But CEO Jim Hjartarson says the company’s low-cost, high-performance monolithic photonic chips could be a game-changer, which is why it’s gaining quite a bit of investor interest: “I think OneChip represents an opportunity for the optical industry to reinvent itself.”
OneChip’s product takes all the functions of the discrete photonic components you would see on a regular printed circuit board and integrates them into a single indium phosphide chip, explains Mr. Hjartarson.
Previously, he notes, photonic integrated circuit products were far too complex and expensive for widespread usage, and required “exotic” processing.
However, OneChip has come up with a way to simplify the way optical transceivers are made, and because the chips are assembled by robots, they are considerably cheaper to manufacture, Mr. Hjartarson says, opening the door for photonics to be effectively and affordably used in more advanced technologies.
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Things are moving more quickly for OneChip now; the bulk of the development work on the optical transceiver technology is complete, and the company expects to start reporting revenues by the end of the first quarter of 2011, says Mr. Hjartarson.
The company also recently relocated to a larger office that includes a clean room, which means OneChip is ready to start assembling actual working products.
“All the major suppliers of fibre-to-the-home equipment are aware that our technology is coming and understand the benefit to them in terms of pricing and performance and … they’re standing by to start sampling our technology,” he says.
He notes OneChip will initially be focused on tier-one fibre-to-the-home network equipment makers such as Huawei and Alcatel-Lucent, although it’s also thinking about applying its technology towards speeding up data centre interconnects.
For now, though, the challenge will be to quell the naysayers who argue that nobody has ever succeeded at what OneChip’s trying to do and that previous attempts have either turned out to be too complex or just didn’t work.
“The sexy bits of the technology are going to be able to be assembled in Canada, not in low-cost labour places like China, and it won’t cost more, which means more near-term jobs in Ottawa.” - CEO Jim Hjartarson
“We’ve been really careful about making sure we’ve thought long and hard about quality control – perhaps longer than investors and customers would like – but at the end of the day, we’re working on creating a whole new optical industry and we don’t want to be quicker than we should.
“When we get to the point where we feel we’ve got it, we’re going to take a long, hard second look to make darn sure we really have it.”
Year founded: 2005
Local head count: 52
Funding received to date: $19.5 million
Product: Robotically assembled photonic chips