News Article

2017 Roadmapping Forum Takes Shape

There has been a rapid and strong wave of support responding to PhotonDelta's call in the December issue of PIC International magazine for more long-term technology planning. Jonathan Marks updates on reaction to the roadmap proposal and announces key dates for your diary.

PhotonDelta and AIM Photonics are now working together to organise the first meeting of the World Technology Mapping Forum. The goal is to produce the first International Photonic Systems Roadmap, looking ahead to global technology needs in 2030 and beyond.

Setting the scene

Michael Lebby, a well-known figure in the photonics community, is heavily involved in preparing the ground for an informed conversation.

"I expect the gathering in June in The Netherlands to explore the opportunities that we can't see today which will be commonplace in a decade. This long-term roadmapping discussion is essential for government, research and industry to work out where they want to invest precious finances in new technologies over the next 10-15 years."

"This forum is very different from product roadmap discussions. The time line is much longer. Datacentre companies have been saying for the last few years that they want to achieve a cost structure of US$1 per Gigabit at 400 Gb/sec for a 2 km long fibre optic link. So, if you have a fibre optic link connecting two switches in a datacentre, then these companies are saying they only really want to pay US$400 to install a transmitter/receiver at either end."

"If you put that data into a roadmap scenario and bring the experts together, then you start asking the question how can we get the technology to work and what needs to happen to bring the price down to US$1 per Gigabit and keep the customer happy. It may be that you hit a brick wall and achieving that goal is not achievable, but in doing so you will uncover a lot of interesting challenges."

The organisers are now reaching out to bring a broad-range of senior photonics experts together in a trusted, non-competitive environment and let them interact with (potential) customers of their technologies. Good roadmaps pinpoint the most crucial technologies and define the key metrics which need to be achieved to pave the way for volume solutions.

"A decade from now we're going to have sensors everywhere. They'll measure a lot of things not possible today; air-quality, lifestyle, autonomous vehicles. And expect billions of sensors, each of which needs to be connected yet remain secure. How do we bring the costs down so they become ubiquitous? This is something that we need to get to grips with in the road-mapping discussion."

Device opportunities

KG Charles Harris is the CEO of Quarrio, an artificial intelligence enterprise in Berkeley California.

"Photonics development is crucial to us. The way that artificial intelligence works today is fundamentally different from the way it needs to work tomorrow. Photonics is an instantaneous technology. Light is already starting to impact the basic computing infrastructure, responding to market demands for ever faster processing (think high-frequency trading). Companies such as IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Google have the deep pockets to invest in the high-volume chips. But there is also a role for small scale-up enterprises building specific applications using systems built directly on a dedicated photonics chip."

Considering future light-based systems: KG Charles Harris, CEO of Quarrio

"Many of today's technologies like the search engine, satellite communication, today's high-speed Internet, the relational database, or modern voice controlled services like Siri, Cortana or Alexa owe their existence to long-term planning conferences organised decades ago."

DARPA, a defense agency run by the US Military, is credited with the early development of the Internet. The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (1998-2016) was also a notable initiative, bringing together just under 1000 global companies to map the next 15 years. That contributed to the development of smart chips in consumer tablets today containing over 2 billion transistors. However, semiconductor innovation is slowing as industry faces fundamental technological limits.

"Unfortunately, we have become more focussed on just applied research and much shorter term thinking. If we in the West want to compete, keep up or collaborate with China, we must think longer-term. They have 5, 15, 50 year plans - all in technology. In the 1990's, China was mainly the source of low-level technology and products. Today their companies compete with Cisco, Google and Apple."

"But still, no single person or country has a key to all the answers. We need to collaborate, because a true mixing of the minds will create results that benefit everyone."

Collaborative spirit

Ewit Roos, Managing Director of PhotonDelta will elaborate on what mapping means to industry in his keynote at PIC International at 12.40 on March 7th.

He explains that as photonic integrated circuits using indium phosphide, gallium nitride and silicon nitride ramp up in a global market, many new players are entering the field. They take a non-traditional approach to working.
"We're seeing a trend for high-tech companies, chip designers, packaging houses and pure-play foundries to work collaboratively. This enables cost-sharing of expensive facilities as well as much faster prototyping and production. But for this approach to succeed, there needs to be an ongoing global discussion on "real-world" needs and goals for specific technologies."

Keynote speaker: Ewit Roos, Managing Director of PhotonDelta will be presenting at PIC International 2017 in Brussels, 7-8 March.

"Coupling optical technologies with electronics offers paths to next generation smart devices that are 1000 times faster, process 1000 times more data and yet use much less energy. The outcome of the World Technology Mapping Forum is going to generate a very useful fact-based investment guide for the future."

Forum dates

The three-day gathering will be held from June 14 -16, 2017 in 's-Hertogenbosch, in the heart of the Netherlands high-tech sector. The organisers are fortunate in having the full support of the regional government of North Brabant, who realise the significance of this gathering of technology leaders. The workshop mapping sessions will be held in private, to encourage frank and meaningful discussion. Attendance is by invitation only. If you believe you could contribute to the high-level technical discussion, you are invited to get in touch with the organisers before March 15th 2017. Please mention you saw this article in PIC International magazine.

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