Sensors built from light
Photonics is a key enabler of the Internet of Things (IoT) & Autonomous Systems. For its implementation the IoT relies heavily on sensor technology. Sensors need to be small, robust and energy efficient to be embedded in machines, appliances, buildings and infrastructure and succesfully collect data over large periods of time.
Fibre optic sensors – manufactured using photonics technology – are not only more sensitive than existing electromagnetic sensors, but also faster operating, better able to withstand harsh conditions and immune to electromagnetic interference.
Photonics chips and sensors are already in use in the aerospace industry. Installed on aircraft wings photonic sensors can measure strain 10,000 more accurately than existing electromagnetic sensors.
Lidar technology in self-driving cars
Photonics is also a catalyst technology for autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars. Autonomous vehicles have to be able to ‘see’ their environment in order to differentiate between objects, pedestrians and other vehicles. Light detection and radar, more commonly known as ‘lidar’, is a photonics based technology capable of providing self-driving cars with accurate vision. Because of its high-angular-resolution imagery lidar is the best available technology to recognize objects at high speeds and has become one of the most important detection modes for autonomous vehicles.
Researchers at the University of Singapore have developed a microchip based on photonics technology that can capture visual details from video frames at 20 times less power than current chips. This application can bring the sense of sight to the IoT
Examples of Photonics in IoT
Novel tiny vision processing chip, promising for ultrasmall smart vision systems & IoT Apps
Scientists have developed a microchip that can capture visual details from video frames using extremely low levels of power.
According to the research team, the chip’s video feature extractor uses 20 times less power than existing best-in-class chips.
The new microchip, called EQSCALE, could reduce the size of smart vision systems down to the millimeter range. Read more
Solid-state LiDAR systems are a key enabling technology for self-driving vehicles
A new generation of lidar companies supplying the self-driving car industry is putting optics and photonics back at the center of the technology world.
Solid-state LiDAR systems are a key enabling technology for self-driving vehicles, 3D mapping, and industrial automation. Early LiDAR systems were too bulky, expensive, and had too many moving parts.
Commercial advancements have made sophisticated mapping, object detection, classification, and tracking possible with small sensors that will become ubiquitous, particularly as they enable autonomous vehicles or “self-driving cars”. The magnitude of the market opportunity has been recognized by venture capitalists who have poured investment into this area. Read more