Beyond COVID-19, what is the outlook for the thermal imaging and sensing market?
Report available on November 24.
This report is an updated version of the “Thermal Imaging/Sensing” series of annual reports. This version provides updated volumes, market value, market shares, and associated forecasts for thermal imagers and
detectors. Here, the focus is on the return of some normality to the thermal imaging and sensing market, back to more traditional applications, after the unprecedented year 2020.
The thermal imaging market and application landscape are presented together with Yole’s view of the future market and technology trends.
- Present an in-depth analysis of thermal detectors and imagers for defense and commercial applications
- Provide market data on key thermal detectors (thermopiles, pyroelectrics) and imagers (microbolometers), including market metrics and dynamics:
- Thermal detectors and thermal imagers/cameras in units and revenue, split by market segment
- Historical market data for 2018 & 2019, educated estimations for 2021, and forecasts up to 2026
- Market shares for thermal detectors and imagers players
- Offer key technical insights into future technology trends and challenges
- Deliver an in-depth understanding of the thermal imaging value chain, infrastructure, and players:
- Who are the industrial thermal sensor players, and where are they positioned?
- More generally, which are the key players to watch, and how will the thermal detection/imaging market evolve?
- Market data on key thermal (uncooled infrared) detectors and imagers/cameras, including market metrics & dynamics:
- Thermal detectors (pyroelectric and thermopile technologies) and thermal imagers (microbolometer technology) in units & revenue by market segment
- Thermal detectors and imagers sales in units & revenue by market segment
- In-depth analysis of thermal detectors and imagers trends for commercial and defense applications
- An in-depth understanding of the leading thermal detector and imager players:
- Who is involved in the thermal camera supply chain? Who are the leading thermal imager manufacturers, and what are their market positions and shares?
- More generally, who are the key players to watch, and how will the market evolve? Hint: watch out for Asian and particularly Chinese manufacturers.
- Key technical insights into future technology trends and challenges for thermal detectors and imagers.
Table of content
Table of contents 3
Report scope 8
Applications covered in this report 10
The authors 13
List of companies 14
What we got right/What we got wrong 16
3-page summary 23
Executive summary 27
Market forecasts 80
Market trends 100
Supply chain 155
Technology trends 190
HOW WILL THE THERMAL IMAGING MARKET EVOLVE AFTER THE BOOM OF 2020?
In 2020, thermal imaging and sensing took center stage in the fight against COVID-19. After an Elevated Body/Surface Temperature (EBT/EST) camera sales gold-rush for a great many manufacturers, the demand finally fell in late 2020 and is returning to normal through 2021. The overall thermal imaging market is expected to decrease from $6.6B in 2020 to $6.2B in 2021, settling at a higher revenue point than prepandemic levels. However, a 7.2% CAGR from 2021 to 2026 could make the market climb to $8.8B.
Although the decreasing sales of EBT/EST applications pulled down the commercial market, the massive exposure of everyday people (including professionals) to thermal imaging technology is driving a significant increase in demand for traditional thermal camera applications, such as thermography, surveillance, firefighting, ruggedized phones, commercial uses or personal vision systems, which compensate for the fall in EBT/EST. These applications benefit from both the economy’s rebound in 2021 and the end of repeated shutdowns which drove the high demand for both professional and recreative uses. COVID-19 did not really impact the military thermal imaging market as many countries did not cut their military budgets.
The market value increased between 2019 and 2021, but its dynamics have returned to a more normal situation as no new significant segments emerged. Thermal imaging thrives in an educated market but still struggles to enter smart buildings and the automotive (ADAS) and consumer markets, which could drive high volumes. The smart building segment demands very low prices, and there is competition with low-resolution thermal detectors (thermopile arrays). A promising use of thermal imaging in automotive is in ADAS to trigger autonomous emergency braking in all conditions. However, this technology still requires development to meet automotive reliability and performance requirements at an acceptable cost level. Finally, while the killer app for thermal imaging in the consumer market might not have been found yet, we are at the early stages of potential developments. After acquiring Metaio in 2015 and getting access to its Thermal Touch technology, Apple released a patent in 2021 showing a new use case for thermal imaging as a user interface for AR applications. How far along is the consumer (r)evolution in the thermal imaging/sensing market?
CHINESE PLAYERS HAVE CHIPPED AWAY MARKET SHARE FROM TRADITIONAL PLAYERS AND ARE STABILIZING
In 2020, Chinese thermal imager manufacturers supplied thermal imagers en masse, mainly due to the EBT/EST applications, and more than doubled their shipment market share in going from 18% in 2019 to 39% in 2020. The market had grown significantly YoY2019-2020, with every stakeholder profiting. Chinese players reaped more fruit due to their technology ramp-up in the last few years in conjunction with the strong appetite for fever detection cameras, especially in the domestic market, which was more widely accepted than in western countries.
Despite a shift in the demand from EBT/EST to classical applications from 2020 to 2021, the market shares between players did not change significantly in 2021, with unit market shares for Chinese players stabilizing at much higher than pre-pandemic levels (from less than 18% in the past, to almost 40% now). Every player has made significant changes in the application and product mix. The drop in EBT/EST demand is offset by the return of traditional applications (thermography, surveillance, PVS, firefighting, drones, etc.). With the continuing high demand, each player is adapting to strengthen its position. However, what could happen in the future? Will Chinese players keep chipping away at other players’ market shares while the whole market grows? Or will the market stabilize at a new normal retaining the players’ relative market shares, everyone profiting from an increasing pie? For sure, all manufacturers will try to promote new uses for thermal imaging in order to address emerging markets and applications such as smart buildings, automotive and consumer. The winning strategies will emerge in due course.
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE THERMAL DETECTOR APPLICATION LANDSCAPE
Besides thermal imagers and cameras, thermal detectors – comprised of pyroelectric and thermopile technologies – is another business that is well established and has its own particularities. In 2021, the market is estimated at $460M and is expected to reach almost $600M by 2026 with a 5% CAGR2021-2026.
For thermopiles, body temperature measurement with contactless thermometers was in the spotlight during 2020 due to COVID-19, but demand has now dropped back to normal as the market becomes saturated. Regarding pyroelectrics, motion detection is the biggest market and currently drives volumes and revenues. Besides these traditional applications, some newer applications are developing. For example, flame & gas detection for car in-cabin gas monitoring, monitoring of refrigerant gas leakage, etc., are gaining traction. There is also a demand for T° measurement in ADAS applications, such as thermal runaway monitoring in batteries, as well as bus bar and inverter monitoring. Furthermore, wearables and, more particularly, hearables are flourishing, and in the future they could integrate a thermal detector to measure the body temperature since the ear is the perfect spot.
In the future, smart buildings and homes could drive the demand for thermal detectors with increased intelligence and functionalities, as there is a global trend towards more security, energy savings (HVAC), and comfort, fueled by the current situation for more convenience and new adaptive home office functions, enabled by smart technologies. Some examples of use cases cover laptop temperature monitoring, kitchen stove fire prevention, microwave oven monitoring, etc.
However, in some instances like commercial smart buildings, system modules including thermal detectors can be very costly (>$150) if we consider installation costs (e.g., wall-mounting, power supply) and maintenance costs. This will need to be reduced for future wider adoption of thermal detectors.
Axis Communications, BAE, Bosch, Bullard, Caterpillar, Convergint, Cosinuss, Cypress, Dahua, Denso, Device-ALab, DeWalt, Dexter, Dias Infrared, DJI, Dräger, Elbit Systems, Empatica, Excelitas (QiOptiq), FaceSense, Fisba, FLIR, Fluke, Flyability, Flybotix, Foresight, Fujitsu, Global Sensor Technology (GST), GreenWaves, GuideIR, Guide Sensmart, GWIC, Hamamatsu, Hanhwa Techwin, Heimann Sensors, Hensoldt, Hikvision, i3system, Impossible, InfiRay, Infrared Cameras Inc, Infratec, InVid, IR&D, iRay Technologies, Irisys, Irlynx, Jenoptik, Kodenshi, Kyocera, L3 Harris, Leica, Leonardo DRS, LG Innotek, Lockheed Martin, Lucint, Lynred, Magnity, Melexis, Meridian Innovation, Micasense, Mikrosens, Mitsubishi Electric, MKS Ophir, Mobotix, MSA, Murata, NEC, Nextvision, Nicera, Northrop Grumman, NXP, Omron, ON Semi, Opgal, OptoTherm, Orisystech, Parrot, Panasonic, Pyreos, Rafael ADS, Raytheon, Raytron, Safran, SATIR, SCD, Schneider Electric, Schott, Seek Thermal, Semitec, Senba Sensing Tec, Sierra Olympic, Sunell, Sunshine Technologies, Tamron, TE Connectivity, Teledyne Dalsa, Testo, Tetracam, Thales, Thermoteknix, TowerJazz, Umicore, Veoneer, Vital, Wahl, Wintec, Workswell, Xperi, Zeiss, Zhejiang Dali, and more.
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