With 800 presentations, 550 exhibitors (including Finisar of course), and 12,700 attendees, OFC is the largest optical communications conference in the US. Although, to be fair, Photonics West also at the Moscone Centre a few weeks prior, is about 50% bigger. Day-time temperatures during the week were in the 60s and along with the balmy nights and absence of rain, it was a beautiful week to spend in technical and customer meetings. Not even a news breaking 5-alarm fire just a few blocks away could distract from the focused technical frenzy that is OFC.
Whilst in 2013, the interest around Silicon Photonics made it difficult to distinguish fact from hope, the Si vs. InP debate this year was more reasoned, in my humble opinion, and the major players are starting to recognise that there will ultimately be a place for both technologies. With Finisar’s recent acquisition of u2t, we clearly see a great future ahead for InP-based components but, as we’ve often said, silicon remains an interesting option in certain niche applications.
I personally managed to get quite a long way out of my comfort zone by attending the workshop on Quantum Key Distribution. The recent furore over the activities of the NSA and other government agencies makes this a very interesting topic but the whole QKD area is clearly hampered by (a) the fundamental difficulty of sending individual photons far enough and fast enough to allow for high-speed key distribution (no amplifiers allowed as this corrupts the photon state and scrambles the transmission) and (b) the slow rate of progress in quantum computers, which is where QKD will really find its niche should such beasts ever escape from the realms of possibility into the realms of probability.
From a Finisar perspective, we were well represented on multiple panel and Market Watch segments as well has presenting a number of papers during the technical sessions. A highlight was an invited paper on the development and applications of the WaveShaper by Michael Roelens, which was particularly well-attended with over 300 people in the audience.
The ‘informal’ part of OFC was also its usual hectic self – our annual Australia vs. US pool match on Sunday ended (I think) in an honourable draw. It was a personal worst on Wednesday evening with quadruple bookings for receptions; my apologies to the Southampton University ORC Alumni and Photonics in Ottawa for not making it to their respective events.
Feel free to comment on your favorite part of the annual OFC week!
The successes of 3D gaming systems, like the popular Kinect by Microsoft, have shown the market viability of 3D sensing technology. However, just like any disruptive technology, the first application to which it is applied, gesture recognition, is just that: only the first application. There are still many other possible uses of 3D sensing technology unthought-of that can completely redefine industries and create tremendous market opportunity.
Consider the evolution of the digital camera. Remember learning for the first time that a camera was introduced into a mobile device? It certainly hasn’t taken long for the camera to become as much a part of what we consider a mobile phone as a touchscreen. In addition, the combination of camera and phone has enabled completely new use cases beyond what was ever possible with a device that was just a camera. For example, today you can SMS (text message) an HD image to your spouse confirming that you’re buying the right item or use the phone’s camera and GPS coordinates to give you a quick visual indication of all the restaurants in your immediate area and their Yelp ratings. The truth is today, a phone without a camera simply isn’t a phone.
By adding the third dimension to systems, 3D sensing provides a foundation of supplemental technology that will extend the capabilities of mobile devices well past their current limitations. The ability to sense where the user or an object is in relation to the mobile device, to capture depth, dimension, and space, enables a whole new range of applications and ways to interact with one’s phone or tablet, just the way the digital camera has revolutionized the way we communicate, share information and navigate our world.
The challenge, like any disruptive technology, is that while 3D sensing is still emerging, it is too early to tell exactly how it is going to change our world. In addition, 3D sensing technology continues to evolve as well. Sensing technology using more sophisticated laser-imaging systems, such as those using our vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) is now available. These new 3D sensing systems are more accurate, smaller, lower-power, and less susceptible to errors than the first generation based on LEDs and edge emitting lasers.
What is a VCSEL?
The market is already beginning to embrace 3D sensing technology across industries. Companies who embrace 3D sensing early will likely become the leaders that define the future of this technology.
I am interested in any comments or questions you may have regarding this topic.
Check back soon for my next post “Technology Is No Longer An Island”.