mCube Looks to Disrupt the MEMS Industry
Micro Electro Mechanical Systems or MEMS may not be something you’ve heard about but they are something you use every day if you have a smartphone. A MEMS device will typically consist of a microprocessor and any number of components that interact with the surroundings such as microsensors that detect temperature, pressure, movement, and light. For example, if you noticed that your smartphone screen auto-rotates when you tilt it, this is because a MEMS sensor detects the phone’s position. Below is a diagram that shows all the MEMS devices used on a typical smartphone in red:
It’s not just smartphones that use MEMS. The applications for these little machines are numerous and include inkjet printheads, microfluidics, oscillators, projection systems, microphones, and microfluidics. With so many applications for MEMS, the market is growing rapidly and reached over $12 billion in 2013 with projections of yearly CAGR of 12% going into 2018. One company that is well-positioned to take advantage of this growth is mCube.
Founded in 2009, San Jose California based mCube has taken in $70 million in funding so far from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, DAG Ventures, Keystone Ventures, and Korea Investment Partners. Just this week mCube announced that they raised a $37 million Series C round of funding from existing investors. mCube is looking to enable a new era called ‘The Internet of Moving Things’ where everyday objects can monitor and analyze motion generating massive amounts of data and insight. mCube manufactures the world’s smallest MEMS motion sensors that are smaller than a grain of sand. The Company has shipped more than 60 million accelerometers into the China smartphone and tablet markets since 2009 and was also able to file over 100 patents during the same time.
Most motion sensors available in today’s market are based on multi-chip technology developed in the 1980s. In this approach, the mechanical sensor (MEMS) and the drive electronics (IC) are manufactured in different facilities using different processing techniques. The two chips are tested separately and then wired together during packaging. mCube has developed a unique single-chip MEMS technology. Advantages of this approach include smaller size, higher performance, lower cost, and the ability to integrate multiple sensors onto a single-chip.
The company has at least 16 different MEMS products for sale including some that look to be leading in innovation. In March of this year, mCube released the CallSense 2.0 virtual proximity sensor solution for use on smartphones. This solution is able to sense when your cell phone is being held up to your ear and then will quickly dim the lighting. As you take the phone away from your ear the lighting will then be set to normal. This feature would help save precious power for smartphone users. In May of this year, Cube released a gyroscope for smartphone gaming called the iGyro that delivers 80 percent reduction in power consumption while costing 50 percent less than competing solutions and at half the size. With power consumption being such a hot topic for smartphone users, these MEMS components are likely to be adopted quickly by smartphone manufacturers.
5-year-old mCube is a young company and has taken in a relatively small amount of funding considering what they have been able to accomplish with it. If the technology is really as superior as being stated, then mCube will look for an IPO sooner rather than later to raise the capital to scale their business quickly or be acquired by a much larger company. Given the high number of technology success stories Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byershas has invested in over time, it’s likely that they see the same sort of disruptive potential with mCube and will only look to exit at the right price.
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