- Veröffentlicht: 16. März 2023
In today's world, information consumption is growing explosively, with large amounts of data being sent over the Internet. As smart home and smart city technologies develop, all equipment, from household appliances to industrial devices, will soon be able to exchange information with each other and efficiently control all processes. To achieve this, we need technologies that can collect a wide range of data about the state of devices and the environment in real-time.
Nikolay Khorkov, the founder of Fibertooland Optolex and a renowned expert in fiber optic technologies, suggested that utilizing fiber optic cables as sensors could be a viable solution to the problem at hand.
Q: Fiber optics is widely known for its use in telecommunications, but its applications extend far beyond that. When did these projects utilizing fiber optics in novel ways first emerge?
Fiber optic sensing (FOS) technology was born in the late 1960s, when the first patent was registered for the use of a photonic sensor to measure vibrations. Interestingly, the invention of this technology predates the widespread use of fiber optic networks in telecommunications. However, practical projects using FOS only began to appear a decade later, and it's only in recent years that sensors have started to replace more traditional electrical ones.
Q: What are the benefits of the technology?
Fiber optic sensors offer high accuracy in measuring data. This is due to their sensitivity to even the slightest changes in the environment. Their unique design enables them to transmit data over long distances without compromising signal quality, and they can collect data along the entire length of the cable.
Furthermore, FOS is highly convenient and safe to use. Fiber cable is lightweight and durable. It can be laid in any environment, including aggressive environments such as water and soil, as well as at extreme temperatures in industrial processes, without requiring replacement or repair. In addition, FOS does not create any risks as it is not affected by electromagnetic fields, does not use electricity, and does not spark. These features make it an ideal choice for fire hazardous environments.
Q: Although smart home systems incorporate electrical sensors, do they still have limitations and imperfections?
While electrical sensors have their advantages and can be cheaper and easier to install, the benefits of FOS make it a more cost-effective choice in the medium term.
Q: What is the frequency of new advancements in the field of Fiber optic sensing being introduced to the market?
The growing demand for practical applications of Fiber optic sensing has led to an explosion in research and the emergence of a new market in this area. Companies such as OFS (Furukawa Electric Co.) in Japan, Sensornet Ltd in the UK, OmniPhase in Switzerland, Leoni Fiber Optics in Germany, and Fiber Optic Sensing Solutions in India are developing new and innovative solutions in this highly competitive market. With new players and developments constantly appearing, FOS is revolutionizing sensing technology and changing the game for building smart cities.
In Russia, recent years have seen the development of theoretical ideas at research institutes, universities, and research and production associations. Some oil and gas companies are also developing practical applications of fiber optic sensing technology.
Q: Could you provide further details on the project that your company Optolex, a Skolkovo Innovation Center resident, has successfully implemented in this field?
At Optolex we have implemented an exciting project based on FOS. Before launching the startup, I spent a decade manufacturing fiber-optic equipment, setting up laboratories in universities and research institutes, and acquiring significant experience in this field. Through discussions with scientists, component suppliers, and exhibitors at industry exhibitions, I realized that fiber optic technologies have a promising future in monitoring.
Our team at Optolex has developed a unique distributed fiber-based sensor called the "coherent reflectometer". I personally developed a program for analyzing the data received from the optical fiber, which distinguishes information about all noises through neural network algorithms previously trained on signal samples. Depending on the task of a particular sensor, the network can accurately distinguish noises such as human steps, car engines (up to determining the brand of the car), or attempts to climb over a fence. Further analysis of such events enables us to adapt and train the artificial intelligence of our equipment, resulting in greater accuracy in identifying which incidents have occurred and at what point.
Q: What are the possible applications of this technology?
One major project we are currently involved in is in India, where we are working to protect a pipeline from illegal tie-ins. Our partners faced two challenges: the first was economic, to prevent the theft of oil products, and the second was environmental, to minimize the risk of fuel spills that can result from earthquakes, landslides, or nearby construction equipment. By detecting pipeline damage early, we can stop fuel distillation and minimize losses. To achieve this, we laid a fiber-optic cable near the pipeline's designated test area to gather a large amount of information. If anyone approaches the cable, whether it be a person, vehicle, or hitting the fence, our device sends an appropriate signal to the guards.
The use of "coherent reflectometers" has also been successful in protecting several airports in Russia and Kazakhstan. Equipping each facility with such a system can increase the speed of response to emergencies. When a signal is received, guards can quickly direct cameras to the incident location and assess the situation.
Q: Can fiber optic sensors be used for applications beyond perimeter security?
Yes, of course. Apart from perimeter security, fiber optic sensors have several other applications. For instance, they can monitor the condition of roadways, bridges, and overpasses to schedule timely repairs. For example, my team developed sensors for the Traffic Management Center in Moscow that can measure the pressure on each axle of a truck. When an overloaded vehicle passes through the sensor area, special equipment reads its number, and the owner receives a violation notice.
In addition to monitoring road infrastructure, FOS technology can successfully apply to urban traffic management. My company tested a project in Tambov, showing the great potential for smart urban solutions. Optical sensors provide real-time data on parameters such as the number of cars, road conditions, humidity, temperature, snow, ice, and speed of the traffic. Combining this data allows for the regulation of car and pedestrian flow, traffic optimization and direction, reduction of environmental pollution, and increased safety. It's essential to note that the collected data is easily integrated into larger smart transportation systems.
Another area where fiber optic sensors are useful is architecture and urban planning. With an increased number of skyscrapers being built, monitoring the condition of their foundation is more critical than ever. In the past, electrical sensors signaled if the building started to deviate from its axis. Now, more accurate fiber-optic sensors are used instead. Our colleagues installed such sensors during the construction of the Moscow-City complex, and we helped them choose the appropriate equipment.
Fiber optic sensors are expanding in several other crucial areas, such as telecommunications, medicine, industry, and the oil and gas production. They can be used for monitoring network damage and signal quality, creating accurate medical devices and sensors for monitoring the body's state, controlling processes and strains, implementing Industry 4.0, monitoring equipment for production and transportation, optimizing reservoir management, and much more.
Q: How can you assess the prospects for using this technology?
It is apparent that fiber optic sensors have a great future, but there are still some challenges. These include the need for specialists to work with optical fiber and the limited availability of solutions based on this technology. Optolex is addressing these issues by training professionals who can work quickly and efficiently with optical fiber and developing affordable and convenient products for everyone.
Also, it is important to monitor the development of the market. I communicate with technology entrepreneurs and startup founders at the Skolkovo Innovation Center, where Optolex is a resident company. I am a member of the jury of business competitions, for example, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Russia and the international startup competition Emerge Challenge. These are pitching competitions for both active projects and early-stage startups with a global product vision. Assessing them as a jury, I look at various projects and initiatives and see new ways to develop and to apply fiber-optic technologies. Furthermore, I observe a growing interest in the implementation of fiber optic solutions in various fields.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Liza Poroshina
Quelle/Source: Business Insider Afrika, 09.03.2023