Marvels of Micro Technology: Compact Camera Module Market to Reach $51B

So, what is on the cool technology docket for 2016? Some exciting new products will be coming onto the market, many of which will include connectivity and embedded cameras, ready for connecting to the internet of things (IoT).  We are thrilled that cameras are becoming more prevalent, and indeed, significant growth is projected in the compact camera module (CCM) market. The demand for thinner devices and higher quality cameras, as well as the now-essential automotive camera, are driving the market.

According to a new report by Yole Developpment (Lyon, France), the compact camera module market is likely to more than double by 2020, reaching $51 billion. Currently, mobile phone cameras account for 73% of the market. The automotive camera market is swiftly growing and will soon take over as second most prevalent in the market, expected to grow at a CAGR of 36%, and should reach $7.9B by 2020.

What else is driving growth? New technology shifts. In burgeoning areas such as 3D, computational, motion, and infrared cameras, multiple sensors, projectors, and others, high quality optics are required. Due to these shifts, the camera module will ultimately become the go-to product for multi-sensing.

Finally, in a boon to Kasalis’ area of the market, the assembly portion of the industry, Yole projected a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 20% (image below). That’s great news, and we hope to embrace and evolve with these burgeoning shifts toward multi-sensing technologies throughout the next five years and beyond.

Compact Camera Module (CCM) Market 2015

Camera and Sensor Technology Advances for Smartphones

The ubiquity of smartphones has perpetuated creative thinking and an amazing number of advancements in mobile technology.  The vast continuum of purposes for smartphone cameras and camera attachments has been consistently growing, widening recently to include advanced applications such as thermal imaging and spectrometry.  This year, a few cutting edge companies have revealed some news in these up-and-coming areas of innovation.


A goat in the wild, highlighted by its heat signature, from Seek Thermal.

Thermal detection is a burgeoning area, in which Seek Thermal and Flir Systems, for example, are thriving by producing cameras that send real-time thermal imaging to a smartphone.  Seek Thermal recently updated its thermal camera to include a manual focus lens to enable focus on anything from 8 inches to 2,000 feet away.  Flir Systems updated to its Flir One to be less bulky and work with Android or iOS systems. The thermal images show people and objects with colors representing relative temperature, and can be used for detecting heat leaks in a building, electrical problems, or wildlife.

Scio spectrometry tool

Scio spectrometry tool

Another product, the SCiO, is a Bluetooth-connected device that will tell you what it is pointing at, on a molecular level.  Developed by Consumer Physics, its first major applications are in pharmaceuticals, food, and plant hydration.  It aims to detect the nutritional quality of food and the difference between real and counterfeit pharmaceuticals.  It performs these feats by using a built-in spectrometer to detect and analyze the molecular makeup of an object. When the data is uploaded to a cloud server, it is then compared against a database of results.  Because the price of sensors has decreased drastically, and the company has raised over $2.5 million in funds on Kickstarter, they will be offering the SCiO for a very reasonable price of about $250 for a research-level product. The SCiO falls loosely into the growing category called the Internet of Things, the networking of the physical world within existing internet infrastructure.



Smartphone Cameras Win: Point-and-Shoot Cameras See Precipitous Fall

While many have expected a continued downfall in point-and-shoot camera sales, it has become very clear that 2013 was a true turning point for these cameras.  Having experienced plunging sales – global shipments were down 42% in the first five months of 2013 – the leading camera makers are scrambling to streamline product lines and compete with the convenience of smartphone cameras.  Industry giants Canon and Nikon have both revised their sales forecasts significantly for this year – Canon by a full 10 percent.  However, while Canon and Nikon are fortunate to have some sales, since both offer top digital SLR models that don’t compete directly with smartphone cameras, others are not so lucky. One analyst predicted that the Olympus brand might disappear altogether this year, citing its measly 7% market share, failure to generate a profit in any of the past three years, and a grim outlook for the coming year, particularly because the company’s main camera segment is compact cameras, which are in direct competition with smartphones.

Smartphone Cameras Continue to Skyrocket

While traditional camera manufacturers are not thrilled with the growth in smartphone popularity, consumers with increasingly busy lifestyles are grateful for one gadget that is multi-functional.  Sales growth has been steady (see image below).

Graph of IDC Smartphone and Digital Camera salesGiven the clear dominance of the smartphone camera for everyday photos, companies are now pushing the envelope within that market.  Amazon is rumored to have in development a
3D phone
which uses four cameras that track eye and head movements to make the screen appear three dimensional.  Samsung has been developing its ISOCELL technology to improve color and image quality, and recently introduced a 13MP camera.

Better Smartphone Cameras on the Rise

What will we find in our cameras next?  The possibilities are phenomenal.  While at Kasalis our technology drives active alignment to become an essential component in competitive camera modules, others will be developing gesture recognition, 3D imaging, and amazing mobile photography apps.  What do you see happening in your personal camera use?  Is your smartphone taking over?  Either way, the next generation of smartphone camera will undoubtedly be thrilling for photographers on the move, and will probably, in the end, deliver the knock-out blow to the point-and-shoot era.

Camera Module Market Forecast for 2013 and Beyond

In December, IC Insights published an interesting market forecast identifying various market trends for the upcoming three years. The primary insights were that machine vision, automotive, and medical applications will fuel growth in the industry in the near future. Here is a brief summary of their findings.

While digital still camera sales have been declining since 2007, the competition is gaining by leaps and bounds: camera phones that offer greater than 3MP sensors outsold digital still cameras by a 6:1 ratio in 2012. The industry’s attention has therefore shifted to new applications and embedded systems for photography. Enhanced machine vision for automotive safety and industrial equipment, video surveillance networks, medical imaging, and small camera modules for portable devices are all contributing to this new wave of industry development.

“The total market value for digital cameras and imaging systems is expected to grow from $55.5 billion in 2012 to $77.8 billion in 2016. IC Insights forecasts total shipments of digital cameras and embedded imaging systems will reach 6 billion units in 2016 compared to 2.5 billion in 2011, which represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.0% in the five-year period.” – IC Insights

camera module industry forecast

According to IC Insights, we will see sales of cameras in phones, tablets, computers, automobiles, and medical devices increase while stand-alone digital camera sales will significantly decrease over the next three years.

Exponential Growth in Smartphone and Tablet Industry Fuels Need for High Quality Optical Components

Smartphones such as iPhone, Galaxy need camera modules

Advanced camera module assembly systems that use active alignment to produce superior focus quality should be used for smartphone camera modules.


Apple is the most valuable company on earth.  Its enormous success in the past five years is at least partly attributable to the speed at which the markets for Apple’s latest signature products, the iPhone and iPad, have grown.  Despite a recession, we have seen astounding growth of the smartphone and tablet computer markets over the past five years.

Although overall sales of mobile phones are slightly down (2%) as of May, smartphone sales are up.  Gartner estimated that smartphone sales for Q1 2012 hit 144 million globally and accounted for 34% of all mobile devices sold for the year (TechCrunch).  In all, IDC says that the smartphone market grew 42.5% year over year in the first quarter of 2012 and Samsung recently overtook Apple as the leader in smartphone sales.

Global sales of smartphones and tablet computers are expected to increase exponentially in coming years.  According to one forecast, over 1 billion smartphones will be sold worldwide in 2016 (Statista), and another predicts that over 1.5 billion will be sold in the same year (Business Insider).  Similarly, tablet computer sales are expected to more than triple by 2016 to reach nearly 400 million (TechCrunch).

What does all of this mean for us?  In terms of camera modules, smartphones and tablets increasingly have two – one facing each direction.  No matter which report you read, you will find a unanimous opinion that sales of these devices are on the rise, which leads to an increasing demand for sophisticated technologies.

A typical consumer will expect particularly high quality mobile camera performance at this stage of the game in smartphone development.  The camera has become a highly touted and frequently used feature of every smartphone – taking photos is ranked second behind texting by consumers as their most frequent use of smartphone technology (Mashable).

How consumers use their smartphones

Cameras ranked second on this survey of how consumers use smartphones.

The value of an excellent camera is evident in the recently announced the Nokia 808 PureView, which boasts a 41-megapixel camera, the highest resolution camera phone ever made; it is currently in pre-sale on Amazon, set for release on July 8th.  Since smartphones are the all-in-one device replacing the numerous technologies people rely upon daily (mobile phone, MP3 player, camera, GPS, and more), it is worthwhile for a consumer to purchase a high quality device and makers of smartphones must plan accordingly.

How does a smartphone manufacturer ensure that its cameras are of the highest standards and will garner consistently high marks from reviewers and consumers?  It employs an active alignment system to assemble its camera modules, achieving the most accurate focus across the image sensor by aligning the lens in up to six degrees of freedom.  Active alignment is a sophisticated solution that doesn’t have to cost more than a screw-in lens. Kasalis strives to price our systems so that per module costs are on par with traditional alignment methods, thereby pushing active alignment to be the new norm.  We believe that the swift adoption of smartphones and tablets will fuel a demand for higher quality camera modules, thus creating a new high standard in camera module performance.