Optical sensor makers ride facial recognition and photography demand as smartphone sales sag

Companies making sensors for smartphone cameras and biometric facial recognition systems are preparing for a mini boom, even as the rest of the smartphone market stagnates, according to an editorial in The Washington Post.

Memory chips are at an all-time low in cost, and semiconductor manufacturers like Qualcomm and Samsung have issued forecasts reflecting the industry slowdown. Sensors for cameras, and 3D imaging in particular, are going strong, however.

Companies like Sony Corp., Infineon Technologies AG, STMicroelectronics NV and AMS AG have all suggested that the optical sensors market is growing, though the editorial suggests that it is driven as much by photography as it is by facial recognition. Sony and STMicroelectronics have reported revenue growth from their sensor divisions in Q2 2019, along with reduced revenue in other segments.

Huawei and Apple are both emphasizing photography as selling features for their smartphones, with multiple rear cameras on each device in new and forthcoming models, boosting demand for both traditional image sensors and 3D sensors. Infineon supplies much of the images hardware for the Pixel 4, which features 3D facial unlocking and gesture recognition. AMS made its bet earlier, the Post reports, but recent advances in time-of-flight sensors have unlocked new market potential.

While advanced technology often reaches consumers only after industrial applications have been adopted, in this case, 3D sensors are expected to reach factories and the automotive market after they are further established in smartphones.

Just over a year ago, Technavio forecast the 3D facial recognition market to grow by 22 percent CAGR through 2022.

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