A new wave of MEMS microphones: Vesper interviewed by Yole Développement

Posted: July 15, 2016

Looking at the huge opportunities offered by the consumer market, the microphone industry is more important than ever. Yole Développement (Yole) has had the chance to interview Matt Crowley (CEO) and Bobby Littrell (CTO) of Vesper, the first company offering MEMS microphones that withstand real-world use in smartphones and other connected devices. As Yole has highlighted in its latest report “Sensors for Cellphones and Tablets 2016”, this technology is poised to grow in the coming years, especially in the smartphone business.
Indeed, Vesper’s are the only MEMS microphones rugged enough to withstand water, dust and particle contaminants. They’re high-performance and enable acoustically rich experiences for any application – from smartphones and wearables to Internet of Things (IoT) devices and connected automobiles. As analysed by Knowmade and System Plus Consulting in their report “MEMS Microphone Technology and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis“, the existing microphone products are sharing a lot of similar technologies (which means significant patent discussions among the players…) and Vesper is proposing both new performances and also a new microphone design. We asked Matt Crowley and Bobby Littrell to give an analysis of their technology and what this can change in the future…

Yole Développement (Yole): Can you briefly introduce us to Vesper and the activities that your company is currently undertaking.
Matt Crowley:
Vesper is a Boston-based startup company, spun out of the University of Michigan in 2010, uniquely specializing in piezoMEMS microphone technology. Our strategy is to get to market very quickly. Our first product, the VM1000 went to market in about two years, which is extremely fast for a new MEMS technology. We are currently in low-volume production; last month we shipped our first 100,000 microphones to customers, mostly in China and Taiwan. []

Yole: What are the advantages of piezo microphones compared to capacitive technology?
Bobby Littrell:
The primary advantage of piezo technology is environmental robustness. Compared to capacitive technology, degradation over time is less of a problem, because piezo microphones lack a small capacitive gap that is sensitive to dust. In capacitive microphones, if you get a particle between the diaphragm and the back plate, that will shift the performance of the capacitive microphone. []

Yole: What kind of new applications will the piezo microphone enable?
We believe that in ten years’ time, voice interface is going to become the primary interface with the internet and devices in consumers’ houses. For this, you need to use an array of microphones, which can boost accuracy in noisy environments from around 70% to >95%. Piezo microphones can be used indoors, outdoors, in smoky kitchens, in any kind of location, which is critical in these large voice-controlled and monitoring arrays where reliability issues would be a big problem. []

Read the entire article here.

Guillaume Girardin
MEMS & Sensors Technology & Market Analyst – Yole Développement