There’s a ‘light on a chip’ revolution coming and Europe is in the lead

It’s tough being a data center these days. Demand for bandwidth is exploding. Every second, two households are connected to the Internet, and the amount of data doubles for each connection every 18 months. In 2016, over a billion smartphones will be sold worldwide, and each device needs access to a data center.

Silicon Valley, we have a problem.

Existing semiconductor technology is unable to keep up with this murderous pace. Unless you think that building hundreds of extra power stations to run more data centers is a good idea, we need a different approach to cope with the growth. Fortunately, technology to speed up the Internet already exists. It’s called integrated photonics, and it’s seeing a lot of movement in Europe at the moment.

Photonics is the science of light. And light, as we know, is fast. Much faster than copper or glass fiber. That’s why photonics can provide the bandwidth, speed, reach, and flexibility needed to cope with the increasing demand for Internet connectivity. The architecture is already being built, and investors are injecting over $30 billion a year in switching equipment to make the new hubs work.

Europe’s lead

As marketing director of High Tech Campus Eindhoven, one of the main players in the PhotonDelta project, a collaboration of tech companies in Eindhoven in The Netherlands that are focused on photonics, I love to brag about the leading role Europe and particularly The Netherlands play in the advancement of this new technology. But the facts back me up.

There are around 200 photonics-related companies and research organizations in the PhotonDelta area of Belgium and The Netherlands alone. As early as 2007, the University of Eindhoven brought together a group of key European players in photonics, connecting them with the four photonics foundries in Europe, two of which are in the Netherlands.

In the US, meanwhile, the photonics industry is quite fragmented and suffers from occasional bumps in the road.

The article is written by Bert-Jan Woertman.

Bert-Jan Woertman is director of marketing and communications at High Tech Campus Eindhoven, a business hub where 140 tech companies are working on developing future technologies and products.

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