Revenues for 32/64-bit microcontrollers and embedded microprocessors (MCUs/eMPUs) in the industrial and medical sector are forecast to double from $1.6 billion in 2010 to $3.2 billion in 2015, a CAGR of nearly fifteen per cent.
And, according to market researcher Semicast, by far the highest revenue growth is forecast for ARM-based MCUs/eMPUs, with sales forecast to exceed $1.0 billion in 2015.
Historically, says Semicast, the industrial and medical sector has often been viewed as one requiring relatively low processing performance, but it has in fact represented a significant market for 32/64-bit embedded microprocessors for many years.
Previously, demand has typically centered on x86-based devices for use in “PC-like” applications such as ATMs, EPOS, medical imaging and single board computers. In such applications the design typically centers around the “Wintel” combination of Intel processor running Microsoft Windows, with proprietary middleware written to provide the specific needs of the application.
Colin Barnden, Principal Analyst at Semicast Research (Waterlooville, England), and study author, said “Considering the huge base of applications expertise, development tools and knowledge surrounding this platform, Semicast continues to see little drift away from the x86 architecture in most “PC-like” applications in the industrial and medical sector, even in the long term”.
For the whole of 2010, Semicast judges Intel to have been the leading supplier of 32/64-bit MCUs/eMPUs to the industrial and medical sector and the x86 architecture to have had the highest revenues.
The x86 is forecast to continue as the leading 32/64-bit architecture in the industrial and medical sector only until 2012, when it is forecast to be passed by ARM.
Some of the areas where ARM has, or is forecast to take, considerable market share include many of the highest growth applications in the industrial and medical sector, such as consumer medical devices, motor control, EFT transaction terminals, handheld data terminals and CCTV cameras.
A substantial boost to the adoption of ARM in the industrial and medical sector says Semicast is the introduction of MCUs based on the Cortex M0 and M3 cores. Both cores enable ARM-based MCUs to be introduced with low cost, low power consumption and mid-range performance and effectively segment the MCU market into 8/16-bit for very low cost or very low power applications, with 32-bit control now extending from the mid-range up.
Semicast says that ARM will not have everything its own way however. Intel's recently announced Atom E600C processor is specifically targeted at industrial and medical applications; the newly created Renesas Electronics now supports the SuperH, RX and V850 architectures; Microchip is pushing MIPS-based MCUs; and Freescale is backing both Coldfire and Power Architecture along with ARM. The battle lines in the industrial and medical sector are thus becoming clear: the ARM Army against everyone else.