CIPI-Supported Optical Technology Accelerates Data Transmission for Internet Users - and Time to Multiple Markets for a Photonics Start-up
The home entertainment landscape has shifted over the last few years with increasing demand for video streaming over the Internet. In January 2012, Netflix, the world's leading Internet subscription service for movies and TV shows, had close to twice as many video streaming subscribers as DVD subscribers in the U.S. The number of streaming video views expected to surpass 3.4 billion in the US alone over the coming year. As demand for such applications continues to grow, telecommunications companies struggle to keep up. They are challenged to provide the required capacity as network traffic doubles every six months.
Dr. Éric Weynant had anticipated the market opportunity it created. As telecommunications providers strive to transmit more data even faster over the Internet, they require more robust network infrastructure. With this objective in mind, the photonics expert established a bold vision: to make optical connectivity simple. In 2000, he created a start-up company called PhasOptx to realize his goal.
With the advent of new network configurations that bring fiber optic cable much closer to the consumer, Dr. Weynant initially focused on how to improve 'fiber-to-the-home' (FTTH) connectivity. About the size of a human hair, these fibers are thin glass pipes that enable the transmission of data over the Internet. When connected directly to a home or office, more data can be transmitted at a faster rate. To fully enable this service, telecommunications providers required a host of new technology.
Combining his expertise in photonics and shape memory alloys, Dr. Weynant created a new optical connectivity component that would underpin the inaugural product line to be launched by PhasOptx in 2005. This compact and cost-effective device was designed to enable very high data throughput, and support the delivery of reliable and stable FTTH service.
Before entering the market, PhasOptx acquired more than $15 million for R&D from investors across Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and Europe over the last decade. With guidance from Mr. Robert Corriveau, the Montreal-based firm established a collaborative R&D project with researchers at the Université Laval, Université de Sherbrooke and INO.
According to Dr. Weynant, "This CIPI initiative enabled us to identify opportunities for improvement, introduce new functionality and create a more robust technology for telecommunications providers and their customers. It provided new capabilities and talent that extended our R&D team and accelerated our entry into the market by at least two years."
In 2010, PhasOptx achieved an important key milestone with the launch of its first production line for telecommunications and biomedical and the following year, in collaboration with Digico (Laval, Quebec), the development of a production line was initiated. In 2011, PhasOptx received an invitation to deliver a keynote presentation at the international FTTH Conference in Orlando, Florida. Within a few months of this event, the firm established a major commercial contract with an international telecommunications operator.
Building on the original PhasOptx innovation, the CIPI-supported project also led to the creation of new biosensors - or devices that sense and transmit information about biological processes (such as blood pressure) of an individual under observation. Leveraging the expertise of Dr. Fadila Khelfaoui, Scientific Director at PhasOptx, and biomedical scientists, the firm is currently developing and validating a series of biosensor prototypes.
According to Dr. Khelfaoui, "Thanks to CIPI, we have established highly productive collaborations with Canadian and international universities. Building on the outcomes of these projects, PhasOptx plans to release new products for health and environment by 2013." With 20 employees and growing, this CIPI-supported firm is helping to establish Canada as a global leader in photonics.