According to an upcoming report from Business Communications Company, total worldwide revenues for fibre optic sensors are projected to increase from a current estimate of $288.1 million to $304.3 million in 2006.
Revenues are expected to increase at a modest average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 4.1% to $371.8 million by 2011. The moderate growth rate reflects the challenging status of fibre optic sensors over the next five years.
According to the report, the promise of the technology is still great, but the initial rush to fund research is over with significant challenges remaining. To move beyond the status of niche application, fibre optic sensors must drop in price significantly. The market is divided into the two broadest categories of sensors, extrinsic and intrinsic.
Extrinsic sensors are used in telecommunications to monitor the status and performance of the optical fibres within a network. In 2005, extrinsic sensor revenues are estimated at $214.8 million. This market segment is forecast to increase at an average annual rate of 4.1% until 2011, when extrinsic sensor revenues will be $274.4 million.
The intrinsic sensor market is forecast to grow at an AAGR of 4.0% to $97.4 million by 2011. Growth in intrinsic sensors is forecast to be rather tepid in some application markets due to ongoing challenges with the technology. The largest application segment for intrinsic sensors is military applications. Military applications tend to be specialised and often one-of-a-kind projects that seldom lead to mainstream market success.
The dominance of the extrinsic sensors is evident. Market revenues for intrinsic sensors lag extrinsic sensors; however, it is in the category of intrinsic sensors that the greatest opportunity for new market entrants exists. Particular promise exists in the medical market as FOS offers the promise of greater medical treatment that is minimally invasive. Unfortunately, the medical market highlights many of the challenges yet remaining for FOS, and thus current revenues are minimal.
The story for fibre optic sensors is one of tremendous potential, which remains unmet except in the telecommunications market. Fibre optic sensor technology is at a crossroads, which will determine whether the technology will be more successful than a niche market outside of telecommunications.
The cost-to-performance ratio remains a limitation to the adoption of the technology because the high price must be justified for the new proposed uses.
One new challenge on the horizon is the variety of new wireless technologies that offer the potential to provide some the bandwidth advantages at lower cost and with higher flexibility.