Figures alone don't tell the whole story but the figures are a story in themselves. According to the shows' organisers, 7250 people 'participated' in ECOC, Copenhagen, while 6700 were at NFOEC, Dallas, the following week.
However these headline figures included conference attendees, exhibitors, and show visitors — the last group numbering just 1550 at ECOC (down about 30% on last year). It would be fair to say that a similar modest share of the NFOEC total was actively browsing.
Commercialisation of what had originally been academic conferences has created the situation where these shows are increasingly judged by the aisle counts. But although many exhibitors were clearly disappointed by the low traffic, many pointed out that only really interested parties were bothering to attend the exhibitions.
Not everybody was looking glum as there were a good number of new faces especially at ECOC, where there were more than 60 Asian-based firms exhibiting.
Of particular interest was what appeared to be a "solution looking for a problem" from Kyoto Semiconductor: an abacus-style array of miniature balls of silicon about 3mm in diameter, polarised and able to produce enough current to power a pair of LEDs.
General manager Masaru Niwa told LWE, "We're at the prototype stage — we don't have devices yet." Next year's killer technology? Maybe. (www.kyosemi.co.jp)
At both shows, there was much talk of the opportunities in China. To whit, LWE's sister publication Lightwave was showing new supplement Lightwave China, published in Chinese, naturally.
On the conference side, there were respectable audiences for a proliferation of papers, split between technology and business. ECOC.featured a record-breaking almost 800 papers (some detailed in this section on pp16-17).
More NFOEC coverage next issue.