Apple is entering silicon photonics

Product Related

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 Alexis Debray, Ph.D., Senior Analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. He adds: “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 US$581 million, with almost 5 million units shipped.”

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june 2021

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Thematic(s) :

In this dynamic context, Yole SystemPlus, part of Yole Group of Companies, investigate disruptive photonics technologies and related markets in depth, to point out the latest innovations and underline the business opportunities. 

Released today, 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.

In addition, the custom reverse costing analyses company, Yole SystemPlus, 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. 

With both analyses, Yole and Yole SystemPlus present a unique understanding of the silicon photonics industry.

For Eric Mounier PhD., 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 Rockley Photonics’ largest customer, with US$70 million 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, Rockley Photonics has received US$359 million in investments. Rockley Photonics seeks to develop and produce photonic modules (based on silicon photonics) 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 US$18, the module could be estimated at US$45 and could fit a new, high-end US$699 Apple Watch with healthcare functions. If the adoption rate of healthcare functions for smartwatches reaches 20% by 2035, the associated silicon photonics die market could reach US$1.1 billion. By comparison, the 2020 silicon photonics die market for optical transceivers is estimated at US$84 million”.

Intel, which is marketing servers, has 53% market share in silicon photonic transceivers for datacom in 2020. Intel is one of the leading silicon photonics companies, without doubts.
In this context, Yole’s partner, Yole SystemPlus, releases an exhaustive analysis of the Intel Silicon Photonic 100G CWDM4 QFSP28 Transceiver.
For Sylvain Hallereau, PhD, Principal Technology & Cost Analyst at Yole SystemPlus“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 10km. 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.”

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