Photonics is an enabling technology that creates benefits and value far in excess of the cost of the optoelectronic components that are used in a device or system. As such, photonics is responsible for increasing the length of our lives as well as enhancing them. We use photonics to diagnose disease, communicate with one another, secure our property and listen to our favorite song. Each of these applications requires a photodetector to convert the optical information into an electrical waveform. Each also has a number of requirements that determine the type of detector best-suited to it. . . . Meet the author Kenneth J. Kaufmann is in marketing at Hamamatsu Corp. in Bridgewater, N.J. He has a PhD degree in physical chemistry from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.