Rugged Optical Transceivers for Embedded Computing Systems

Gérald Persaud, VP Business Development and Michel Têtu, Senior Business Development Advisor
The objective of this white paper is to show how important and critical optical interconnect is becoming in the development of high-performance embedded systems.

Embedded Systems Market to Reach $133B by 2020*

Eyes and ears everywhere

For military and aerospace applications, C4ISR (Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) is invaluable for almost instantaneous high-end decision making. 

*: MarketsandMarkets

Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Process

The Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance process (ISR) requires the collection and processing of signals generated by a large amount of sensors of various types like active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, high resolution cameras, sonars and so on. Analog signals are digitized and transmitted to a high performance embedded computing unit (HPEC) for data fusion and processing through high bit-rate fiber-optic links. Through deep learning algorithms, actions to be taken are identified and communicated to decisional centers. 

ISR Technology Trends

HPEC are made of multiple high-speed microprocessors, memory and storage set on electronic boards usually interconnected through copper backplane circuitry.
However with the data rate of these interconnects reaching over 10 Gbps, optical interconnects begin to be the preferred choice due to their high bandwidth, high density I/O, low loss, low weight, and immunity against EMI.

  • Sensors: higher resolution cameras and radars
  • Processor: multicore, low power GPGPU, GPP, FPGA
  • Storage: solid state, small, rugged, reliable (RAID)
  • Sensor fusion: correlate information from sensors
  • Computing: Virtualization, parallel processing 
  • Small SWaP: more capability for SFF (3U VPX)
  • All digital: multi-purposed, software defined functionality
  • Intelligent: learning machines
  • Data rich: real-time and historical data
  • Secure: hack-resistant communications
  • Reliable: no single point failure
  • Small: more payload for other systems
  • Scalable: simple upgrades, long life
  • Multi-purposed: target ID, weather, communications.
Computerized Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance

Illustration of the relation between the different elements of C4ISR systems (Command, Control, Compute, Communicate, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance).

Applications of optical interconnect in some high-performance systems

Space Fence Radar: Toward all-digital AESA radar

Learn more on the Space Fence project 

US Air Force Space Surveillance Network

Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar
  • Detect, track, catalog satellites and debris on earth orbits
Transmitter array
  • S-Band (2 GHz to 4 GHz)
  • 36 000 independent radiating elements
  • Can generate thousands of radar beams
Receiver array
  • Separate from transmitter array
  • 86 000 independent receiving elements
  • DBF and frequency multiplexing allow for thousands of received beams
Space fence US Air force Space Surveillance Network

ISR technology trends: BAE ARGUS IS system

Learn more on the BAE ARGUS system

  • Four high-resolution visible light cameras
  • Uses 368 CCD COTS 5 Mp cameras
  • 4×48 fiber optical ribbon cables
  • 16×SNAP 12 @ 3 Gbps offering 600 Gbps total I/O throughput

Optical interconnect is used on ARGUS IS system

  • High BW, low latency
  • Small SWaP
  • High density
  • Defines system performance
Optical interconnect in BAE Argus IS
Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance Imaging System (ARGUS-IS)

Electrical vs optical interconnect power consumption

This diagram shows a rough evaluation of electrical power consumption for the connection of a sensor to an embedded computer system. Here we only consider the front-end of each system. Optic interconnect need 2 to 3 times less power than an electrical connection.

Electrical vs optical interconnect power consumption

Summary of Embedded Optics Benefits

LighABLE embedded transceiver

Reflex Photonics chip size rugged parallel optic transceivers meet the requirements for harsh environment applications. 


  • Proven: Thousands used in aerospace and defense applications
  • Scalable BW: 28 Gbps+
  • Receiver sensitivity: –12 dBm
  • Low bit error rates: 10−15
  • Low loss: 0.003 dB/m (OM3 @850 nm)
  • Reach: 300 m (OM3 @10G)
480G full duplex I/O card

480G full duplex I/O. FPGA processors, server cards, and cellular systems.


Small SWaP-C

  • Chip size optical transceivers
  • Less than 5 mm high
  • Light weight electronics and glass fiber
  • I/O density: 48 fibers in MT connector
  • Low power consumption: 1.2 W for 12 lanes @10 Gbps
Optic fiber offer much better I/O density that copper interconnect.

Micro-coaxial connectors compared to optical MT ferrule connector



  • Complies with Telcordia GR-468-CORE and MIL-STD-883E standards for severe environmental conditions.
  • Operating temperature: −40 °C to 85 °C operation @ 10 Gbps
  • Storage temperature: − 57 °C to 125 °C
  • Moisture and thermal shock resistant
  • EMI and EMP immune
Optic fiber are immune to electro magnetic interferences.

Harsh environment


VPX optical interconnect standards

ANSI/VITA Standard

  • ANSI/VITA 66.0: Optical Interconnect On VPX
  • ANSI/VITA 66.1: Full Size MT Variant
  • ANSI/VITA 66.2: ARINC 801 Variant
  • ANSI/VITA 66.3: Mini-Expended Beam Variant
  • ANSI/VITA 66.4: Half Size MT Variant
VITA 66.X standard
VITA 66.X standard

Image courtesy of TE Connectivity

VITA 66.4 backplane
VITA 66.4 standard

Image courtesy of ELMA

Under consideration

VITA 65: Open VPX
VITA 67.3C: VPX: Coaxial & Optical Interconnect,
VITA 76: High Performance Cable Standard
VITA 78: Space VPX Systems
VITA 78.1: Space VPX Lite
VITA 74 VNX: Small Form Factor VPX

VITA 67.3C standard
VITA 67.3C standard

Image courtesy of TE Connectivity

LightCONEX blind mate optical interconnect

For a higher level of integration, Reflex Photonics in collaboration with Amphenol Aerospace, developed optical blind mate connectors where the optical transceiver is directly embedded in the plug-in module connector  following ANSI/VITA VPX technology.

  • Supports 2 level maintenance
  • Integrates optical transceiver into plug-in module connector
  • Less board space needed for optical interface
  • Fits VITA 66.4 backplane aperture for upgrades
  • No need for fiber optic handling
VPX board with VITA 46 and LightCONEX plug-in connectors.

VPX board with VITA 46 and LightCONEX plug-in connectors.

VPX backplane with LightCONEX blind mate optic

ELMA 3U VPX backplane with VITA 46 and LightCONEX connectors.

VPX backplane with LightCONEX blind mate optic

Close-up of the LightCONEX plug-in module connector.

VPX backplane with LightCONEX blind mate optic

Close-up of the LightCONEX backplane connector.

VPX optical solutions with Reflex Photonics embedded optics

Amphenol VPX media converter

  • 6U VPX media converter
  • Converts backplane high-speed signal to front optical and electrical Ethernet I/O
  • 32 × 10G BASE SR in a VITA 66.1 connector
  • 4 × 10G BASE-T and 8 × 1G BASE-T
Amphenol VPX media converter. Converts backplane high-speed signal to front optical and electrical Ethernet I/O

Interface Concept Optical FMC Board

  • Transceiver board (12TX + 12RX)
  • 120 Gbps full duplex
  • Supports front panel Optical Interface
  • Interfaces with 3U VPX FPGA boards
 New generation Optical FMC cards use LightABLE LH SR12 embedded optical transceivers.

Meritec Active Optical Module

  • Extends electrical reach to 100 m @10Gbps
  • Converts electrical to optical signals
  • Size 17 VITA 76 electrical connector
  • 12-lane MT optical in a size 11 shell
Meritec Active Optical Module.  Converts electrical to optical signals Size 17 VITA 76 electrical connector 12-lane MT optical in a size 11 shell.

In conclusion

Reflex Photonics rugged parallel optic transceivers meet the requirements for harsh environment applications and offer:

High performance with less SWaP-C

Operation under industrial temperature range (-40°C to 85°C) with BER as low as 10−15 delivering 10 Gbps/ch and –12 dBm sensitivity. Less than 5 mm high. Low power consumption 100 mW/ch.


Thousands used in aerospace and defense applications.



Fully qualified following Telcordia GR-468-CORE and MIL-STD-883E standards for severe environmental conditions. 


Successful 2500 h Accelerated Life Testing @ 100 °C. Storage temperature from −57 °C to 125 °C.

Winning edge for design engineers

Reflex Photonics to attend Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition

Reflex Photonics will be present at the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) conference.
Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) is the world leading event that brings together the global defence and security sector to innovate and share knowledge. DSEI represents the entire supply chain on an unrivalled scale.
DSEI 2017 will have five key sector-focused Zones: Air, Land, Naval, Security & Joint, all showcasing the latest equipment and systems.

The DSEI Strategic Conferences take place on 11 September (Day Zero) with the main exhibition and free seminar programme running for four days from 12-15 September 2017, ExCeL, London.

Please contact Sales to plan a meeting. 

Reflex Photonics launches a line of Optical Testers to simplify testing of its LightABLE rugged transceivers and of optical interconnects.

The Optical Testers are the perfect vehicle for testing and experiencing the LightABLE SR4 and SR12 transceiver modules.

Recognizing the need for a ready-made test bench for its line of transceiver modules, Reflex Photonics introduces a complete line of Optical Tester for BER measurements on the LightABLE™ SR4 and SR12 rugged embedded transceivers and optical interconnects.
Currently, Reflex Photonics offers these different optical test instruments:

Optical Tester SR4 40G (Enables BER measurement)
Optical Tester SR12 120G (Enables BER measurement)
Optical Generator/Tester SR12 120G (Generates PRBS and includes BERT capability)

The Reflex Photonics Optical Testers will speed up the LightABLE performance validation and confirm successful integration into your system as it enables BER and eye diagram tests over the SR4 and SR12 transceivers. In addition, those products will enable your communication system BER assessment.
The Optical Generator/Tester integrates a PRBS (pseudo random bit signal) generator and an embedded BER measurement capability. This instrument acts like a BERT as it will directly perform optical communication system BER assessment. It will also act as an optical cross-connect OXC.

Dr. Jocelyn Lauzon, V.P. Engineering at Reflex Photonics adds: 

These products offer an efficient, proven, and elegant ready-made solution that takes the guesswork out of testing performance and functionality of Reflex Photonics’ LightABLE.
Obviously, you can do the characterization of our transceiver, but if you replace the loopback cable by a bi-directional parallel optic communication system, the Optical Tester can be used to characterize the performance of a whole communication system. The communication bit rate and protocol can be changed, so the Optical Tester can be used to test different system architectures.

Reflex Photonics is proud to announce new operating temperature absolute rating on the LightABLE

LightABLE embedded transceiver

Reflex Photonics has proven that its LightABLE™ multichannel 120 Gbps* rugged optical transceivers can withstand temperature ranging between −55 ºC and 100 ºC, thus reaffirming Reflex Photonics commitment in delivering first-in-class optical modules for harsh environment applications. 
Reflex Photonics is relentlessly testing its line of LightABLE transceivers and constantly improving their ruggedness.

Guillaume Blanchette, product manager, says:
We are quite excited to announce that our LightABLE transceivers can withstand temperature ranging between −55 ºC and 100 ºC. This result reaffirms the reliability of the Reflex Photonics LightABLE transceivers and the suitability of these products for field deployment in harsh environments such as those found in military and space applications.

* SR12 version

Military Embedded Systems magazine interviews Mr. Gerry Persaud, V.P. Business Development

Mariana Iriarte, Associated Editor for Military Embedded Systems interviews Mr. Gerry Persaud, V.P. Business Development of Reflex Photonics on the challenges in the design process and where designs are trending for embedded optical modules.


Gerald Persaud V.P. Business Development

Embedded optics enabling higher bandwidth computing

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems are driving the need for higher bandwidth computing and engineers have turned to ruggedized fiber optics to meet that demand. In this Q&A with Gerald Persaud, Vice President, Business Development at Reflex Photonics, discusses the challenges in the design process and where designs are trending for embedded optical modules; VITA Standards; and how secure communications, ISR, and radar systems are taking advantage of the technology.…Read the full article

Reflex Photonics LightABLE embedded transceiver demonstrate their ruggedness with successful Accelerated Life Testing.

LightABLE being subjected to Accelerated Life Testing

Reflex Photonics is proud to announce that its LightABLE™ LH Series SR4 full-duplex 4 lane transceiver have proven they can withstand 2000 hours of “Lifetime Test” with no degradation of their performance. The successful completion of this industry-standard test is a first step in Reflex Photonics’ comprehensive space qualification program for its rugged transceivers.
A group of modules from the LightABLE LH product series were submitted to a “Lifetime Test” against MIL-STD-883J, method 1005, cond. D, June 2013. The test is conducted at a case temperature of 100 °C, 15 °C more than the recommended maximum operating temperature.
These units were tested against Reflex Photonics’ final production test procedure on all 8 channels, at different intervals, and at 3 different operating temperatures: −40 °C, 23 °C, and 85 °C. Even after 2000 hours of exposure to 100 °C temperatures, the LightABLE units maintained their high operational performance.

This result confirms the long-term reliability of the Reflex Photonics LightABLE transceivers and the suitability of these products for field deployment in harsh environments such as those found in military and space applications.
The LightABLE products are parallel optic interconnects operating at 10 Gbps per lane and offering the following features: small SWaP, operation over a large temperature range
(-40 °C to 85 °C), storage temperature from -57 °C to 125 °C. The LightABLE can be surface mounted or plugged on a board, and will support high temperature reflow process and operation with a link budget better than 13 dB.

Mr. Jocelyn Lauzon, Product Line Manager at Reflex Photonics adds:

When products are exposed to temperature stresses in the field, Accelerated Life Testing is used to simulate product life. In order to accelerate aging, products are tested at temperatures above that of their normal operating temperature.
Defects or failure that would only show up after many years in the field at normal operating temperatures can be detected in short times in an Accelerated Life Test.

Reflex Photonics is leading the IFES Market with new SNAP12 high-performance transceiver

SNAP12 embedded transceivers

Major aircraft companies looking for the best signal quality and bandwidth in their in-flight entertainment systems turn to the SNAP12 embedded transceiver for its ability to distribute the highest quality content at blazing speed.
Reflex Photonics, a leader in optical interconnects for IFES, has extended the quality and performance of the SNAP12 product family up to 75G in both commercial and industrial grade (−40°C to 85°C). This improved performance can extend the life of existing EVOP system and improve the performance at no extra cost for airliner. These modules underwent extensive testing to meet requirements for harsh environments. The Reflex’s SNAP12 are 100% compatible with the industry standards.
SNAP12 are 12 channel parallel optical modules with a standard chassis mount MPO interface. They are self-contained electrical-to-optical converters requiring no internal fiber management or handling.

Luis Perez, Sales Engineer, says:

The SNAP12 is the only solution that offers the best signal quality with no latency for the increasingly demanding IFES features such as Wi-Fi and cell phone support.
In addition, SNAP12 brings fault tolerance, reduces weight, and offers EMI/EMC and lightning tolerance over copper interconnects. There is no comparison… Reflex Photonics also keeps improving the SNAP12 performance with the planned development of a 120G version.


Note that Reflex Photonics representatives will be available for meetings at Aircraft Interior Expo in Hamburg Germany. Please contact Sales to book appointments.

Reflex Photonics to show its LightCONEX active optical backplane connector at OFC2017

LightCONEX is a backplane interconnect solution that integrates a multilane optical transceiver into a small, rugged board-edge connector to enable easy circuit card replacement and simplify system upgrades. This new connector reduces system cost and complexity as it requires no onboard optical cables or cable routing features. As well, it frees up board space by integrating the optical transceiver into the board edge connector. Its rugged construction ensures error free data transmission under severe shock, vibration, and temperature extremes.
The LightCONEX is offered as a 4-lane full-duplex transceiver or a 12-lane transmitter or receiver operating at up to 25 Gbps per lane over a temperature from –40°C to 85°C and occupies a very small volume of 24 (L) × 14 (W) × 5 (H) mm. It is mounted on the plug-in module board via a 1 mm high LGA socket and its output connector is compatible with the VITA 66.4 backplane aperture standard.
The LightCONEX finds applications in optical backplanes, routers, switches, and VPX systems, like those deployed in high performance embedded computing systems for civilian and military command and control monitoring systems.

Reflex Photonics VP of Product Management, Gerald Persaud said:

Today’s high performance computers demand numerous high bandwidth optical interconnects that uses the least space at the lowest system cost. LightCONEX is the first optical interconnect solution to meet these needs in the super competitive high performance embedded computing market.

You are invited to see a live demonstration of the LightCONEX and other Reflex Photonics products such as the LightABLE rugged transceiver, SNAP12, QSFP, and CFP. 
Come visit us at OFC 2017, Booth #3939 from March 21 to March 23 2107.


Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Gestion AD Invest $3.5 Million in Reflex Photonics

Fonds de solidarité FTQ and Gestion AD Invest $3.5 Million in Kirkland-Based Reflex Photonics

From left to right:
Mr. Charles Sylvestre, Senior Director, Investments – Information Technology, Telecommunications and Environment -Fonds de Solidarité FTQ
Mr. Noël Dubé, President and CEO -Reflex Photonics
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia, Member of Parliament for Lac-Saint-Louis
Mr. Jean-Philippe Brassard, Regional Director, Greater Montréal Business Office -Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions

In order to allow Reflex Photonics to acquire cutting-edge infrastructure and equipment for its continued growth, the Fonds de solidarité FTQ is investing $3 million in the company’s growth. For its part, Gestion AD is investing  $500,000. This co-investment is part of the “Fonds de solidarité FTQ Investissements technologiques partnership” launched in 2012. Total investments of $5.5 million in the company from all financial partners will allow to consolidate 24 jobs and create 14 more. At the same time, Lac-St-Louis MP Francis Scarpaleggia announced a $500,000 refundable contribution from Canada Economic Development.