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Covid-19 update: 09 July 2020

09 Jul 2020

A round-up of this week's coronavirus-related news and countermeasures from the photonics industry.

Laser World of Photonics China 2020, organized by Messe München Shanghai (MMS), has just closed its doors after taking place at the National Exhibition and Convention Center, Shanghai, through July 5th. The in-person event reportedly drew 57,135 visitors during the three-day conference and exhibition, which featured 819 exhibitors.

Against the backdrop of lockdowns and travel bans applied across many countries, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organizer commented, “the reopening industry finds opportunities in hardship. The event focused on hot topics in the industry with the themes of innovation, integration and intelligent future.”

The full statement from MMS said, “On July 3-5, Laser World of Photonics China was held successfully in the National Exhibition and Convention Center. As the annual event for the global optoelectronics technology industry, the expo constituted a gathering of leading brands and new product launches, technologies and solutions, and presented future trends and prospects for optoelectronics in manufacturing.”

‘Post-Covid-19 era’

It continued, “In addition to automotive/rail transportation, molding, automation, scientific research, and 3C electronics, in this post-Covid-19 era, medical devices, bio-medical, environmental monitoring and other related fields also received much attention.”

The concurrent Photonics Congress China conferences and communication activities were held both online and offline. They included: the 15th International Laser Processing & Systems Conference; the 7th China Laser Market Summit, and the 7th Workshop on Safety of Industrial Lasers & System Use.

However, it has also been confirmed this week that the VISION 2020 expo, scheduled for November, 2020, in Stuttgart, Germany, will not be taking place this year, due to the pandemic.

Organizer Messe Stuttgart says it has been involved in “intensive talks” with the exhibitors of VISION in recent weeks. “In the discussions held it became apparent that VISION cannot be held this year with the usual quality, particularly due to the high international character of the event combined with the continuing travel restrictions,” said Florian Niethammer, project manager.

“In solidarity with our exhibitors who have withdrawn from the trade fair and our promotional supporter, the VDMA Industrial Machine Vision, we have therefore informed all trade fair participants today that VISION, the world's leading trade fair for machine vision, will not take place this year.”

A survey has also been started in order to respond to the needs of the industry and derive suitable measures. The team aims to be able to develop appropriate formats from the results of the survey and to announce the date of the next VISION in the near future.

68% of Britons plan to work remotely more following Covid-19

New research commissioned by optical networking systems supplier Ciena has found that seven out of 10 (69%) British adults are now working from home at least some of the time, up from just 9% before the lockdown measures took effect from March 23rd.

Ciena commented, “This 776% increase is not just a temporary change, as more than two-thirds (68%) expect to work remotely more often even after lockdown restrictions ease. Of these people, over three in five (62%) believe this will be all the time or much more frequently than before the pandemic.”

The research, which surveyed 1,000 UK adults on their internet habits and usage before and during lockdown, was conducted by Opinium during May 2020, also revealed that it is not just remote working that is increasing demand on home internet connections.

During lockdown, 62% of British adults are making more video calls to connect with colleagues and loved ones, 51% are watching more news and current affairs, and 49% are watching more TV and movies online. The increased use of internet-reliant entertainment is putting more demand on home broadband.

Ciena’s research also revealed that more than a quarter (26%) have taken steps to improve their home internet since the lockdown came into effect. The most common changes are: upgrading broadband packages (10%), purchasing a wireless/Wi-Fi extension or booster kit (8%), switching to a different broadband provider (8%), and purchasing a new wireless/Wi-Fi router (8%).

• A similar Ciena-funded survey conducted in the United Arab Emirates, showed that 79% of UAE adults plan to work remotely more often following the Covid-19 pandemic. The research found that 85% of UAE adults are now working from home at least some of the time, up from just 2% before Covid-19 lockdown measures took effect. This 3530% increase is not just a temporary change, as 79% expect to work remotely more often even after lockdown restrictions ease.

Rebooting cities following the pandemic

Finland's VTT Research organization has addressed the much discussed question of how to reboot cities after the Covid-19 pandemic (assuming that there is an after). One of its outputs, VTT CityTune® is described as “a machine-assisted way of decision-making for fast simulations and impact assessments”.

Peter Ylén, Research Team Leader of Smart city impact assessment at VTT commented that it is aiming “to help cities to find the path to the unknown new normal in a manageable way. VTT CityTune is a machine-assisted way of decision-making that combines data and expert knowledge for fast simulations and impact assessment. It supports better decisions by providing different future scenarios, what-if-simulations, and sensitivity analysis.”

The country's second city of Espoo, about 10km west of the capital, Helsinki, is applying VTT CityTune® in its reboot following this crisis, explained Päivi Sutinen, Director for the City as a Service development in Espoo. “Before the pandemic, Espoo was already facing some major challenges related to the city’s growth, emerging models of democracy, digitalisation as well as sustainability issues. The crisis has accelerated the transformation, but this should be considered an opportunity,” said Sutinen.

He added, “the new normal must be defined on an ecosystem level and looking beyond silos. VTT CityTune® is helping Espoo to find the variables that create a positive spiral, and to avoid the negative side effects. The first phase of the project consists in understanding the dynamics and mapping the causalities. In the second phase we proceed to simulation of different scenarios.”

There are already some examples elsewhere of green recovery projects. New Zealand is fast-tracking projects with a green angle, and Amsterdam, Netherlands, is applying a “doughnut economy model” in recovery investments for fair and sustainable housing. Paris and Milan, too, are investing in cycleways after seeing a drop in public transportation usage.

The UK’s Photonics Leadership Group recently reported that the UK hi-tech community, specifically the photonics sector, contributes £5.3 billion ($6.6 B) of gross added value to the UK economy, and employs 69,000 people at an above average productivity level of £76,400 ($95,600) per employee.

In the UK’s south west, Torbay has been identified as a region containing significant photonics and hi-tech industries. During the past four months, while the Covid-19 pandemic has severely restricted people’s movements and prevented certain business activities, many companies have implemented tele-working from home, and safe distance practices when in the office.

The crisis in conjunction with significant global advances in optics-driven internet and communications technologies (much of it developed in Torbay), has enabled a new way of engaging with the world, argues the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster. The cluster this week released a statement saying, “Tele-working, webinars and tele-conferences are now considered normal practice, which will continue even when the pandemic is finally over, so maybe the need to commute each day or move to another city will come to an end, or at least happen less often. This would certainly be good for the environment, people’s quality of life and more career opportunities for those who live in less urban areas.”

Dr. Philip Mitchell, Vice Chair of the Torbay Hi-tech Cluster, said, “For the Torbay area there are some positive messages. Since the beginning of the Covid crisis, those involved in the design and development of optical communications systems have seen demand for products ramping, the need to ship products to global and domestic internet service providers, such as BT, Vodafone, and Virgin Media, has increased, fueled by the need for more bandwidth.”

Typically, these services and applications use advanced leading-edge technology and telecoms products designed in Torbay by established international companies, such as Lumentum, II-VI, Gooch & Housego and Spirent, and new innovative organisations like Bay Photonics, Davies & Bell and Effect Photonics.

SPIE opposes US Government immigration rules following pandemic

On 6 July, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued new guidelines for international students studying in the United States that will require them to leave the country if their entire course load is online. The guidelines were released as universities are announcing their plans for the upcoming academic year, with many institutions opting for completely online to limit the spread of Covid-19.

SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, and publisher of optics.org, stated on its website, “The new guidelines are certain to negatively impact the optics and photonics community in the United States.

“Many of the students enrolled in optics and photonics fields of study at U.S. universities are international. These students will now have to choose between risking their health during a pandemic, changing schools, or going back to their home country. This decision is complicated by the ongoing challenges of travel.

“SPIE supports policies that allow for the international mobility of scientists. Sharing knowledge and talent through collaboration has been core to scientific breakthroughs for over a century, and will continue to be vital to innovation across the sciences. Countries instituting policies that prevent, restrict, or discourage the movement of researchers put themselves at a disadvantage while also hindering scientific progress.

“These students represent some of the brightest the world has to offer, and they have chosen to come to the United States to learn and help continue a long tradition of technology and science advancement,” commented SPIE CEO Kent Rochford.

“As we see the number of Covid-related cases rise, we must provide options that allow individuals to limit their exposure and slow the spread of this awful disease. There is no good reason to require students to be in a classroom during this time. Forcing these young leaders to leave the country could very likely have a significant impact on the future workforce for many key technologies areas and limit the United States’ ability to be a leader in areas crucial to economic and national security.”

SPIE is encouraging all of its U.S.-based constituents to reach out to their elected representatives and ask for strong opposition to these guidelines. SPIE will continue to monitor the situation and keep constituents informed of changes and opportunities for action.

Iridian Spectral TechnologiesHÜBNER PhotonicsABTechBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationHyperion OpticsAlluxaCeNing Optics Co Ltd
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