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Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/20/2000

In Burlington, Ontario, today Light Management Group (OTC-BB: LMGR) showed a working demonstration of an optical switch to a collection of reporters, analysts, and a potential customer or two. The company says it is ready to take orders for its new device.

It's a significant development for the industry because, according to LMGR, this switch is the first to be based on acousto-optics, (see Optical Switches Go Acoustic). It's also a significant step for LMGR, as it's the first time that the company has delivered on its promises. This is the third time in two years it has promised to revolutionize the fiber-optic industry, but the first time there's been any evidence that the projects were anything more than hot air.

"It works, it works!" an excited Don Iwacha, LMGR's president told Light Reading.

The switch is configured as working product, though not all the fibers are in use, says Iwacha. The basic module consists of one input fiber and 1024 output fibers -- only a couple of those output fibers were accessible in today's demonstration. Iwacha claims it will be straightforward to address the other fibers by using a more sophisticated control systems come in (the switching fabric stays the same).

If this proves to be the case, then LMGR may have an alternative to MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems) and holograms for building large-scale, all-optical switches (see Optical Switching Fabric).

Several hurdles remain. The main technological challenge is to extend the design to work with multiple inputs as well as multiple outputs, says Iwacha. At the moment, a fully connected switch would have to be cobbled together from a mixture of single-to-multiple and multiple-to-single fiber devices, he adds.

And LMGR is going to face another kind of challenge -- communicating its success. The company has gained a bit of a reputation for making outrageous claims that it can't keep. Like the little boy who cried wolf, LMGR may have a hard time convincing the industry it's telling the truth.

And to make matters worse, LMGR has labeled its inventions with indecipherable names. For example, it calls the optical switch a "proprietary commutator" in today's press release (see LMGR Debuts Acousto-Optic Switch). It included whole swaths of pure technobabble in its earlier announcements. This has created a great deal of confusion about exactly what the company is doing.

So, let's set the record straight.

LMGR was formed in 1999 when Laser Show Systems Inc. acquired Triton Acquisition Corp. and renamed itself Light Management Group. Laser Show Systems had expertise in using acousto-optical systems to deflect light beams for outdoor laser projection displays. This background, which is has very little to do with optical networking, may help explain why the company has found it hard to get the right messages across.

Shortly after it was founded, LMGR decided that it could leverage its acousto-optic platform in other industries. It got off to a bad start by claiming that it had filed a patent on a technology for transmitting 65,536 separate channels on a single optical fiber. It also reckoned it would be signing deals with leading equipment manufacturers "in the near future." No such deals have materialized, and to this day there is no evidence of how or when such a technological breakthrough could be achieved.

In April 2000, LMGR made another way-out claim. It announced that it had filed a patent on a device called an "information compressor" (see LMGR Intros Compression Scheme). According to LMGR, this is a new type of optical source that could easily provide thousands of WDM (wavelength-division multiplexing) channels at different wavelengths simultaneously. At the time, LMGR's president Don Iwacha was confident that a demonstrator would be built by the end of 2000. But when Light Reading asked him about this recently, he said merely that there was no demonstrator yet, and he had no fixed date when it would be ready.

To sum up, there are three separate inventions. (Incidentally, they're all the product of the same person's fevered imagination: LMGR's chief engineer Gennadii Ivtsenkov.) Iwacha says that the company is now making an all-out effort to bring the acousto-optic switch to market and has left the other two ideas on the back burner.

"[Those ideas] turned out to be more difficult than we first thought," he says. "Now we've got to the stage where instead of announcing the ideas, we're going to be waiting until we can announce products."

-- Pauline Rigby, senior editor, Light Reading http://www.lightreading.com

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Peter Heywood
Peter Heywood
12/4/2012 | 9:03:03 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
We've had all sorts of insults thrown at us over this story when in fact, it's POSITIVE.

It gives LMGR credit for actually delivering a working prototype. It also points out that this could be a big deal - it could put LMGR in a position to compete with MEMS and hologram based switches.

Peter Heywood
Light Reading
Pauline Rigby
Pauline Rigby
12/4/2012 | 9:03:03 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
Some people seem to have missed the point of this article. It is upbeat. In fact, the first five paragraphs, which describe the optical switch demo, are totally positive. It makes me wonder how LMGR supporters would have reacted to a truly negative article.

I acknowledge that the article is a little thin on the details of the technology. Necessarily so, because I was not able to see the demo at first hand, but had to rely on relayed information -- from a telephone interview with Don Iwacha immediately after the demo. I hope to report on the technology in more detail in a future article.

Concerning the slightly-negative issues I raised: Since Light Reading was launched it has been pinged on a regular basis by people who are confused by LMGR and its claims.

I think the story here is one of the perils of publishing too early. Simply filing a patent does not prove that an idea is a good one, or that it will work. Nevertheless, these kind of announcements can create quite a stir. But they backfire when ideas prove more difficult than at first thought -- a good reason that many companies stay in stealth mode.

The point to take away here is that LMGR seems to have moved on. It is now at the stage where it can concentrate on products rather than blue skies announcements. Surely that puts the company in a much better position today?

Still think I'm biased against LMGR?

Pauline Rigby
thorny
thorny
12/4/2012 | 9:03:02 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
It is really impossible to tell whether or not you yourself are biased against LMGR, but the article you wrote was clearly overly negative.
Admittedly, I am biased in favor of the company, but I have also gotten opinions of the article from others who have no such bias and they have unanimously stated that they thought that the article was biased against the company and its claims.
Blarney
Blarney
12/4/2012 | 8:59:16 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
To: Pauline Rigby

In your posting (in reply to posts received on your article) you promised to take a closer look at the technology at LMGR in the future. In optical networking, the time is now. Any plan to take a closer look.
eagle1997
eagle1997
12/4/2012 | 7:15:59 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
This article is nothing more than a personal attack on LMGR. So much for objective reporting! I'm curios as to what your beef with LMGR is Ms. Rigby?. It seems quite obvious you are not familiar with the world of Research Enginering and Design (RED) projects, challenges, and what is involved in moving to a next generation technology. Did LMGR deliver the prototype they promised yesterday? Word on the street is they did. Although LMGR has not meet your expectations and in your words "blown a lot of hot air", (their hot air was worth listening to) they are not using the media as a tool with malice and destructive intent.
Jingyangsu
Jingyangsu
12/4/2012 | 7:15:58 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
how will Light mangement group's revolutionary swtich impact the industry? and how different is this from Corvis' all optical switch? Does lmgr's switch needs ampliers when operating in the fiber-optic network?
mitch
mitch
12/4/2012 | 7:15:57 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
It's too bad that Ms. Rigby was unable to actually attend the demo and see for herself what was shown. The actual switch was shown and she seems to forget that it is not a demo but an actual working switch.
I for one believe in the people involved with LMGR and find Ms. Rigby's article to be filled with misleading information.
donpat
donpat
12/4/2012 | 7:15:57 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
LMGR has an OXC which has no mechanically moving parts, is acoustically driven and has no MEMS mirrors. I think LightReading should visit the company, have a face to face review, see the demo in person and then write a factual, up to date article on the demo they witness. You never know LMGR may just have something important and useful. And I would like LightReading to give its fair opinion in print, based on the facts of their review.
duelittle2
duelittle2
12/4/2012 | 7:15:56 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
INACCURACY NOTE:

PORTIONS OF THE ARTICLE

"This is the third time in two years it has
promised to revolutionize the fiber-optic industry, but
the first time there's been
any evidence that the projects were anything more than hot
air."

"HOT AIR" THEY CAME OUT W/ PATENTS APPLIED FOR--NOT THE PRODUCTS
IT TAKES TIME TO MAKE PROTOTYPES
THE PROJECTOR IS UP AND RUNNING
IT WAS THE SWITCH NOT THE COMPRESSOR THAT WAS PROMISED BY
YEAR END!!
"In April 2000, LMGR made another way-out claim. It announced
a patent for a
device called an "information compressor" (see LMGR Intros
Compression
Scheme ). According to LMGR, this was a new type of
optical source that could
easily provide thousands of WDM (wavelength-division
multiplexing) channels at
different wavelengths simultaneously. At the time, LMGR's
president Don Iwacha
was confident that a demonstrator would be built by the
end of 2000. But when
Light Reading asked him about this recently, he said
merely that there was no
demonstrator yet, and he had no fixed date when it would
be ready."
THIS CAN BE VERIFIED FROM TRANSCRIPTS OF DON I. SPEAKING
ON A RADIO BROADCAST - V-CALL BACK IN MAY!!
LISTEN HEAR
http://www.vcall.com/NASApp/VC...

(Voluntary Disclosure: Position- Long; ST Rating- Strong Buy; LT Rating- Strong Buy)
concreetjungle
concreetjungle
12/4/2012 | 7:15:56 PM
re: Acousto-Optical Switches: A Sound Idea
Firsthand observation, IMO would create more accurate information with respect to LMGR technology. I found the article that Ms. Rigby wrote to be somewhat confusing on the part of Lightreading and perhaps actually misleading. I thank you all for the clarification and welcomed input.
Regards ceejay
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