Untethering equipment, both for power and signals, is also an essential part of modern equipment development and is set to be key to the Internet of Things but Everke did not mention wireless in his four-pillars opening. "We don't have the strategy to be number one in wireless," said Everke. "But when we sold those NFC/RFID assets we retained wireless design capability to address wireless sensor nodes. We will gain expertise in Bluetooth Low Energy that will come with Heptagon," Everke said. Heptagon acquired RF Digital Corp. (Los Angeles, Calif.) in June 2016 for an undisclosed sum of money. "So we have the BLE, RFID, NFC capabilities to provide around sensor nodes," said Everke.
He added the situation was the same in digital with regard to microcontrollers. "We have a biosensor coming out that will integrate a microcontroller. You don't need to be a market leader in wireless or MCUs to use the technology and increasingly we need sophisticated firmware and algorithms." Everke added that there is a need for software for sensor fusion and to manage sensor hubs and wireless to communicate results back towards the phone, PC and cloud.
It could be argued that optical and imaging as technologies are so close to each other as to be a single pillar and that the fourth pillar is inertial sensing as deployed so plentifully by the likes of Bosch, ST and others. So perhaps AMS should be in inertial sensors? "Clearly it’s a lower margin business," Everke said re-iterating that was one reason why AMS has no desire to compete in commodity image sensors for smartphones.
But, just is there is a way AMS is taking the higher margin ground in imaging so there may be a way to do the same in inertial sensing? "We're not ruling out anything, " Everke said.
However, Everke indicated that the possibility of a big deal to bulk up AMS was unlikely and that the possibility of merging with Dialog Semiconductor would not have been entertained under the new strategy. An AMS-Dialog merger was discussed in 2014 but failed (see AMS, Dialog merger talks fail). "It doesn't fit our strategy. Dialog is a power company," said Everke.
But in the rapidly consolidating semiconductor industry does a lack of size leave AMS at risk of being acquired itself? "We will have no problem to survive even though we are relatively small. We have told investors that we will provide 30 percent CAGR for the next three years. That is in a semiconductor market averaging 4 percent CAGR and our TAM [total available market] at 10 percent CAGR and our SAM [serviceable available market] at about 15 percent. CAGR. We are in one of the fastest growing sectors of the semiconductor market and we aim to double in size. We can do this organically but we will do whatever it takes."
We wanted to check with Everke on the progress and implications of one of Kirk Laney's last big decisions before stepping down from the top job. That was the decision to commit to manufacturing by way of an unusual leasing arrangement on new-build wafer fab at Marcy in New York State (see AMS to spend $2 billion on New York wafer fab).