IR LED Believed to Be the New Cash Cow

While InGaN-based LEDs (normal LEDs for Lighting and backlight) continue to face oversupply, IR LEDs have been in the limelight in 2017 with various applications boosting demands.
According to LEDinside, apart from the well-developed security surveillance industry, facial recognition, iris recognition, heart rate and SpO2 sensors, virtual reality (VR) and automotive sensors are all areas with high growth potential.
IR LEDs have undergone substantial development, and several Taiwanese manufacturers have involved in production for a long time. However, with new applications continuing to thrive, Robert Yeh, Chairman of Taiwan’s EVERLIGHT, agreed that IR LEDs are more profitable than InGaN-based LEDs. LEDinside is especially bullish on the following five areas.
Currently, IR LEDs are used mainly for security lighting in cities and automotive night vision systems. Equipped with a light-sensing camera, an automotive night vision system can display images of the road ahead at night or in darkness.
Demands for facial recognition or iris recognition solutions have surged due to the prevalence of mobile payments. Japan’s Fujitsu and South Korea’s Samsung have already equipped their smartphones with iris recognition, and more smartphone makers are expected to follow suit. This might even pressure companies to upgrade hardware in order to remain competitive.
Heart rate and SpO2 monitors with reflective sensors are currently used in healthcare and fitness applications such as wearable devices. In the future, if these monitors can be used in homecare, occupational training, and attention assist systems, demand is expected to increase.
Regarding VR, according to LEDinside, the market value of IR LEDs for VR applications is USD 14 million in 2016, and the number is forecast to grow in 2017. This is because shipments of three major VR devices will be increased, and new players like Tencent, Nintendo, Microsoft and Dell will all launch VR devices in 2017.
However, product design, development progress and production capacity of each manufacturer vary, which may influence demands for IR LEDs.
Lastly, IR LEDs and Vertical-Cavity Surface-Emitting Diode Lasers (VCSELs) have gradually been used in automotive applications. Since 2000, international car companies have started to work on safety technology outside the car. The focus has then shifted to driver-related research since 2010.
It is estimated that by 2020 and beyond, research and development will focus on real-time detection of driver’s physical and cognitive conditions to avoid accidents. In addition, car makers have been devoted to increasing the value of cars by incorporating IR sensing technologies. Thus, applications like Advanced Driver Assistance systems (ADAS) also broaden business opportunities for the industry of IR LEDs. 
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