Optics East slips away quietly

BOSTON, MA-It appeared that Optics East was shaping up to be a quiet show, without much fanfare or company activity focused around it.

BOSTON, MA-It appeared that Optics East was shaping up to be a quiet show, without much fanfare or company activity focused around it. Held at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston from September 9-12, that expectation didn’t disappoint. The exhibition consisted of about three aisles of booths and one of table-top exhibits (about 93 exhibits in total). Attendance for 2007 topped out at 1300, similar in size to 2006 with its 1600 attendees, but far down from a peak of 5800 when the show was co-located with the NASA Tech Briefs conference several years ago.

The technical program this year was more robust, with the focus of its 800 papers and 22 conference sessions on sensors and communications. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) was a major participant with professor of chemistry Moungi Bawendi giving a plenary presentation on the science and technology of semiconductor nanocrystal quantum dots. Bawendi described the many device applications that arise from the multiexciton physics and carrier multiplication in quantum dots, including light-emitting devices, solar cells, and sensors in biological and biomedical imaging. Other papers on “Quantum Communications Realized” focused on quantum cryptography, quantum entanglement, and quantum key distribution.

Papers like those in the section entitled “Active and Passive Optical Components for Communications” matched the products and technology exhibited on the floor. Exhibitors EM4 (Bedford, MA), Lumics GmbH (Berlin, Germany), MEMS Optical (Huntsville, AL), and Strasbaugh (San Luis Obispo, CA) all serve the telecom industry and have telecom offerings, but few had new products or announcements saved up for the show. AFL Telecommunications (Spartanburg, SC) announced a fiber fusion splicer, while Avantes (Broomfield, CA), exhibiting with Scientific Solutions (N. Chelmsford, MA), introduced a high-sensitivity CCD spectrometer for portable use. RSoft Design Group (Ossining, NY) announced the 8.0 version of its CAD software with 3-D viewing options.

Held in the northeast since 1996, Optics East, previously known as Photonics East, never gained the momentum of Photonics West. The reason why is anyone’s guess. Massachusetts is the only state in the U.S. that even comes close to having the contingent of optics technology companies that California has (see www.laserfocusworld.com/ articles/57160). Reasons proffered by the exhibitors included moving of the show date up a month, the inaccessibility of Boston and its ever-changing maze of roadways, and the density of professor and student attendees (who are unlikely sales prospects). “The show was huge before the telecom bust,” said product manager Gary Wadsworth at Power Technology (Little Rock, AR), “But since then, there were never enough exhibitors or attendees to keep it going.”

With low expectations for any significant jump in attendance in future years, conference organizer SPIE decided not to continue the Optics East event. In a strategic realignment, SPIE will distribute content of Optics East to other shows like the Defense and Securities Symposium held during the spring in Orlando, FL (previously AeroSense), and Photonics West and BiOS, both in San Jose in January. Said event manager Bonnie Peterson, “Exhibitors and attendees wanted fewer choices. Smaller shows that are very focused by topic ensure they reach their target audience.” For now, SPIE is exploring how to continue serving the technical and scientific community in the northeast.

-Valerie C. Coffey

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