Guest Columnist: Infrared (IR) LED Industry to Have A Promising Future Ahead

February 5 [addtoany]

In the rapidly changing era of technology, the global infrared (IR) LED market has been able to keep pace with the growing range of applications across several end-user segments, including the automotive, defense, retail industrial and consumer electronics. At present, IR LEDs are integrated into remote control systems, surveillance systems, automotive and biometric sensors, and are also increasingly deployed in the healthcare industry. Infrared LED cameras, for example, can help in capturing videos in low light conditions, while in common consumer electronics like television remote controls, IR LEDs can prove to be a cost effective technology.

Powered by an ever increasing demand for consumer goods and fast-paced adoption of advanced security measures, global IR LED market will exhibit a CAGR of 17% in terms of annual shipments over 2018-2024, claims a report by Global Market Insights, Inc.

Exhibiting the current progress of the infrared LED market worldwide

One of the key application areas which has considerably transformed today’s infrared LED market is the security and surveillance segment, with the use of night-vision cameras and sensors by the military and the installation of CCTV cameras in both, the commercial and residential sectors. These segments have also played a crucial role in stimulating notable innovations in infrared technology, further expanding the scope of IR LEDs. Facial, fingerprint and iris recognition systems have gained immense momentum throughout corporate and industrial users, along with being embraced by the smartphone industry.

Several IR LED market players such as Osram have introduced advanced products to help companies offer biometric security features in their smartphones that can be used to unlock the phones or authenticate mobile payments. The IR sensing technology is further being observed to be deployed within automobile interiors for driver monitoring, determining occupancy and in external parking or pedestrian sensors.

Citing an instance to demonstrate the penetration of IR LEDs in the industrial sector, earlier in the year, BMW had announced the completion of a three-year long trial at one of its factories, where infrared LEDs were utilized to transfer automobile inspection information to factory floor robots and back to operators. The company conducted these tests to determine the benefits of using Li-Fi rather than Wi-Fi for a two-way transmission, saying that the trials showed positive results.

Separately in healthcare, many medical treatment appliances are made using LEDs, with Larson Electronics’ magnetic mount infrared LED emitter being a vital example. The product was launched to provide medical operators an efficient and adaptable source of infrared light that is powerful as well as durable. The emerging area of health monitoring via electronic appliances such as smartwatch also takes advantage of IR LED properties.

Key factors driving the global infrared LED industry expansion

  • According to a report by Global Market Insights, Inc., the surveillance industry contributes majorly toward the global IR LED market, which has quickly adapted to the influx of automation, artificial intelligence and bio-recognition technologies. Apart from night vision uses for covert military operations, public infrastructure, business complexes and airports also massively employ these security solutions. In the U.S. itself, there were nearly 5,104 public airports and 14,263 private airports as of 2017, displaying a vast market for IR LED-based security products like CCTV cameras. Indeed, propelled by the escalating demands from the surveillance industry, North America IR LED market size is anticipated to be pegged at USD 350 million by 2024. The industry is also expected to see enormous demand from APAC, where infrastructure spending is rising exponentially.

 

  • A broad range of consumer electronics like TVs, various touch screen products and gaming consoles require IR LEDs for different functions. Gesture recognition using motion sensors for Microsoft’s Xbox One Kinect had become a sensation in the gaming community. More recently, technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality have used IR for functions like eye-tracking, signifying a booming new revenue source for the IR LED industry. Expounding the regional potential of the market, it is estimated that in 2018 North America had recorded over USD 230 billion in earnings from consumer electronics sales.

 

  • Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) need efficient and powerful cameras and sensors to work to their full potential. Placing IR LEDs with visible light sources to support the cameras used for ADAS is shown to immensely improve their field of vision, range and performance as compared to cameras that work well only in sunlight. IR LEDs also allow for in-cabin monitoring without having to shine any visible light on the driver or passengers. As automobile production evolves with the demand for more advanced features and the emergence of electric autonomous vehicles, the IR LED market could witness an accelerated growth rate over the coming years from automotive applications.

 

  • The retail industry is a massively competitive segment where the success is dependent not only on the range and quality of products offered but also the speed of customer service and attention to consumer trends. IR barcode scanners and readers quicken the check out of products, whereas various sensors can improve management of the stores. In an innovative tactic to define behaviors of customers, IR LED based heat sensors have been developed to track the movement of shoppers, helping to devise safety measures, distribution of goods and lighting. Similar adoption of IR LED products throughout the globe in retail outlets will further drive the market growth.

Vital factors that could plausibly inhibit the infrared LED market growth

Elaborating on the possible reasons which can restrict the growth rate for the IR LED industry, it is prudent to mention that radio frequency (RF) based controls seem to be a major influencing market component. Technically, RF remotes used in distinct applications are considered to be faster, more reliable and remove the problem of line-of-sight. IR LED remotes are limited by line-of-sight and had prompted several industries to deploy alternatives, despite the numerous benefits of IR.

Some experts have also called out the disadvantages or IR LED-based proximity sensors, citing factors like power consumption, blind zones and added cost of production. Subsequently, mobile and wearable device manufacturers might seek a more apt substitute of IR LED transmitters for similar applications.

Prominent infrared LED market players and their recent growth strategies

Globally, the IR LED industry experiences quite an enviable amount of competition and manufacturers have supposedly undertaken aggressive growth measures to undermine the production capacities and product offerings of their competitors. These efforts include constant innovations, advancing current technologies as well as expanding into budding target markets like mobile phones, ADAS and AR/VR applications.

Osram

Germany-based Osram has exhibited a spurt in expansion activities in the IR LED market over the past decade, right from bolstering its technology targeted product range to establishing new facilities. For instance, in 2017 the company commenced operations at a new $440 million LED manufacturing plant in Malaysia, as part of a broader expansion plan. The new plant was aimed at boosting production of IR LEDs for iris scanners, fitness watches and other electronic products.

In December 2018, Osram had confirmed the addition of new IR LED chip variants for biometric and machine scanning purposes, reinforcing its position in the global market. The innovative approach of the company can be understood from the launch of its Synios SFH 4772S A01 and Synios SFH 4775S A01 chips recently, which can help identify drivers using facial or iris scanning and possibly eliminate the need for car keys. Doing so, Osram has unveiled an advanced method of infusing IoT technology into modern automotive. The company has also developed IR LED to help smartphones detect the contents in food, to avoid unwanted consumption of meat or even poisoning.

Everlight Electronics

Touted as one of the largest LED manufacturers worldwide, Everlight has also displayed a significant penchant to overtake its competitors and offer novel LED products to customers in different industry domains. As market leaders introduced products to support the ever-growing demand for smartphones, wearables and other IoT devices sometime back, Everlight had also managed to produce a range of IR optical sensors capable or enabling multi-function solutions.

With considerable hold on the industry, the company demonstrated a host of infrared and lighting products at an event in November, where it debuted a smart multi array rear lamp, ADB matric headlamp and also displayed an infrared heartbeat smartwatch. Its IR offerings were claimed by the company to be suited for oximeters for testing blood oxygen saturation, in addition to accurate heartbeat diagnosis.

ROHM

Earlier in 2018, ROHM had made known its attempt to further penetrate the smart bands and wearables segment with the launch of an optical sensor for heart rate monitoring. The sensor can be used to measure stress, blood pressure along with vascular age at high-speed sampling rates, besides being more accurate and power efficient than the previous generation. Improving on its preceding technology, the new product also utilizes an IR LED sensor for detecting when the device is worn, making it easier to integrate the component into the sensor and configuring the system. ROHM has consequently earned its place in the IR LED market for low-power consuming and high-accuracy sensors needed for vital sign sensing.

Having been conceived in an epoch that is characterized by advanced technological acceleration, infrared LED market is all set to grab the tag of being one of the most remunerative verticals of the global electronics space. Powered by the robust surge in the demand for surveillance and remote sensing, in tandem with the expansion of end-use sectors such as consumer electronics and automotive, the overall IR LED industry undeniably, will have a plethora of positive growth prospects to look forward to in the forthcoming years.

Author Name – Pankaj Singh

Author Bio –Pankaj Singh, an accomplished writer, currently develops content for a variety of portals pertaining to market research. Endowed with a post graduate degree in management, Pankaj worked as a content contributor for websites adhering to the UK insurance industry.