empowered to take full control of the entire process of the camera assembly and to advance the quality and precision of the entire production line, all for the high-quality cameras that meet the needs of autonomous vehicles."
Aiming to improve the quality of camera assembly, ASMPT has also acquired the world-leading active camera module assembly factory, meeting the mass production needs of major European and American clients as well as accelerating the development of new products. The acquisition will further put our business philosophy of high performance, high productivity, high assembly precision and stability into practice, ensuring the delivery of the highest quality products for our clients.
Heated topic of Metaverse sparks demands for camera lenses
Other than autonomous vehicles, the Metaverse that can draw consumers and enterprises all the way into a massive virtual world has been another hot topic recently, and it is anticipated to bring significant changes to the electronic product supply chain. Although there is no complete definition of the Metaverse by research institutions, it has already attracted a wide range of companies to expand their investment in the field. Even Facebook has changed its name to Meta to declare its determination to play a part in the Metaverse. In the next few years, the world is expected to step into the new era of the Metaverse.
The world is expected to step into the new era of the Metaverse. ASMPT
As the key path to the Metaverse, VR/AR devices can provide immersive human-computer interaction, and more related applications are also seen on the market. The market demand for cameras, therefore, is soaring. It is estimated that the total addressable mark, TAM (Total addressable market) of the camera for VR/AR applications will increase from US$120 million in 2021 to more than 10 times in 2025, and then rocket to US$ 4.6 billion in 2030.
Benny Au mentions that the camera lens of VR/AR equipment is mainly for simultaneous localization and mapping as well as pass-through viewing. Under the Metaverse trend, it is believed that RGB cameras will gradually replace grayscale cameras to enhance the interaction with the surrounding environment. Also, the camera lens used to capture eye movement is capable of improving the accuracy and precision of tracking position and gesture. On top of it, when combined with depth-sensing technology, the interaction between computers, humans, and the environment for mixed reality will be further accelerated.
In response to the latest trends including autonomous vehicle systems and the Metaverse, ASMPT will put its competence in mobile cameras to good use, and continue to explore the high-quality cameras market. By enhancing our own R&D capabilities and participating in pre-development work, ASMPT is confident to provide different industry players with the best solutions to sharpen their competitive edge in the market.