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Fiber Optic Sensing Technology Promotes Safety, Efficiency and Education

Jericho Casper

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Photo by Joey Kyber of the Atlanta skyline courtesy World Economic Forum

August 27, 2020 — Infrastructure monitoring is a growing industry, with potential for vast market size, especially as cities across America are becoming more reliant on critical infrastructure.

To discuss the benefits fiber optic sensing technology has to offer, Lisa Youngers, CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, was joined by two members of the Fiber Optic Sensing Association, Stan Fendley, director of legislative and regulatory policy at Corning, and Michael Hines, market manager for industrial sensing at OFS, in an FBA webinar on Wednesday.

Hines described fiber optic sensors as a problem-solving smart city technology, “ideal for providing 24/7 monitoring of infrastructure assets.”

“Fiber optic sensing technology promotes education, safety, and commerce,” he said.

The technology is unique in its ability to distribute sensing points over very long spans, allowing it to monitor infrastructure spanning far-reaching distances.

The flexibility of technology enables it to solve issues with a range of critical infrastructure.

The technology has the potential to aid power cables, as it can detect faults and monitor smart grids. It has the ability to promote safety and efficiency in railway operations and maintenance. It can detect fires, manage roadway traffic, and so much more.

The fiber optic sensing technology works by measuring changes in the "backscattering" of light occurring in an optical fiber. Backscatter occurs naturally as laser energy propagates and interacts with a glass fiber core.

When the fiber encounters vibration, strain or temperature it changes, and these changes are recorded.

A “fiber interrogator” detects the returning backscatter and analyzes it to pinpoint event locations.

Embedded algorithms interpret raw data produced, converting it into alerts, alarms, and identifying events.

“The learning systems get smarter with time spent on an asset,” said Hines.

“There are good technical reasons to lay fiber optics along power conductors,” said Feldman.

“It is an upgradeable technology, which is great for protecting large assets,” he continued, “there are already incredible fiber resources in the ground, we should learn how to expand them.”

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