CEO interview: AMS' Laney on driving a sensor-driven business

September 08, 2014 // By Peter Clarke
CEO interview: AMS' Laney on driving a sensor-driven business
Kirk Laney, CEO of Austrian mixed-signal chip and sensor company AMS, wants to leverage the opportunity that technology affords to create new markets for sensors and sensor interfaces.

Kirk Laney was at Texas Instruments for 19 years up to 1998 when he helped organize a management buy out of the optoelectronics division he was leading there. That became Texas Advanced Optoelectronic Solutions Inc. (TAOS) a company that Laney built up for 13 years before its acquisition by AMS

"At TAOS we saw an integrated sensor opportunity in areas like ambient light sensing and proximity sensing and benefited in the smartphone space. Then there was the 2011 acquisition by AMS and I came along with the deal. And in 2013 John Heugle stepped down as CEO and I was asked to take over his position."

Laney makes the point that it had not been his intention to eventually lead the company when AMS acquired TAOS and that the deal did not represent some kind of reverse takeover. Nonetheless TAOS, which had been a foundry customer of AMS, added significant sales to AMS and under Laney the vision has become to make AMS into a sensor solutions company. "We want to leverage our competence in analog semiconductor manufacturing and design. We have 400 analog design engineers."

Kirk Laney, CEO of AMS.

AMS is active in magnetic, optical sensing, sensor interfaces, power management ICs for things like motor control and short-range wireless communications but with 75 to 80 percent of sales in the sensor and sensor interface category, said Laney. "The Applied Sensor acquisition [developer of chemical sensors] complements our portfolio nicely. We continue to be opportunistic in terms of looking for companies to acquire."

AMS is generally oriented towards serving industrial, medical and automotive sectors with some sales into white-goods consumer and ambient light sensing in smartphones and tablet computers.

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