Internet of Things Smart Grid ViodiTV @ Fiber Connect

Ears to the Ground via Fiber

If the ground could only talk, what would it have to say? Well, probably not much as it has dirt and rocks for brains. But, give it some ears and the ground could tell us things about the sidewalks, the weather, and the surrounding environment that we would otherwise never know.

Fiber optic cable is capable of being those ears. As described in the above interview, members of the Fiber Optics Sensing Association (FOSA) have figured out how to use existing fiber optic cables to measure vibrations, strain, and temperature. Applications range from monitoring pipeline breaks to measuring cable strain to detecting people to counting traffic (see this link for a list of case studies and papers).

Fiber optic sensing works by being a good listener and reflecting back on what it hears. That is, a pulsed laser sends light down the fiber. The imperfections in the glass core of the fiber reflect some of the light back to its origination point (see Raleigh backscatter).

By detecting this light and they can create a baseline signature. They can then compare changes of this reference point to signatures of various activities (e.g. a person walking will cause a different amount of vibrations than a car driving by) so that they can provide alerts, for example (e.g. location of a pipeline break).

In the above interview, Kent Wardley, Chairman of FOSA, and Dave Cunningham, Vice Chairman of FOSA discuss this non-profit organization made up of industry and academia. This relatively new group (founded 2017) has parallels to and close relations with the Fiber Broadband Association (e.g., Gary Bolton of the FBA is a FOSA board member). Wardley, who is with Fotech Solutions, and Cunningham, who is with Network Integrity Systems, tout FOSA’s advocacy for and comments that influenced the federal “Dig Once” policy.

Interview Highlights:

  • 00:27 – FOSA members can use fiber to measure strain, temperature, or acoustic signals.
  • 00:55 – The applications for fiber optic sensing are many and important.
  • 02:04 – It is a passive network.
  • 02:31 – It probably won’t work through splitters.
  • 02:59 – Both rural and urban areas – smart communities and smart cities – could benefit from fiber sensing technology. Some of the applications, such as the detection of potential landslides, could literally save lives.
  • 04:44 – With detection of foot traffic up to 50 feet away from the fiber, other applications include pedestrian counting and security perimeters.
  • 05:03 – Machine learning is a big part of understanding the data provided by fiber sensing.
  • 06:09 – There is much in common between the FOSA and the Fiber Broadband Association, including shared board members.
  • 06:51 – Dig Once, an early success.
  • 07:12 – Earthquake detection is another important safety application of fiber sensing.
  • 07:52 – Is anyone developing a Fiber as a Sensing Service (FASS) – to help operators use their existing fiber to exploit the many applications of fiber sensing?

This video was made possible by Calix.

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