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Infrared Detectors Technology & Market Trends

This publication has been discontinued on June 21, 2014.

In addition to mature applications, the IR detector market is
expected to be driven by emerging applications like smart building
automation or mobile devices temperature sensing


Total infrared detector market generated revenue of more than $153M in 2012, mostly due to the mature motion detection market which relies on high-volume sales of automatic lighting and intrusion detection systems.

However in a scenario that includes spot thermometer function in mobile devices, it is expected that these revenues will top at $381M in 2018, growing at a 16% CAGR, fueled by:

  • Small detector applications, especially in consumer mobile applications. That growth in mobile applications is expected to be driven, in the short term, by adoption of monopixel sensors for internal temperature measurement and spot thermometry in smartphones and tablets. Technological innovation will be the key to compete successfully with other technologies in that market. Wafer-level-packaging will be necessary to successfully address these markets driven by price and looking for ever smaller form factor sensors. A specific scenario for adoption of IR sensors in mobile devices raises the market revenues in 2018 by $30M.
  • Array detectors which range from medium size (4x4 to 16x16 pixels) to large size (32x32 and above) are expected to grow at a ~30% CAGR in the 2013/2018 period. Medium size arrays have started to be successfully sold in HVAC for buildings and automotive, people counting for retail, home appliances and will continue to expand due to affordable pricing. Large size arrays are expected to target the key market for smart building automation that will use a wide variety of detector functions and could support higher pricing. However, overall, these positive market dynamics will be fueled by detector price erosion.

This report includes market insights in units & revenue by market segment and also by detector resolution. IR detector market forecasts are realized for 2013 - 2018. The report includes an overview of small IR arrays for imaging purposes, but the complete analysis of infrared imaging applications is covered in another Yole Développement report: “Uncooled Infrared Imaging”.

Infrared detectors market forecast
(Report includes detailed breakdown: gas & fire detection,
high end T° measurement, low end T° measurement,
motion detection, mobile devices: internal T° measurement,
mobile devices: sport thermometry, people counting for retail,
smart building, spectroscopy, other medium formats)
Infrared detectors market forecast by application

(Yole Développement, July 2013)


Low cost and easy to manufacture, IR detectors have been used in a wide diversity of markets such as construction, security, appliances, and industrial, and for a wide variety of functions, e.g. motion detection, temperature measurement, counting, fire & gas detection..... Initially limited to single pixel pyroelectric detectors with a basic motion detection function, IR detectors have progressively been used in more complex systems which diversified the market into higher-end applications such as temperature sensing, or gas & fire detection, spectroscopy.....

Converging technologies

(Yole Développement, July 2013)

At the end of 2000, that diversification has been pushed further into the high end of the market by the introduction of array detectors. Multiple companies, led by Heimann Sensors, adopted a “technology push” strategy to introduce IR detector arrays either based on pyroelectric technology or thermopile technology. Coming from the MEMS industry, several companies like OMRON & Panasonic have ensured the domination of thermopile technology on the array detector market by capitalizing on their knowhow in complex MEMS structure manufacturing.

However, in 2013 the domination of thermopiles has been challenged by a new entrant based on a technology coming from the infrared imaging market: ULIS. The very large IR detector is the first microbolometer having a true resolution (without windowing) below 100x100 pixels, which aims to gain market share in the developing large IR detector market. In 2014, competition in the small microbolometer array segment is expected to increase with FLIR, the market leader of uncooled infrared imaging. In the future, it is expected that the next technological step for IR detectors will be at the packaging level with either vacuum package or Wafer-Level Package, and at pixel level with manufacturing process optimization to decrease pixel pitch.

This report analyzes the technological trends of the infrared detector market.


Infrared detector competitive landscape is complex due to the diversity of players in that market. Having a clear understanding of each player's technological background and positioning clarifies what is the total available market and the challenges that will have to be faced.

Major technological barriers prevent current players
from moving from low-end to high-end applications

(Yole Développement, July 2013)

While the small IR detector market is a commodity market driven by price, medium and large array detectors are cost/performance driven and still offer room for differentiation for new entrants. However strong barriers lie between each IR detector technology: pyroelectric/thermopiles/microbolometers; because these technologies are based on different manufacturing processes, making the move from one technology to another is very difficult without a merger or acquisition. Similarly from a product standpoint, the move from small detectors to array detectors is challenging because it relies on strong IP or on MEMS manufacturing capacities. In this context, many companies are not in direct competition and there is still opportunity to take position in the high-potential large detector market.


  • Market segmentation by 10 applications and 4 technologies. The report covers the IR sensors that supply a signal to be analyzed for detection rather than imaging.
  • Market forecasts by applications technologies 2013 - 2018 in revenue ($M) and shipments (units)
  • Value chain and supply chain analysis
  • Detailed applications analysis
  • Competitive analysis and detector manufacturers market share
  • IR detectors technology analysis & evolution: vacuum packaging, Wafer-Level-Packaging.....


  • Provide market data on key infrared detectors market metrics & dynamics:
    • Infrared detectors sales in units & in revenue by market segment
    • Market share by player
    • Application focus on key growth areas for infrared technologies
  • Provide key technical insight into future technology trends and challenges
  • Provide an in-depth understanding of IR detector value chain, infrastructure and players:
    • Who are the industrial IR detector players (IDMs, foundries, design houses) and what is their market and technological position?
    • More generally, who are the key suppliers to watch and how will the IR detector market evolve?


  • Identification of current technological trends and on-going developments
  • Latest industry news and analysis of the new market entrants and exits
  • More detailed product segmentation with the introduction of large and medium detectors categories
  • Introduction of new applications:
    • Smart building automation application
    • Gesture recognition application
    • Internal temperature measurement & spot thermometer in mobile devices (smartphones & tablets)
  • Up-to-date market forecasts


3S Pocketnet Technology, Agilent, Ametek, BAE, Bosch Security Systems, Cerberus, CSST, Delphi, Dias Infrared, Dostmann, DRS, E+E Elektronik, Excelitas, FLIR Systems, Fluke, Fuji Piezo, G&E, Hager, Hamamatsu, Heimann, Heitronics, Honeywell Security, ICX FLIR, Infratec, Intex, Irisys, Johnson Controls, Korea Digital, L3com, Land, Legrand, Leister Axetris, Lumasense ITC, Melexis, Memstech - Ann Arbor, Merten, Mitsubishi Electric, Murata, NEC Avio, Nicera, Omega, Omron, Panasonic, Perkin Elmer, Pyreos, Raytheon, Ritsumeikan University, Samsung, SCD, Schneider Electric, Selex Galileo, Sensair, Senseair, Sensource, Shimadzu, Somfy, Sony, Symetrix, Telaire, Texas Instruments, Thermofisher, Tyco Security Products, Tyndall, ULIS, UTC fire & security, Visonic, Winsen, Wuhan Cubic, Yongsheng, ZB sensor.....


Paul Danini is the market & technology analyst in charge of the imaging technologies studies at Yole Développement. He holds a master of engineering in instrumental physics, and a master degree in Technology and Innovation Management from Grenoble Business School.

Yann de Charentenay has worked for Yole Développement in the field of MEMS, materials and compound semiconductors since 2003. He has contributed to more than 60 marketing.

Table of Contents

  • Executive summary
  • Overview of infrared detector markets
    • Current IR detecting systems and pricing
    • IR detector supply chain with current key players
    • Infrared detector market forecast by application
      • Scenario 1: No adoption in mobile devicesFrom 2011-2018 in shipments (MUnits) and in revenue ($M)
    • Infrared detector market forecast by application
      • Scenario 2: Penetration in mobile devices From 2011-2018 in shipments (MUnits) and in revenue ($M)
    • Infrared detector ASP by application 2011-2018 evolution
    • Infrared detector breakdown by application Pyroelectric vs. Thermopile
    • Infrared detector market forecast by format from 2011-2018 in shipments (in MUnits) and in revenue ($M)
  • Overview of current infrared detection technologies
    • Current infrared detector technologies overview
    • Technology positioning
    • Pyroelectric sensor
    • Pyroelectric crystal detector - fabrication process
    • Pyroelectric hybrid ceramic arrays (Irisys) + reverse engineering extracts
    • Pyroelectric thin-film detectors/arrays (Pyreos)
    • Pyroelectric thin film arrays
    • Pyroelectric thin-film processing techniques
    • Pyroelectric film arrays - construction
    • Thermopile detector
    • Sensitive elements materials
    • Microbolometer
    • Microbolometer technology history
    • Microbolometer: a-Si and Vox materials
    • Microbolometer process flow example
    • Technology comparison
    • Infrared detector technologies: vacuum-package
    • Infrared detector technologies: influence of the optics
    • Infrared detector technologies: packaging options
    • IR Detector array - cost breakdown
  • Overview of manufacturers' positioning and technologies
    • Players & technologies for thermopiles and pyroelectic IR detectors
    • Players for thermopiles and pyroelectic IR detectors - Size vs. Maturity
    • Infrared detector players for thermopiles and pyroelectic IR detectors - Players HQ location
    • Main current pyroelectric and thermopile manufacturer production data
    • Infrared detector players: pyroelectric and thermopiles market Share
    • Thermopile detectors MEMS manufacturers activity: Melexis, OMRON, Texas Instrument, Hamamatsu, Panasonic
    • Main microbolometer player locations
    • Microbolometer player profiles
    • Microbolometer player production for imager applications
  • Analysis of infrared detectors' current applications
    • Infrared detector applications: price vs. performance
    • IR detector technologies: wavelength segmentation
    • Detector pricing evolution by array size
    • Small format detectors applications
    • People & motion detection (1)
    • People & motion detection (2) - Emerging energy saving market
    • People & motion detection (3) - Synthesis
    • High-end pyrometer/ temperature measurement system
    • Low-end temperature sensors
    • Gas & fire detection
    • Spectroscopy
    • New potential application: gesture recognition
    • New potential application: internal temperature measurement for smartphones & tablets
    • New potential application: spot thermometry for smartphones & tablets
    • Medium format detectors applications
    • People/door counting
    • Queue management
    • Other medium format applications
    • Large format detectors for smart building automation applications
    • Single detector vs large detectors
    • Large detectors implementation
    • Competing technologies to large IR detectors
    • Smart building automation supply chain: market players
    • Analysis of large detector applications: technology positioning
    • Current status of the potential technologies
    • Products introduction roadmap by array size
    • Challenges to access to smart building automation market
    • Critical role of optics
    • Player developments of large format detectors
    • Microbolometer players position: NEC Avio, Ulis, FLIR
    • Pyroelectric players positions
    • Player positions
    • Large detectors for smart building automation market forecast
  • Overview of small IR imaging arrays applications
  • General conclusions
  • Yole Développement presentation
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