From consumer to automotive: reshaping of the imaging supply chain

Semiconductor chips have become the backbone of automotive innovation, present in various kinds of sensors responsible for ADAS & safety functions. In this dynamic context, imaging technologies are becoming critical, generating bright opportunities for CMOS image sensor devices and camera module manufacturers.

2024 is here. Yole Group’s imaging analysts take a step back to review the year and analyze the latest technical and market trends. Florian Domengie, Anas Chalak, Axel Clouet and Amandine Pizzagalli from Yole Group dive deep into the imaging technologies and look ahead to highlight the business opportunities, the ecosystem evolution, and, underlying it all, the leading companies.

This review is based on Yole Group’s imaging collection. Discover HERE an overview of all Yole Group’s products, including Automotive & Consumer Teardown Tracks, Market & Technology reports…

Yole Intelligence and Yole SystemPlus are Yole Group’s companies.

Imaging market dynamics in the context of automotive expansion

Automotive is the second-largest market for CIS, trailing only behind mobile phones, accounting for approximately 10% of total revenues in 2022. According to the Status of the CMOS Image Sensor Industry report, revenue from automotive CIS was estimated at around US$2.2 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow with an 8.7% CAGR between 2022 and 2028, reaching an estimated US$3.7 billion.

Anas Chalak-YINT
Anas Chalak Technology & Market analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group
This growth is propelled by the pressing need for safety and automation measures mandated by Europe, United States, and China regulations, emphasizing applications such as automatic emergency braking (AEB), pedestrian detection, and driver monitoring systems.

Advancements in vehicle autonomy have seen notable interest, with OEMs introducing “eyes-off” driving features in cars designed for highway use at speeds below 60 km/h. However, achieving higher-speed autonomous capabilities will require more sophisticated cameras. This anticipates a rise in the average number of cameras per car from 2.7 in 2022 to 4.4 in 2028. This evolution also attracts companies traditionally focused on other industries, such as consumer, seeking these expanding opportunities.

Riding the “smartphone on wheels” opportunities

Another significant reason for the shift toward the automotive industry is the stagnation observed in the mobile and consumer markets. Anticipated lower production volumes in these sectors over the coming years have prompted imaging leaders to redirect their focus toward the automotive realm, expecting stronger growth potential.

As a result, several image sensor suppliers rapidly invested in research and development (R&D) and enhanced their capacity to address the automotive market. This industry shift is evident in various initiatives worldwide. In China, GalaxyCore is actively expanding its new fabrication facilities to extend beyond low-end mobile and dashcam products. Simultaneously, BYD Semiconductor is developing image-sensing devices while SmartSens is eyeing growth in its CIS sales, specifically targeting the Chinese domestic automotive market. In Europe, STMicroelectronics is broadening its sensor solutions and portfolio for in-cabin monitoring applications.

Florian Domengie Senior Technology and Market Analyst within the Photonics & Sensing division at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group
Among the largest CIS players, Sony has reported significant growth in its automotive CIS sales from 2021 to 2022, while Samsung is also solidifying its position. Both benefitted from having their own fabs to provide customers through the chip shortage. With onsemi’s historical challenger, Omnivision, these players are gaining market share and looking to threaten onsemi’s throne.

At the camera module level, the slowdown in the mobile and consumer markets is causing a restructuring of the ecosystem. The shift has encouraged OEMs to collaborate directly with lower-tier suppliers, including sensor and component providers. Additionally, lens and optics suppliers such as Sunny Optical and O-film are changing their strategy, transitioning from only offering the optics to developing complete camera systems.

Technology proliferation for differentiation?

With the stringent specifications required, imaging leaders focus on increasing their product value and bringing new technologies to outperform the competition.

Axel Clouet Technology & Market Analyst, Imaging and Display, at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, within the Photonics and Sensing division in the Imaging Team
Omnivision and onsemi are bringing innovations at the pixel design level, while Sony and Samsung are taking advantage of their consumer production capabilities to widen their portfolio with new automotive products.

To address more advanced ADAS applications, R&D efforts are underway to deliver larger resolution cameras with adequate optics, as detailed in the Status of the Camera Module Industry report. For instance, Sony released the IMX735 CIS tailored for automotive cameras with 17.42 effective megapixels, while Sunny Optical has successfully developed a specialized lens set optimized for 17-megapixel capabilities. Actuating technologies are also emerging to increase imaging camera performance, and companies such as Sheba Microsystems and MEMS Drive are proposing autofocus technologies from 2023. In the long term, visible cameras can also be complemented with infrared technologies which will help tackle challenges posed by night and adverse weather conditions.

This shift from stagnating consumer markets to the promising automotive sector is stimulating further innovation and investment, reshaping the landscape for imaging leaders and their technology offerings, and involving the entire imaging camera supply chain. This market transition is raising innovation activity to support higher value products and bring them to automotive for vehicles that are poised to become the new ‘smartphone on wheels.’

Yole Group will follow the innovations and market evolution in 2024. Combining technology expertise and industry knowledge, the group will deliver its vision through a dedicated collection of products, articles, interviews, webcasts, presentations, and much more…

Stay tuned in 2024!

About the authors

Florian Domengie, Ph.D., is a Senior Technology and Market Analyst within the Photonics & Sensing division at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. Florian is engaged in technology and market analyses for various imaging technologies and contributes to the production of the relevant reports and projects.

Prior to Yole, Florian worked in STMicroelectronics in the process and technology development fields and in R&D project management. Florian has authored or co-authored numerous papers and five patents in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing.

Florian holds an MSc in Engineering Physics, Materials and Microelectronics from INSA Toulouse (France) and a PhD. In Microelectronics and Nanoelectronics from the University of Grenoble-Alpes (France).

Axel Clouet, Ph.D., is a Technology & Market Analyst, Imaging and Display, at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, within the Photonics and Sensing division in the Imaging Team. He contributes daily to technology & market analyses on various imaging technologies and participates in the production of the relevant reports. Previously, Axel obtained an MSc from the Grenoble Institute of Technology (FR) and a Ph.D. from the University of Grenoble (FR) in collaboration with CEA-LETI, where he worked on color and noise aspects in CMOS image sensors. He is the author of various scientific papers and conference presentations.

Anas Chalak is a Technology & Market analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, working with the Photonics & Sensing division. He is a member of Yole’s imaging team and follows imaging technology activities to provide market and technology analyses while contributing to the production of relevant reports and projects.

Previously, Anas carried out research in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology during his master’s, focusing on the development of an integrated mid-infrared (MIR) photonic platform on SiGe to generate a configurable supercontinuum light source at the “Institut des Nanotechnologies de Lyon,” France. Later, he worked for a year as a research engineer on the optical optimization of the reception components for a 3D heterodyne FMCW imaging system in CEA-Leti, Grenoble, France.

Anas obtained a master’s degree in Nanoscale Engineering from École Centrale de Lyon, France, where he developed a highly multidisciplinary background in micro-nanoscale phenomena and semiconductor devices and their applications.

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