OFC is the place to be for those interested in discovering the latest innovation and meeting the biggest names in optical communications and networking. For over 40 years, the event has welcomed delegates from all over the world to meet, greet, teach and learn; facilitating lifelong connections and driving the industry forward.

When I first attended OFC as young PhD student, I was in awe meeting luminaries from industry and academia whose papers I’d read, and even more excited to find they were easy to talk to and happy to give advice. I would never have thought that a little more than 20 years later, I would be opening OFC 2019 as one of its general chairs! It’s a role that I feel humbled and honored to fulfil.

Together with my co-chairs Gabriella Bosco from Politecnico di Torino and Laurent Schares from IBM Research, we have lined up three exciting plenary talks for the opening session. Our speakers will discuss cutting-edge topics including self-driving vehicles, open networks and optical integration. Self-driving vehicles are pioneering optical sensing and machine learning technology, as well as creating demand for future communications. Openness has become a new imperative in 5G and will change how networks are designed and operated. And finally, electro-photonic integration will be an indispensable technology asset to increase data rates while lowering cost, size and power.

Alex Jinsung Choi, SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation at Deutsche Telekom, will provide the networking perspective and discuss the importance of open innovation. His talk entitled Towards Open Innovation in 5G will cover how internet traffic growth and the dawn of 5G services will bring new requirements for base station connectivity. Alex will discuss how we need to rethink the way networks are constructed, including a shift to disaggregation, openness and vendor-neutrality. He’ll also detail how ecosystems created by initiatives such as TIP and OCP will play a significant role in shaping the future.

One of the themes at the heart of OFC will be the question how far photonic and electro-photonic integration will take us. In his talk , Tackling Capacity & Density Challenges by Electro-Photonic Integration, Benny Mikkelsen, Founder and CTO of Acacia Communications, will discuss the implications of ever-higher data rates and the challenges of smaller form factor optical interfaces. He’ll talk about how integrated photonics, electronic processing, and co-packaging of photonics and electronics will be critical to provide the vital cost and size reduction the industry needs.

Our third plenary speaker is Dmitri Dolgov, CTO & VP Engineering, Waymo. He will deliver a visionary talk on the future of vehicular mobility. Dmitri was one of the original members of the Google self-driving car project, which became Waymo in 2016. In his talk, From Self-driving Cars to a Vision for Future Mobility, he’ll explore how LiDAR, radar, and cameras, give Waymo’s vehicles a detailed picture of the world. The presentation will share how Waymo’s vehicles use a powerful combination of custom-built sensors and software to safely navigate the roads, how they communicate, and how machine learning and artificial intelligence touch every part of Waymo’s self-driving system.

With more than 15,000 attendees, 700 exhibitors and 700 presentations, OFC will offer much more to explore and discuss. The fast-moving nature of the optical communication and networking world means that every year we learn something new. The sport is finding the latest trends, the hottest topics and drawing fresh inspiration for your future work. As I envision all of the PhD students attending this year, I hope that they will draw the same drive and motivation from OFC that I myself have received. I hope to meet many of you in San Diego next week at OFC 2019 – the world’s premier event on optical communications!