Digital photonics - changemaker

Digital electronics technologies and products continue to disrupt and transform the world - but there is a broader context.

Conardmug 2011c

Digital electronics technologies and products continue to disrupt and transform the world—but there is a broader context. In fact, the electronics technologies that surround us are inextricably bound to photonics, enabled by and enabling new advances. Digital photonics, which is all photonics that deals with digital data, is everywhere, from semiconductor lithography, mobile communications, digital imaging, the Internet, and GPS satellites, to precision manufacturing, genetic sequencing, and neuroscience. And consider just a few of the companies that could not succeed without digital photonics: Amazon, Baidu, BMW, British Airways, ExxonMobil, Facebook, Ford, GE, IBM, Intel, John Deere, Microsoft, Siemens, Toyota, and Uber.

The message that digital photonics is fundamentally changing the world comes in this issue from Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of the TRUMPF Group (see page 21). It's a similar message to one he delivered last year at the fast-growing CODE_n new.New Festival in Karlsruhe, Germany (see The Festival describes itself as, "The perfect place for digital pioneers, startups, lateral thinkers, experienced innovators, established companies, investors, the media, politicians, research bodies—in short, anyone who's passionate about digital innovation."

It's perhaps a bit ironic that the leader of a mainstream industrial toolmaker should be pitching his vision of digital photonics to the "digital avant-garde." But he feels that both survival and advancement depend on understanding and embracing the implications of digital photonics. The message resonated with the Festival audience, just as the realization is dawning on many others that digital photonics has a tremendous impact on all of society.

Continual innovations in digital photonics are essential to meet societal needs, from advances in applications like standoff explosives detection (see page 24) and new neuroscience techniques (see page 31), to developing better component technologies like freeform optics (see page 35) and new mid-IR sources (see page 29). Electrons and photons, it seems, make good partners.

Conardmug 2011cConard Holton
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief

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