“Apple is entering silicon photonics”
14.05.2021 - Beyond communication, silicon photonics is penetrating consumer and automotive.
“Since the 1998 release by Bookham of the first product using the silicon photonics platform, the main application for silicon photonics has been optical communication,” asserts Dr Alexis Debray, Senior Analyst at Yole Développement. “And after the 2008 release by Luxtera (now Cisco) of the first optical transceiver using silicon photonics, the silicon photonics optical transceiver market has grown to $581M, with almost five million units shipped.”
Released May 12, the Silicon Photonics 2021 report from Yole provides market data on silicon photonics dies, SOI wafers, and transceivers and describes the novel silicon photonics applications in consumer, automotive, and computing. It also presents a complete analysis of the silicon photonics market up to 2026 with revenues, volumes, and average selling prices segmented by applications and technologies.
This technology and market report has been developed in collaboration with Jean-Louis Malinge, strongly involved in this industry for a while. Malinge and Yole collaborate for a long time to get a deep understanding of the silicon photonics technologies and identify related applications and market segments.
In addition, the custom reverse costing analyses company, System Plus Consulting, presents the Intel Silicon Photonic 100G CWDM4 QFSP28 Transceiver, a special case study focused on Intel’s silicon photonic transceiver to illustrate latest innovations and technical choices made by the leading company. This report describes Intel’s potential in terms of packaging and photonics.
Because silicon photonics is a platform, numerous applications are today possible, and many have been proposed by research centers and universities. In 2020, two new applications reached the market. Genalyte, a California company established by one of the co-founders of Luxtera, released systems for immunoassays based on silicon photonics elements. Also, KVH released FOG based on silicon photonics, intended for robotic car navigation.
For Dr Eric Mounier, Director of Market Research at Yole: “Novel applications for silicon photonics are poised to further penetrate the market. In March 2021, Aeva, another California-based company, went public with an initial valuation of US$1.7 billion.” The company’s goal is to bring FMCW lidar to the market with silicon photonics to serve autonomous driving. Also in March 2021, the American company Rockley Photonics announced its intention to go public in Q2 2021 at an initial valuation of US$1.2 billion with an Apple-supported spectrophotometer project for smartwatches.
In addition to sensing for immunoassays, FOG, lidar, and consumer healthcare, other applications for silicon photonics include electronic noses, OCT, and cardiovascular diagnostic devices. Computing could also benefit from silicon photonics through photonic computing and quantum computing, as well as optical interconnects in disaggregated datacenters, which will allow using light to connect the various elements of high-performance computing.
Apple started working with Rockley Photonics in 2017 and has since become their largest customer, with $70M of NRE commitment to date. In 2019 and 2020, Rockley Photonics had two main customers that accounted for 100% (2020) and 99.6% of its revenue (2019). To date they seek to develop and produce photonic modules that can measure numerous biological parameters such as blood oxygen levels, lactate, alcohol, and glucose, among others. The project is known as a “clinic-on-the-wrist” and relies on a miniaturized spectrophotometer. Universities have previously demonstrated such spectrophotometers, but industrialization to the level of the Apple Watch could be a tough challenge.
According to Alexis Debray from Yole: “With an estimated silicon photonics die price of $18, the module could be estimated at $45 and could fit a new, high-end $699 Apple Watch with healthcare functions. If the adoption rate of healthcare functions for smartwatches reaches twenty percent by 2035, the associated silicon photonics die market could reach $1.1B. By comparison, the 2020 silicon photonics die market for optical transceivers is estimated at $84M.”
Intel, which is marketing servers, has 53 % market share in silicon photonic transceivers for datacom in 2020. Therefore it is one of the leading silicon photonics companies. For Dr Sylvain Hallereau, Principal Technology & Cost Analyst at System Plus Consulting: “In just a few short years, Intel has already shipped more than 3M units of its 100G pluggable transceivers. And with its CWDM4 100G technology, Intel is the first in the world to offer a silicon photonic solution up to ten kilometers. The 100G PSM4 and CWDM4 represent the first step, with Intel’s 200G and 400G products expected to enter volume production in the second half of 2020.”
Read more from the System Plus Consulting and Yole Développement experts in the printed issues of PhotonicsViews and do not miss the Optical Transceivers & Silicon Photonics Forum 2021 on September 2nd in Shenzhen, China & online, presented by Alexis Debray and Martin Vallo from Yole, and Sylvain Hallereau of System Plus Consulting.
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