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Imaging

On February 7, 2018, ams AG, formerly Austria Micro System, reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended December 31, 2017.

A close reading of these results shows an impressive growth of their fourth quarter revenues (+252%) YoY, going from 133.6M€ in Q4 2016 up to 470.3M€ in Q4 2017.


Over the full year 2017, ams entered the “billion-Euro revenue” club with annual revenues surging from 495M€ in 2016 to 1,064M€ in 2017. It is no coincidence that a large portion of this growth comes from the acquisition of Heptagon (for 845M€ sixteen months earlier). That part of ams’ business is delivering unmatched sensing system performance and is on a winning streak with its Wafer Level Optic (WLO) and micro-system integration technologies.

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The bet was huge, and ams AG has delivered.
Heptagon activities have added 428M€ in Yole Développement’s estimation to ams’ AG revenues this year and should remain an important contributor in 2018. As Yole highlighted in its latest 3D Imaging and sensing 2017 report, this 3D imaging era has only just begun. It really started with the introduction of the Apple TrueDepth camera on the latest iPhone X model, launched in November 2017. This kicked off the 3D sensing trend in the consumer market and provided an industry benchmark that relies heavily on ams technology.

3D Imaging and Sensing 2017

Another interesting thing, is that playing with the numbers, one can also reveal how closely ams and Apple were linked in 2017: Apple represents more than 40% of ams’ revenues in 2017. This allows us to extrapolate that 20-22 million iPhone X handsets were produced and sold in 2017. The iPhone X has clearly not ignited a super cycle, but neither was it the worst iPhone launch.

So, what can we expect for the future? For a decade, ams has been able to become a key player in light sensing management with mobile ambient light sensors which have recently evolved into spectral sensing. It has become the key player for 3D structured light illumination technology. It is now also a credible competitor to ST Microelectronics for Time of Flight (ToF) proximity rangers. It is a possibility that ams would like to push even more forward the sensing side of its activity, especially concerning 3D. This could mean time of flight arrays to compete with Sony or Infineon PMD. It could also bring avalanche photodiodes to market, similar to the ones from First Sensor or Hamamatsu, in order to serve 3D sensing cameras or Lidar. The next technology would be Single Photon capability, the recent hire of David Stoppa, one of the most brilliant SPAD academic is probably a sign of things to come.

ams now has become a solid giant in the sensing industry. It can compete with the biggest players, and we’re delighted to see a European company with strengths in imaging and optical, environmental and audio sensing, which are all mandatory to survive in the consumer market. To stay ahead of the competition in the consumer space is not easy to do, but is surely very rewarding if things go well. We have true confidence that ams’ leadership is in the game to stay. When you have the right people and the right money, everything becomes possible.

 

Authors: 

Pierre CambouPierre Cambou joined the imaging industry in 1999. Following an engineering degree from Université de Technologie de Compiègne in parallel to a master of science from Virginia Tech in 1998, as well as graduating from Grenoble Ecole de Management’s MBA, Cambou took several positions at Thomson TCS, which became Atmel Grenoble in 2001 and e2v Semiconductors in 2006. In 2012 he founded Vence Innovation, now called Irlynx, in order to bring to market a disruptive man-to-machine interaction technology. He joined market research and strategy consulting company Yole Développement as imaging activity leader in 2014.

 

Guillaume Girardin Yole DeveloppementDr. Guillaume Girardin works as a Market & Technology Analyst for MEMS devices and technologies at Yole Développement, the "More than Moore" market research and strategy consulting company. Guillaume holds a Ph.D. In Physics and Nanotechnology from Claude Bernard University Lyon 1 and a M.Sc. in Technology and Innovation Management from EM Lyon School of Business.

 

 

Source:   Yole Développement

 

 

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