What's Next for LIDAR and Other Mobile Optics Technologies?
LIDAR has been a hot topic lately, not just in the photonics community but in the mainstream press. It is said that there are dozens of LIDAR vendors, all hoping to win the attention of the dozens of car companies in Silicon Valley doing development in driverless cars.
And yet on 22 April, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, was quoted in Tech Crunch saying, "Anyone relying on LIDAR is doomed. Doomed! [They are] expensive sensors that are unnecessary. It's like having a whole bunch of expensive appendices. Like, one appendix is bad, well now you have a whole bunch of them, it's ridiculous, you'll see." The New York Times quoted him at the same event saying that LIDAR was "friggen' stupid." He also claimed that Tesla would be operating a fleet of "robo taxis" by the end of 2019. Meanwhile, the company is running short of cash and its stock price has declined since its peak in December.
A more serious challenge for LIDAR vendors today is to sustain a business supplying units for development until driverless production models roll off assembly lines several years from now. This is the component makers' predicament: the components and subsystems have to be ready long before the full product goes to market. How many LIDAR vendors can wait that long?
Fortunately, it appears that there are more opportunities than ever for LIDAR and other imaging technologies in automotive and other platforms. Tractica's market forecast suggests that 3D imaging subsystem revenues will nearly double by 2022, from nearly $20 billion in 2019. (The figure includes non-optical technologies, such as radar and ultrasound, and non-vehicle platforms, such as phone handsets.)
Source: Tractica website (here).
There will be a lot more than just LIDAR in future vehicles. For example, optics may also have a role in the communication network inside the car. At the AIM Photonics Academy spring meeting on 20 March, Amir Bar-NIr of Aquantia pointed out that the wire harness is the 3rd heaviest item in the car after the chassis and the engine, and it requires 50% of the labor cost of assembly. Robots can't build the harnesses, which can be up to 15 meters long. Reflections are a major challenge, and the networking protocol (such as Ethernet) has to include echo cancellation for that reason. There is a need for a light but robust harness, but copper cable still dominates that application.
OIDA will be exploring some of these opportunities at the OIDA Forum on Optics in Autonomy, 27 June 2019 in San Jose, collocated with the OSA Sensors and Sensing Congress, and Sensors Expo, a trade show and conference addressing sensors of all kinds. The event will feature vendors and experts at all levels of the supply chain, including Aquantia and Tractica. OIDA and OSA also recently addressed LIDAR and other sensors in events in September 2018 (see here) and May 2018 (see here).
What is to Become of Photonics21?
There seems to be a fatalistic view in Europe that Photonics21 will be weakened or even eliminated as a formal partnership in the next European Commission R&D budget, to span 2021-2027. And the key decisions will happen in the next couple of months.
Driving the change is that the European Commission doesn't want interest groups to feel entitled or accustomed to perpetual funding. Member states also complain that they have too little say over what gets funded in the many public-private partnerships (PPPs), of which Photonics21 is one of many. While Photonics21 is considered a "best in class" example of how a PPP should work, there are over 100 such partnerships, and the Commission wants to trim or merge the number of PPPs by 50% or more, which would also free up funding for other things.
This is happening as the Commission rolls out its plans for the next R&D program, the 9th Framework Programme, called Horizon Europe. Since Photonics21 is funded through the "Key Enabling Technologies" sub-program, the current proposal is to merge photonics and electronics units into one. This could be a benign change, but it could be the beginning of the end—or simply the end—of Photonics21. The Commission's electronics unit funding is far larger than that of the photonic unit, and the photonics PPP may not be able to advocate for its community, or even survive, on its merits alone. This is why EPIC sponsored and OSA signed a letter from Nobel Prize winners and over 500 CEOs to support continuation of the Photonics21 PPP.
What are the options? The photonics PPP or a merged electronics/photonics PPP may go forward, but with photonics funding maintained or reduced. Or, the funding for integrated photonics may be taken from P21 and placed in electronics. Or the photonics PPP may be ended outright. If funding ends, the projects under the current program will run out in 2020, and no new projects will be funded after next year. The future is now at the mercy of the Commission bureaucrats, with decisions expected in May and June 2019.
The fatalism in the photonics community may arise, in part, because this sort of thing has happened before. In the 1990s, the U.S. government funded photonics more explicitly, working with OIDA at the time. Germany had its Agenda Photonik 2020, but that funding has faded. Gradually the attention of funding agencies is turning away from photonics to topics like quantum technology and artificial intelligence (see also the related item in this newsletter on Photonics Scotland). The development is particularly concerning for small photonics companies without the scale of R&D resources needed for some projects.
The experience of the U.S. may provide a solution. Funding is fragmented among many U.S. federal agencies, and companies learn to navigate the bureaucracy to apply for funding. While the Photonics21 funding is dedicated specifically to photonics, and is an established brand in Europe, a change in the Commission's funding structure does not prevent the industry from seeking funding elsewhere in the Commission budget. The current dedicated photonics funding—about €100 million per year from the Commission—is significant, but still small compared to the overall spending on R&D among the European and member governments, and among the companies themselves. OIDA estimates that the overall public funding of photonics in Europe exceeds €1 billion.
For more on Photonics21 and its newest funding roadmap, see here. To download the new Photonics21 roadmap document, see here.
Photonics Scotland Releases its Vision
On 10 April, OIDA attended the 25th anniversary of the Scottish Optoelectronics Association. To mark the occasion, the group rebranded itself as Photonics Scotland and released a strategic paper, Photonics Scotland: A Vision for 2030. The organization is managed under Technology Scotland, a trade organization. Photonics Scotland is the 2nd oldest local photonics cluster and the 4th oldest national photonics trade association, depending on how one defines it.
While photonics and Photonics Scotland would seem to be relatively big fishes in a small Scottish loch, (for example, compared to the challenges of the photonics industry in the U.S.), they have serious challenges on two fronts. First, in Scotland, photonics provides 4,000 jobs, £1 billion in revenue, with 85% of the photonics products are exported. But as a group the industry is not visible; the Scottish national government supports six national industries, but there's no obvious fit for photonics among the six. Instead, the government is hot on topics like quantum and blockchain, to the detriment of "old" but real local industries like photonics. This is a complaint shared around the world (see the related item in this newsletter on Photonics21). Scotland also suffers from a shortage of qualified people, and the threat of leaving the E.U. isn't helping. Thus the need for Photonics Scotland to release its strategic vision.
Second, Scottish photonics companies benefit from programs in the U.K. and the E.U., but the Scottish photonics industry is less than 10% of the U.K. photonics industry, and a far smaller fraction of the overall U.K. economy, so it gets little attention at that level. As for programs in the E.U., no one knows how that will end up, with Brexit negotiations still in progress, but it was made clear at the event that Scotland is open to continuing R&D projects with E.U. countries.
Photonics Scotland reception. Source: OIDA.
Photonics Scotland's reception featured local and national dignitaries at the Glasgow city hall, including Derek MacKay, a member of Scottish Parliament for the Scottish National Party and Cabinet Secretary in the Scottish Government. OIDA and most of the other major photonics trade associations from around the world attended. The event was collocated with EPIC's annual meeting.
For an article from OSA's Optics & Photonics News on Photonics Scotland's strategic vision, click here. Download the vision document here.
OIDA Member Business & Research Leaders Recognized with OSA Awards
We congratulate the following 2019 recipients of OSA Awards and Medals whose contributions have been fundamental to supporting the work of OIDA members and the entire optics and photonics community.
David Richardson Medal
Fred Leonberger, EOvation Advisors LLC, USA
For innovative development, technical leadership and commercialization of guided wave photonic components, especially integrated optical modulators, which have had major applications in fiber optic communications, CATV and sensing.
Max Born Award
Govind P. Agrawal, University of Rochester, USA
For sustained distinguished contributions to physical optics through innovative research on lasers, fiber-optical communications and nonlinear optics
RSVP for OIDA Member Benefit Orientation on 5 June
RSVP for OIDA's member benefit overview orientation on 5 June at 13:00 EDT. This is an opportunity to learn about key membership benefits you and your company should be taking advantage of and explore how to maximize performance and grow your business.
Whether you have been an active member for years or you are new to OIDA — this orientation is a must-attend! Please feel free to share this with your colleagues. When you join OIDA, everyone at your organization becomes a member.
Member Benefit of the Month: Market Reports
Members receive exclusive access to bi-monthly OIDA Market Update Reports, plus monthly industry focused newsletters, and the opportunity to attend market update dinners with networking opportunities.
With an OIDA membership, everyone in your company has access to premium benefits that will fuel success and establish connections with OSA's customers worldwide. Take advantage of your OIDA member benefits! Not a member? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1.202.416.1474
Program Announced for OIDA Forum on Optics in Autonomy
Co-located with the OSA Optical Sensors and Sensing Congress and Sensors Expo
27 June 2019 - San Jose, CA, USA
Review the program and join experts from leading companies and gain the connections and information you need to drive your company—and your career—forward in the evolving autonomous vehicles market. This business development event matches leaders of transport applications needing new solutions with early-stage technologies.
- Keynote: The View From an OEM—CEO Jin Shang of Guangzhou Automotive Company (GAC) R&D Center Silicon Valley
- Panel 1: Investment and Market Perspectives
- Panel 2: Optics and Imaging in Autonomy—Accelerating Breadth and Depth
- Panel 3: The Vehicle as a Data Center: Next-Generation On-Board Computing & Communications
- Panel 4: Driving Down Costs: The Manufacturability Challenges for the Optical Supply Chain
- Panel 5: The Evolution of LIDAR in Transportation: Opportunities for Non-Auto Applications and Deployment Progress in Auto
- Plus networking events: Breakfast, lunch, two coffee breaks and evening reception
The OIDA Forum on Optics in Autonomy will be co-located with the Sensors Expo & Conference, which will host 300+ exhibitors on the Expo Floor. Your registration fee includes admission to the Sensors Expo Exhibit Hall and receptions for all conference days, but does not include access to the Sensors Expo Technical Sessions or to the OSA Optical Sensors & Sensing Congress.
Learn more and register by 3 June to save.
Professional Development Opportunities for OIDA Members
Successful companies hone and harness the entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial spirit within their employees and leverage it for greater success. The OSA Foundation is launching its third Innovation School from 21-25 July in Washington DC, USA. During this 4-day boot-camp, participants will learn the key methodologies for discovering, developing and launching innovative solutions and products; have opportunities to meet and collaborate with peers; and gain invaluable experience working directly with mentors from industry. This hands-on program is perfect for professionals seeking to participate in the innovation economy - as an innovator in their company.
Location: The Optical Society Headquarters, 2010 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC, USA Registration: $1,750 USD and includes 4 days of intensive, hands-on training, all reference and onsite materials, meals and up to five nights housing (air travel not included).
For more information or to register, please visit osa.org/innovation
Applied Industrial Optics Topical Meeting: Program Just Published Online
8 - 10 July 2019, The Optical Society Headquarters, Washington, District of Columbia, USA
The searchable online technical program is now available online. View the Agenda of Sessions and abstracts for both invited and contributed presentations.
Join industry leaders at OSA Applied Industrial Optics (AIO), where professionals from diverse backgrounds gather and discuss photonics research, technology development, and commercialization. Here, you can stay up to date on the latest advances in photonics technology. AIO creates an engaging multi-disciplinary program that encourages the sharing of ideas and generates cross-pollination across fields. Through workshops, tutorials, panel discussions and networking events, AIO gives you unprecedented access to industry experts and valuable insight into today's commercial climate.
Learn more and register by 10 June to save.
Laser Applications Conference (LAC) is Accepting Contributed Submissions for Poster Presentations
29 September — 2 October, Austria Center Vienna, Vienna, Austria
This 3-day meeting focuses on two main topic areas — Materials Processing and Applications for High Power Lasers. At LAC, you'll be immersed in an innovative learning environment that introduces new, groundbreaking information, offers insightful knowledge, showcases cutting-edge products, and engages your active participation in important debates and discussions.
Ball Aerospace &
Technologies, United States,
Japan Science and
Technology Agency, Japan
Dausinger + Giesen
View the submission categories and submit by 12 June. Exhibit space is also available. Learn more and download the exhibitor prospectus
Have Company News to Share?
OIDA Members receive discounts on Business Wire. Contact Leon Harbar at email@example.com or +1.310.820.9473.
Post your company news on the OSA Industry Member News web site.
For more information on these or other OIDA industry members making news, or to submit your press release, please contact OSA Media Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watch New OFC Exhibitor Videos Online
Hear directly from OFC exhibitors about why they consider OFC a must attend exhibition.
View videos now
Exhibit at OFC 2020 and be part of the one event that defines the market and brings together the thought leaders and solution providers that drive the industry. Representing a range of products, from optical components and devices to systems, test equipment, software and specialty fiber, OFC represents the entire supply chain and provides the premier marketplace where the industry learns, connects, networks and closes deals.
Call for Nominations — OSA 2020 Fellows
All OSA Fellows are encouraged to nominate a colleague for Fellow. Members who have served with distinction in the advancement of optics and photonics through outstanding contributions to engineering, business, education, research and society are eligible for nomination. OSA serves a diverse and inclusive community worldwide. Nominees that reflect and support this diversity across all areas including gender, educational/institutional background and geography are encouraged. Nominations are due 15 June.
Invitation to Join the Optics and Photonics Industry LinkedIn Group
Join 3,000+ of your colleagues in our Optics & Photonics Industry Network LinkedIn Group. This one-of-a-kind Forum for Industry lets you participate in discussions about cutting-edge issues. Extend your professional network. Exchange information about problems, ideas and solutions. Collaborate with experts in your field. Now is the perfect time to build a relationship with fellow optics and photonics professionals!
OIDA (OSA Industry Development Associates) Council
Thank you to the volunteers who oversee the programs and services available to the Industry Community.
• Claudio Mazzali,
Corning Research &
Development Corp, Chair
• Simin Cai,
Go!Foton, Chair Elect
• John Dexheimer,
LightWave Advisors, Inc.
• Turan Erdogan,
• Amy Eskilson,
• Christoph S. Harder,
• Inge Kabert,
• Frederick J. Leonberger,
EOvation Advisors LLC
• Debbie Wilson,
Lumentum Operations Inc.