Last week, we released our new Vtric brand of premium Active Optical Cables (AOCs). In this interview, Richard Brown, the Vice President of Marketing at VIA, explains why we introduced Vtric, the future products to come, and the impact AOCs could have on the future of computer vision and other applications.
Q: Richard, why did VIA decide to expand into the optical cable market?
One of the main reasons is that, in our video wall business in Taiwan, we saw a growing demand for high-bandwidth cabling when we were making installations in shopping centers and for entertainment events. Connecting systems to huge arrays of massive HD displays in cramped and crowded spaces can be quite a tricky business! With their bendability and durability, AOCs are the ideal solution for this.
We’ve seen the same trend with our industrial customers. If you consider applications like machine vision, customers are installing systems, screens, and cameras in factories and they need to find the best way to transfer high-bandwidth content between these devices for display and analysis.
Looking into the market trends of the future, already 4K is well established for graphics and video, and we’re also seeing a migration in the next few years to 8K and 16K screens. Ensuring high-speed connections to these display devices will be a key challenge.
Q: Did you have a particular customer in mind when designing Vtric Active Optical Cables?
Well, we currently have a customer base within the industrial sector. For factory applications, customers aren’t just looking for high-bandwidth transmission, but also ruggedness and durability. In production environments, for example, forklift trucks may be driving around or people may accidentally step on the cables. The aim with Vtric Active Optical Cables was to make a product as durable as possible.
The same applies, therefore, to more creative businesses. If you’re shooting and broadcasting a video in 4K and you need to pump the footage to the screen very quickly, you don’t want the transmission to be delayed by a broken cable. Durability is key.
Q: As well as facilitating connections in factories, do you also see AOCs playing an active role in the advancement of computer vision?
Yes, I think there’s definitely a synergistic relationship between the two. With computer vision systems, you’re taking lots and lots of images or very high volumes of video at increasingly higher resolutions. Therefore, you’re going to have to find the fastest way of transmitting this data from the camera to the HD systems and then perhaps to a central server, so the two things drive each other. As we transition to VR, that need for high bandwidth connectivity is going get even greater.
Q: You’ve talked a lot about the ruggedness of optical cables, but there are still many misconceptions. What would you say to someone worried about the durability of an active optical cable?
I think there are always challenges in deploying new technology. In the beginning, when optical cables were first introduced, there were questions about their durability, but now the technology has progressed enormously and is much more mature.
For Vtric Active Optical Cables, we’ve selected the components and the materials used very carefully, as well as making sure the manufacturing processes for quality are optimized. The result is a reliable cable, designed to withstand tough conditions.
Q: Are there any plans to release more products under the Vtric brand?
Right now, we’re offering 10m lengths and we’re focusing on HDMI and USB 3.0. Currently, the most popular optical cable format is HDMI 1.4, although HDMI 2.0 is gaining popularity and we’re starting to see some interest in USB 3.0.
In the future, as we start to deliver more products to the market, we’ll expand our product line to greater lengths and to other connectivity solutions, such as DVI. In that sense, we can be very flexible in terms of what products we introduce to the market. Our sister company, VIA Labs, has a leadership position in the USB-C technology market, and it would be a logical step to develop a product featuring that technology in the future.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that we offer customization services. One of the goals of releasing the boxset products is to make AOCs more accessible to the market. At the same time, many of our embedded customers are asking for different lengths and different configurations, because there’s no one-size-fits all product.
Click here to find out more about the Vtric Active Optical Cables release.