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Agilent Technologies, USA

Question 1: Describe the profound impact your technology – as part of an end-user product – has had on Society. How has the population been impacted by your technology. This could be behavioral, economical, societal, etc.
It now seems hard to believe, but almost 20 years ago engineers developing optical transmitters and systems for high-speed digital communications did not have a tool designed specifically to view and analyze their waveforms. In other words, there was no optical oscilloscope. Engineers had to cobble together a measurement system from products that were designed to see electrical signals. Now, it seems reasonable to say that virtually every information bit that travels across the internet will go through hardware tested with an Agilent Digital Communications Analyzer, our trade name for the optical oscilloscope. This tool, now commonly known as a ‘DCA’, is the backbone of the test equipment found on every optical engineer’s bench. The term ‘DCA’ is now a common vocabulary ‘word’ for optical engineers.

Question 2: Tell us about how your technology is unique? What makes it stand out? How do you differentiate it from other similar technologies?
At the time that the DCA was being designed, the alternative was to hang an optical to electrical converter on the electrical channel of a common oscilloscope. The problem was that the system was uncalibrated, signal fidelity was degraded by the extra connections, and the system is just clumsy, with the converter hanging out in space, sometimes getting bumped into and broken off. We developed our own high-speed photodetectors that matched well with our instrumentation electronics to create a very accurate high fidelity measurement system. In hindsight, it seems so obvious, but this was the first.

Question 3: When first launched, did your technology make a transformational change for the end-user or incremental changes by improving a current technology? Describe this.
An oscilloscope designed specifically to view optical signals was exactly what the optical communications engineer needed. It was like handing a shovel to a guy who had been digging ditches with a pitchfork. It did not take long to become the tool that every optical communications engineer was using.

Question 4: Give a specific example (with company names) of the buying chain for your product/technology once you sell it to the next level buyer. Provide an example of the succession of companies your product goes through, ultimately to get to an end-user. Example: We produce a component that we sell to a laser systems manufacturer (name the company) who sells it to a medical OEM (name the company), who then sells it to a hospital (name the hospital).
Finisar (or any other transceiver manufacturer) designs a new transceiver. The design engineer regularly evaluates the transmitter performance by viewing the optical waveform. Once the design is complete, manufacturing begins. Every laser is turned on by observing and optimizing the optical waveform while laser bias is adjusted. The transceiver is sent to a communications company (Cisco, Huawei, Juniper…..). Evaluation parts are tested with an optical oscilloscope to verify that specs are met. Good parts are sent to switch/server designers. As the system is developed, optical waveforms are analyzed and verified. When the systems go to manufacturing, optical waveforms are measured to ensure system specs are met.

Question 5: In which vertical market(s) would you classify the end-users of this technology?
Semiconducter MFG and telecom/Datacom

Question 6: Give us your one sentence “elevator pitch” you would use to tell a non-technical person about your technology and the critical role it plays in Society.
We believe that virtually every computer bit that travels across the internet flows through hardware that was tested with an Agilent Digital Communications Analyzer or DCA.

Question 7: Surprise Us! What else should we know about your product/technology?

The DCA was not developed by oscilloscope engineers. They thought it would be crazy to have an instrument dedicated for optical signals. They were adamant that a removable optical converter was ideal. You could then remove the converter to make electrical measurements. They did not realize that the optical engineer makes 95% of their measurements on optical signals. Accuracy and ease of use were far more important than flexibility. Fortunately the tribal elders lost the argument.

Additional information.

  1. Agilen Infinium DCA-X (jpg)