The Correct Figures for Chinese Sensor Market Growth

Last week's news brought a release from Research and Markets whose headline misquoted the size and growth of the sensor market in China. "The Chinese sensor market is expected to grow at an annual rate of 4.5%, and reach $50.6 billion by 2008," it said. This statement dramatically underrepresents the actual growth rate and grossly overstates Chinese production.

Unfortunately, the company distributed the release through BusinessWire and so the inaccuracy is being perpetuated. My colleague Jonathan Bigelow in Asia, publisher of our about-to-be-released Sensors China magazine, tells me that a more accurate estimate of growth rate is a whopping 22% for last year, 21% this year.

The Real Deal
Indeed, this same release says that the China Sensor Trade Association (CSTA) estimates mainland China's sensor output rose (by 18%) from 1.7 billion to 2 billion units between 2004 and 2005. Sales consequently surged to $3.3 billion in 2005, from $2.7 billion in 2004. For 2006, mainland China will produce 2.4 billion units of sensors, worth $4 billion.

You don't need a calculator to understand that getting from $4 billion to $50.6 billion by 2008 would require more robust growth rate than 4.5%. Research and Markets simply messed up the headline of its release, and presented world sensor market numbers as those of China. That headline misquoted figures from the Swiss market analysis firm InTechno Consulting, which says that the global sensor market (that is, worldwide—not just China) will grow at an average annual rate of 4.5% to reach $50.6 billion by 2008.

Large and Growing
No matter how you look at it, China's sensor growth is astronomical. The report Research and Markets publicized is produced by Global Sources, who says that mainland China is home to about 1,560 sensor makers. I'm betting that the significantly more mature North American market has less than twice that number of developers.

Production in mainland China, says Global Sources, is mainly focused on pressure, temperature, load, optical, IR, current and voltage, and proximity sensors. "Increased application in consumer electronics, MEMS and M2M communications is driving suppliers to hike production by 20%," the report notes. I think there's another misstatement in that sentence: Sensors are not applied to MEMS (microelectromechanical systems); instead, MEMS technology is used for sensing. But sensors are indeed applied to consumer electronics and M2M (machine-to-machine) communications.

So, no matter. Demand is soaring, and no doubt new companies are springing up to serve the increased needs—as vendors from the U.S. (including Sensors magazine) and other countries step up their presence in China.