Searching for sense and trends in oceans of data and information.

Through the View Glass

Published 10.20.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing companies, technologies and markets related to optics and optical materials. View Glass is today's focus. View Glass is a company that has changed its name a number of times, which LWRAS has previously noted can be a red flag. However, in this case, the name changes, from eChromics to Soladigm and then to View Glass simply reflect attempts to give the company a name attractive to investors. View Glass has a large number of investors, including Corning, Inc.

Corning is considered a bellwether here at LWRAS, and its businesses and investments are watched closely. Corning has a history of correctly identifying future revenue sources, therefore the fact that it backs View Glass is seen as a positive sign for the company. Corning also has a history of forming joint ventures, but to date, there is no indication that such is planned for View Glass (View).

View's electrochromic (EC) window technology is based on stack of layered coatings that are deposited on the inside of a pane of glass that is then sandwiched with another pane. This means that the coatings are protected from the elements. The active layer of the coatings is based on tungsten oxide, a ceramic coating. As an electrochromic window, power is necessary to change the tint of the window. Different colored tints are available. The windows began to be sold in 2013.
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Oclaro turns around with a lead

Published 10.14.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing companies and markets related to optical technology. The focus on this day is Oclaro, a publicly traded company that trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the ticker OCLR. This profile includes information from Oclaro's 2016 10K and its website. Other sources are linked as required.

Oclaro manufactures optical components, modules and subsystems for core optical transport, service provider, enterprise and data center markets. Essentially the company tries to be a vertically integrated supplier for any and all high bandwidth markets.


Oclaro's product portfolio includes:
  • Tunable laser transmitters

    tunable laser products include discrete lasers and co-packaged laser modulators

  • Transceivers

    coherent pluggable 100 Gb/s and 200 Gb/s solutions for metro and long haul networks

  • External modulators

    … lithium niobate external modulators are optical devices that manipulate the phase or the amplitude of an optical signal. Their primary function is to transfer information on an optical carrier by modulating the light

  • Transponder modules

    … transponder modules provide both transmitter and receiver functions. A transponder includes electrical circuitry to control the laser diode and modulation function of the transmitter as well as the receiver electronics

  • Discrete lasers and receivers

    …portfolio of discrete receivers for metro and long-haul applications includes 10 Gb/s XMD PIN and avalanche photodiode ("APD") receivers, 10 Gb/s coplanar receivers in PIN and APD configurations and 20 Gb/s balanced receivers. We also supply distributed feedback ("DFB") laser die at 10 Gb/s and 25 Gb/s.

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Is FTTH Dead?

Published 10.10.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing markets related to optical technology. Fiber to the home (FTTH) is (as the phrase suggests) is a fiber optic network that extends from the transmitter to the end user's residence. FTTH was the long term goal of telecommunication providers, however, the evidence of the past decade is that this is no longer the case. Cable companies are still pushing fiber deeper into their networks, but they are not stringing fiber to homes, except in cases of new construction— so called "green fields." Cable is also taking customers from Telcos that offer DSL, but most of those customers are not FTTH.

FTTH continues to lag in adoption. Google's fiber effort won't make up the difference, except in areas that meet the program's criteria. Google won't bring fiber to any community where it would have to dig to do so. The primary cost of FTTH remains labor. It takes time and effort (and permissions) to dig trenches and lay conduit. There are parts of the world where optical fiber is occasionally buried in the ground without conduit, but the US isn't one of them. Burying naked optical fiber is terrible practice, but it does happen in less developed countries.
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Ubiquitous Energy for Windows and more

Published 10.6.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing companies, technologies and markets related to optics and optical materials. Ubiquitous energy (UE) is genuine startup company that spun out of research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012 that is attempting to commercialize solar coating technology designed to generate power from the sun.

UE’s technology uses standard vacuum deposition techniques, most likely PECVD (plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition) because UE makes a point to note that their processing occurs at low temperatures.

UE is aiming for to compete in three markets: mobile displays, the Internet of Things (IoT), and solar windows. Based on the company's website and press coverage, that's order of interest. The advantage its technology offers mobile devices and the IoT is battery-less power. The company has working prototypes that it has started to install in the field.
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Solar Powered Windows and Red Flags

Published 10.5.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing companies, technologies and markets related to optics and optical materials. SolarWindow Technologies (SWT), a publicly traded company that trades over the counter (OTC) with the ticker WNDW, is the subject for today. SWT makes coatings (its website calls them veneers) for existing and new windows that are designed to produce solar energy. SWT's first target market is commercial windows, though the company recognizes the huge potential market for consumer windows as well. All well and good, but the company also doesn't seem to have a product ready for application in any market.

The public filings for SWT are not available at the Security and Exchange (SEC) website. LWRAS accessed the SEC forms cited below through a brokerage account, thus no links to the source can be provided. The stock is lightly traded with very low volume OTC, and its stock price as of the time of publication is under $5, neither of which recommends it as an investment for most investors, and both of which earn it the descriptor "penny stock".

So why consider the company? When considering potential seminal or game changing technology, the adage, "no risk, no glory" holds. The concept of depositing layers on the windows of skyscrapers that would generate power is alluring. SWT claims to have a "liquid based" coating material that will allow it to put a veneer on the windows of building to generate power. However, even a brief look at the company raises some red flags.
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Sage Glass Smart Windows

Published 10.3.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing markets related to optical technology. Sage Glass, a subsidiary of Saint-Gobain (S-G) is the focus today. Sage glass manufactures electrochromic (EC) windows aimed at the commercial market. Electrochromic windows darken when a voltage is applied to the active coatings (typically tungsten oxide). For commercial customers, EC windows can replace traditional window treatments and increase energy efficiency.

Sage started in 1989 in Valley Cottage, New York, then in 2010, Saint-Gobain invested $80 million. In 2012, S-G bought the rest of the company. S-G is a public company that trades on the Paris Stock Exchange, and it had revenues of almost 40 billion euros in 2015. S-G claims to be the largest flat glass manufacturer in Europe and the second largest worldwide. The year 2012 was tough for S-G and its earnings per share (EPS) declined. Since then the EPS has increased, but in 2015, the EPS was still less than 2011.
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Beyond WiFi, Velmenni offers LiFi

Published 10.2.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing markets related to optical technology. Today's focus is a start up called Velmenni that has its research and development based in India and in Estonia.

Deepak Solanki and Saurabh Garg started Velmenni in January 2014. Initially, the duo designed different products (traffic light down-counters, vehicle tracking systems, home automation solutions, & etc.) for bigger companies to sustain themselves as they bootstrapped their venture on the side. But they always wanted to work on their own product.

Why Estonia?

In July 2014, Deepak and Saurabh received an incubation offer and seed investment from an Estonian hardware accelerator Buildit. “We’ve implemented our technology in one of the industries in Tallinn, Estonia. Now, we’re back in Delhi, and setting up development team. We’ll market this technology primarily in the European market,” adds Deepak.

LiFi (light fidelity, though no one uses that phrase) is the acronym for the technology that permits data to be sent using visible light signals from light emitting diode (LED) lights. Proponents tout the technology as a way to increase the ubiquitousness of internet connectivity. LiFi (being based on visible light) won't travel through walls, and so is also touted as being more secure. The other advantage LiFi signals have is that they would not interact with other radio signals, unlike WiFi signals.
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From missile domes to projection screens

Published 10.1.2016
For October 2016, LWRAS is analyzing markets related to optical technology. Today's focus is a profile of Severtson Screens, a small private company based in Mesa Arizona. Based on its website, the company has about 20 employees, and online estimates of its annual revenues are over $6 million.

The company makes projection screens for home theaters and cinemas and 2016 is its 30th anniversary. The company was founded in 1986 after inventing a way to deposit optical coatings on dome shapes for the military. This technique was critical for the performance for satellites and smart munitions. Those coatings would function in the infrared portion of the spectrum, but it was likley the technique to coat the odd shape that was more valuable than the design of the coating itself. Uniformity of thickness and structure would be critical.

More recently, Severtson seems to have exited the military optics market in favor of manufacturing high end projection screens. Severtson entered the home theater market in 2003, and in 2009 became a full service cinema screen maker. Its screens have low a rejection rate, which makes them popular. Coatings on projection screens are designed to increase the reflection of light in the visible range of the spectrum. The specific design of the projection screen coating is dependent on the type and placement of the projector to be used to illuminate the screen.
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Brexit Progress?

Published 9.27.2016
It's been over a month since LWRAS considered the status of England's exit from the European Union EU or Brexit, so let's take a look:

  • While the Remain camp clearly overplayed its hand in terms of the immediate effects, the long term effects are still unknown and many risks remain.
  • Not much has been decided yet regarding Brexit, and banks are getting impatient. Several have warned that they may not wait until the UK gets its act together to begin to relocate. Other countries, of course, are salivating to gain the jobs and tax revenues. The dithering is understandable, Brexit was never going to as easy as its proponents suggested and was always going to depend on the attitudes of the rest of the EU.
  • A so-called "hard Brexit" seems to be the current thinking among many, in which the UK will control its borders, but then have to negotiate trade deals with each country rather than the EU as a whole. Facilitating trade was the original purpose of the EU. Scotland, which voted strongly to remain in the EU favors a "soft" Brexit that would be as close to the EU set up as possible. The drive for Scottish independence is bubbling again. Read the rest.

Apple moves the haptic needle?

Published 9.23.2016
Haptic technologies has long been an interest here, and as noted in the additional disclaimer, the author is a long term investor in the technology. Haptics is one of those "technologies of the future" that seems to be remain in the future. Well, not entirely, most mobile phones have haptic feed back in the form of vibrations, and Samsung phones have haptic feedback for their touchscreens. In the past few years wearable haptic technologies (think iWatch) have begun to gain traction in the market.

It's not clear that this will be all positive. Most current haptic and planned haptic products are for alerts. The iWatch nudges your wrist to tell you to stand up, the ring buzzes when it’s time to for a meeting, things of that nature. All well and good, unless consumers get tired of being nagged. Lane keeping systems in vehicles often offer a means of turning the alerts off, and the evidence is that a sizable number of consumers choose to do just that.

Another issue can be the learning curve to properly use a haptic screen.

The researchers proposed a new theory explaining that there are three sources of error that make timing very hard with touchscreens.

First, people are not able to keep the finger at a constant distance above the surface. The finger is always moving, and even the slightest movement hampers our ability to time precisely. By contrast, when using physical keys, the finger rests on the key, eliminating this source of error.

Second, when the finger touches the surface, it is hard for the neural system to predict when the input event has been registered. Typically software detects the touch when the finger first touches the display. But users cannot sense this event so it is not predictable for them.

Third, when the event has been registered on the touchscreen, it still needs to be processed in the application, and in some cases the time that it takes is longer than in other ones, creating another source of latency.

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Demographics and jobs

Published 9.15.2016
The prime working age population is increasing again; it had been falling since the Great Recession.

The prime working age population peaked in 2007, and bottomed at the end of 2012. As of August 2016, there are still fewer people in the 25 to 54 age group than in 2007!

However the prime working age (25 to 54) will probably hit a new peak in a couple of months.

(Emphasis in the quote added.)

This means the world is not ending, and that Millennials are entering the workforce. Millennials outnumber Boomers, though the boomers births are not evenly distributed through the years of their generation. Instead there is a "birth bulge" shortly after World War II. Hence the Boomer generation is a bit like a pig passing through a python. US Social services (Social Security, Medicare) are having a hard time handling the huge bulge in demand (despite generations to prepare) just as the python struggles to digest the pig stuck in its throat.

Here is why it’s important to pay attention to the actual facts rather than analysis, the big increase in the working population in the 70s and 80s was due to women entering the workforce rather than staying home. To the extent that more Millennial mothers (may??) stay home rather than work would artificially depress the prime worker numbers. At least, that’s the view here.

Bill McBride doesn’t buy the “end is nigh” because growth isn’t at 3%, because he thinks demographic shifts explain some of the decline.

Boomers are retiring, and retirees buy less stuff. Millennials are only just beginning to reach the point of purchasing major items to build a life— and many of them are still either buried under college debt or still recovering from the effects of the Recession. Read the rest.

Delving into Demographics

Published 9.8.2016
Demographics is a long term interest at LWRAS, though this will be the first time that the topic will be addressed in this forum. The first few entries will mostly reflect information collected over a period of time.

The Fourth Turning

The fourth turning is an idea conceived by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny.

The book considers generational history and divides the generations into 4 types or "turnings." These notes are derived from a John Mauldin newsletter based on a talk given by Howe at a meeting. I had teh book at one point, but appear to have lent it and not gotten it back. The talk tracks with the book, since he's been giving the same presentation, more or less, since publishing the book. (That's not meant as a slam, nice work if you can get it.)

Generational chaos is happening. At present, according to Howe, we are living through a fourth turning, or time of crisis. The good news is that a time of rebirth typically follows a period of crisis. This current era is unique in that there are currently six generations alive at the same time. The normal human pattern is for four generations to be alive at the same time. How that will change the future isn't clear. Read the rest.

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