Fibre optic cables could help detect earthquakes

Researchers in Iceland hope that fibre optic cables may make earthquakes easier to detect than ever before.
Much of the technology that we take for granted in the 21st century relies on fibre optic communications cables, from long-distance phone calls and television services to the internet. Fibre cables laid beneath the ground enable business and industry to move large amounts of data quickly.
Now researchers in Iceland may have found a new use for the technology. According to an article in the peer reviewed journal, Nature Communications, underground broadband networks could be used in future to detect seismic activity.
The challenge is to find a cheaper alternative to expensive seismometers placed at sensitive locations. The research team carried out tests on 15km of fibre-optic cable that had originally been installed between two geothermal power plants, in Iceland, in 1994.
The team led by Dr Philippe Jousset, from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, discovered that a laser pulse sent down a single fibre of the cable was sufficient to determine whether there were any disturbances along its length.
When movements in the ground stretched or compressed the cables, the scientists were able to record it. They found that the cables not only recorded seismic signals, but were also able to detect the surrounding faults and other underground geological structures.
There are hopes that once refined, the technology could be used for low-cost earthquake early warning systems.
International Standards for fibre optics
Manufacturers and suppliers of optical fibres and their components can rely on the IEC to provide the tools necessary to ensure the quality and reliability of their products.
IEC Technical Committee (TC) 86: Fibre optics, its three Subcommittees (SCs) are central to the development of the entire sector and all related industries as they prepare Standards, specifications and technical reports for fibre optic-based systems, subsystems, modules, devices and components.
Recent highlights include:
IEC SC 86A has standardized the most recent development in wideband multimode fibre, known as OM5. IEC 60793-2-10 increases data rates by augmenting the capacity of each fibre by a factor of four. Because it can be incorporated into existing equipment, it remains compatible with older applications.
Technical Report IEC TR 63072-1, developed by SC 86C, provides an introduction to photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and describes a roadmap for the standardization of PIC technology over the next decade. PICs bring together optical and electronic functionalities. This technology has the potential to enable computing and data transmissions at great speeds which will be essential for the implementation of the next generation of smart services including 5G networks.
High quality components
To ensure the quality and reliability of the components used in optical fibre assemblies, manufacturers and suppliers have a powerful tool at their disposal. IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, provides certification at the international level for a wide variety of electronic components, including those found in fibre optic systems.
IECQ offers immediate international recognition. One test and one certificate issued in one country means acceptance on a global basis, even in countries that are not IECQ Members.
Reducing the use of hazardous substances
Nowadays, electronic component manufacturers who have had their products tested and certified by IECQ also request IECQ HSPM (Hazardous Substance Process Management) certification to demonstrate that their products are produced under controlled conditions to provide assurance that they meet hazardous-substance-free specific local, national and international requirements.
This is of particular importance for fibre optics as networks increasingly extend across borders. For this reason they have to comply with different national regulations that may restrict or prohibit the use of such substances in components.
The IECQ System provides all players in the ever expanding fibre optic market with the certainty of using electronic components that meet the strictest requirements and are of the highest quality.
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The Positive Impact of Using Optical Fibers on Cell Towers

While fiber optic technology has been utilized for many years in the communications industry, consumers generally identify with the role that it plays in wired communications such as Cable TV, Fiber-To-The-Home, and the related networking equipment.  However, what most overlook or do not realize is the significant impact that deploying optical fibers has also had on something consumers use every day – mobile devices.  In order to achieve the high speed data levels that we have become accustomed to when using mobile devices, cell towers and their supporting networks had to be retrofitted with optical fiber cables.
The transition from copper to fiber first started when 3G mobile technology was first introduced, but when 4G LTE technology was deployed, the service providers’ equipment in almost every cell tower had to be upgraded.  The primary reason for this was to support the need for the higher frequencies and faster speeds that the existing 1 5/8 ” coax cables on most cell towers could not handle. Since the primary feed line to most cell towers had been upgraded already, connecting the cell systems in the towers with fiber was the next step.
So what positive changes occurred when transitioning to optical fiber in the cell tower?
First, engineers could now design systems with fiber that run solely off of DC power.  The result was that a very small (less than a ½” in diameter) 16-pair optical fiber cable and two small multi-strand DC cables could replace as many as 12 to 18, 1 5/8” coax cables which are sometimes called “hard lines”.  As you can see, this is a significant improvement.
Secondly, after the hard lines are taken off and replaced with optical fiber cables, both the weight and wind drag are drastically reduced on the cell tower.  The amount of weight and wind drag that is reduced when swapping coax for a fiber-based system is almost unbelievable.  Thousands of pounds of materials are removed and space on the tower is dramatically increased.  In addition to amount of material, a lot of time is saved in comparison to having to add 12 to 18 more hard lines to each system.
By upgrading to incorporate optical fiber cables into the infrastructure, today’s cell towers have realized significant improvements not only in mobile network performance, but also from an architectural standpoint.

Buying Optical Fiber for Network Testing and Latency Applications

When the time comes to buy spools of optical fiber for testing and demonstrating communications systems, there are a few items to consider that will help ensure you end up with an ideal setup.  Since it has been proven that following a few best practices will help you get the most out of your fiber, thinking about these four important items in advance will allow you to further qualify your needs as well as speed up the purchasing process.
1.  Fiber Types & Manufacturers
There are many different optical fibers used in communications networks, so determining the specific type is very important.  Do you need single mode or multimode fiber?  Are you seeking to simulate a field network that requires an exact fiber match, or will an industry-standard equivalent suffice?  Also, keep in mind that both pricing and availability of fiber does vary by type and manufacturer, so you will need to consider this as well during the project planning phase.
2.  Fiber Lengths and Configurations
Once you have selected the appropriate type(s) of fiber, the next step is to determine the lengths needed for your test setup.  Depending upon your solution partner, which we will cover later in this article, there are potentially a number of configuration options available to you.
Will your setup include more “standard” lengths that will apply to many different tests, or will it require very specific lengths like in the case of a fiber latency / optical time delay application?  Is it preferable to use longer continuous lengths, or is having several shorter lengths for distance flexibility more ideal?  Lastly, do you plan to use this fiber for a single set of tests in the short-term, or might it be used for a variety of different tests over the long-term?  (If the latter, it may be beneficial to think about lengths with the bigger picture in mind from a planning perspective)
3.  Enclosure Type
In terms of enclosures for your fiber spools, there is no question that you should always utilize them, since there are too many risks related to using unsecured and unprotected spools.  From the cost of replacing broken fibers and the potential for unreliable test results, to your setup looking sub-standard versus a competitor who did follow this best practice, this is an absolute must and a solid investment.
At a high level there are two primary categories, portable and rack-mount, which than have many variations.  This is fairly straightforward as each has its respective advantages, so your decision is based solely upon the preferred setup for the application/environment.
Depending upon the solution vendor you decide to partner with, there may be more or less enclosure options available to you.  In many cases, the length configurations you have determined will help to narrow down the types of enclosures that a given vendor can provide from their portfolio to meet your needs.
4.  Solution Partner / Vendor Selection
Since the leading fiber manufacturers focus on mass production of standard lengths and do not provide enclosures, selecting a proven solution partner that specializes in selling fiber as part of a quality testing platform is important.  While it may seem like installing a spool of fiber in an enclosure is simple, working with bare fiber is not easy.  It requires well-designed hardware, skilled professionals, specialized equipment, and very hands-on processes to ensure a great finished product.
Important Note:  It takes time for even the most qualified vendors to build and deliver these types of quality platforms, from fiber availability through time/labor for careful spooling, assembly, and testing procedures.  Therefore, it is always recommended to plan in advance and not wait until last-minute when seeking to acquire fiber.
It can be very detrimental and costly if this aspect is overlooked and/or if cost is the only driving factor when choosing a vendor.  Experience, capabilities, available options, and services are all key factors to inquire about and review during the selection process.
In conclusion, by taking all of these considerations into account prior to making a fiber purchase, it will go a long way to ensuring your setup will provid maximum value to your organization, while making the entire process easier.

Why PONs is Important to Test Them Before Deployment

The fact that fiber optics are used in the transmission of light-signal data is widely known, as is the fact that separated ways are required to allow those signals to arrive at their intended destination. Typically speaking, there are two types of network that are employed to achieve this goal:
Active Optical Networks (AONs)
However, in this article, we focus on the latter and why it’s vital to perform testing on these passive networks before they’re officially deployed.
Passive Optical Networks Defined
In the modern day, huge investment is being put into access networks by service providers to meet the ever-growing high-bandwidth broadband demand. These same server providers prefer to see an evolution of technology, as well as longevity, to meet future demand, which is why the use of PONs is being seen more and more frequently.
PON is a technology used in telecoms to implement a point to multipoint architecture, and it can serve numerous endpoints from a single optical fiber, through the use of unpowered splitters. The net result of this system (which could be referred to as FTTH (fiber to the home), FTTB (fiber to the building) or FTTC (fiber to the curb)) is that each customer no longer needs to be connected to the hub by separate fibers.
A typical PON is comprised of multiple ONUs (optical network units) and an OLTs (optical line terminations). Generally, an OLT is located at the central office of the server provider, with as many as 32 ONUs situated close to the end users. The ‘passive’ part of the nomenclature refers to the fact that while the optical signal is traversing the network, there are no active electronic parts, and no power is needed.
In FTTH, a PON system allows for costly hardware components to be shared, as a splitter can take a single input and separate the signal to transmit to multiple users. This sharing can result in cost savings to the service provider, especially as splitters can send signals in both directions, from the central office to the users and vice versa.
Optical Splitters
A PON uses non-powered optical splitters to separate signals as they progress through the network, sharing strands of fiber optics for different parts of network architecture. Because PONs only require power at the transmitting and receiving ends of the network and can serve up to 32 users with a single strand of fiber, they offer an option that’s both cheaper to build and to maintain than an AON. (Research Gate Mar 2018)
That’s not to say that PONs are perfect, as they have a few disadvantages – namely that they have a shorter range than an AON and when an outage occurs, it’s trickier to isolate the issue. Also, as bandwidth is shared between subscribers in a PON, the speed of data transmission can drop at peak times of the day, which can cause issues to smooth service use.
The Benefits of a PON
PONs came into mainstream use back in 2009, as they were designed as a way of connecting homes to internet, telephone and TV services en masse. The reason they became so popular is that they come with several benefits:
● Reduced operational costs
● Lower installation costs
● Reduced network energy costs
● A reduction in required network infrastructure
● No requirement for network switches
● IDF real estate can be reclaimed
When a PON is deployed, it will typically replace large bundles of legacy copper wiring with a much smaller and more manageable and cheaper to maintain single mode fiber cable. This allows for greater distances between desktop and data center (up to 20km), and it represents a much more secure option than copper, as it’s more difficult to tap and encryption occurs between the ONT and OLT.
Importance of Testing Before Deployment
Before a PON is deployed, it’s vital that its installation is properly tested as, to meet the client’s expectations, the reflectance levels inside the fiber need to be within acceptable parameters. If proper testing isn’t conducted and an excess of reflectance and signal loss within the network is allowed to persist, it can lead to serious performance issues.
A practical method of testing a PON often involves using OTDR (Optical Time Domain Reflectometry) equipment, which passes the wavelength frequency to be used through the network so that any issues are immediately highlighted. (Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) 2018)
In Conclusion
While PONs have existed in the telecoms industry for many years, they are, at last, being used at an enterprise level in healthcare, education and a host of other sectors, offering new opportunities for new, low-cost, low-maintenance infrastructures. Of course, there will be instances where AONs may be more appropriate, but fully-tested PONs and what they offer is finally (and rightly) being seen as a viable alternative to their more expensive, powered counterparts.

Fiber optics applications to Internet of things

Those days you didn’t have breakfast at home because you forgot to buy eggs are in the past. Nowadays your refrigerator sends you an alert telling you you are running out of products. And that’s possible thanks to the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things has many years being a hot topic, but what exactly is it?
It can be defined as a future in which everyday objects will be connected to Internet and will be able to communicate with each other.  Jacob Morgan describes The Internet of Things on Forbes as “the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.”
And yes, it is going to impact the way you live and the way you work. Ericcson estimates 50 billion devices will be connected to Internet by 2020, while Gartner predicts there will be roughly 500 networked devices in a typical family house.
#IoT Tweets
Cars, refrigerators, lamps, clocks, phones and wearables devices will be embedded with sensors that will make them possible to gain intelligence and the ability to communicate with other objects and with people. So, in the future the communication will be machine-to-machine (M2M), machine-to-person (M2P) and person-to-person (P2P).
So your car is going to be able to alert you if the tire pressure is low and tell you places you can go to solve that problem. Or your clock will tell your coffee maker to start making that delicious beverage because is almost time for you to wake up. Sounds cool, right?
And how exactly is the Internet of Thing related with optical fiber?
When all your gadgets and devices are connected and communicate with each other, data transmission needs to be fast, and there is no other transmission media able to reach higher speeds than optical fiber. Therefore, the Internet of things needs optical fiber broadband to reach wirelessly 100Gpsb speeds and reproducing 4K videos in just seconds.
Billions of devices connected with each other put a big issue on the spotlight: security. Will anybody be able to hack your phone and have access to your house? Is it going to bring more security and privacy threats? It probably will. But then again, optical fiber networks will be the solution because they are the most secure ones as it is really hard to hack them without being detected.
Also, with fiber there aren’t going to be interference issues as it is immune to electromagnetic currents and can be installed basically everywhere, from underwater to high-temperature places.
As Kyle Hollifield, senior vice president at Magellan Advisors, said at CES 2016 FTTH networks needs to be prepared for the added traffic, because network capacity will be critical for the success of smart cities and homes when everything is connected with everything.

Optical fiber beyond telecommunication

Optical fiber is great for carrying huge amounts of data over long distances at unimagined speeds and providing us with high-speed Internet connections that nowadays are more a necessity than a luxury, but they also have an excellent throughput in other fields beside telecommunications, since they are used from non-invasive surgeries to pool illumination.
Optical fiber made it possible for surgeries to be minimally invasive and to have advanced diagnostic technologies due to implements like optical fiber cameras. Medical optical fiber applications also include X-ray imaging, ophthalmic lasers, light therapy, dental head pieces, surgical microscopy and endoscopy. The study “Global Market Study on Medical Fiber Optics: Asia to Witness Highest Growth by 2019” says that medical fiber global market will reach a value of USD 1,336.1 million by 2019.
Optical fiber is used in the decoration field because it provides an attractive and economical way of illumination. It is used at museums exhibitions due to their heat-free attribute and in underwater lighting because they don’t conduct electricity.
Optical fibers also provide extremely focused light, they are long-lasting, look like neon, colors can change according to the applied filter and their installment and maintenance is easy. Also they look really cute, don’t they?
Lighting applications with optical fiber are being used in the automotive industry too because they it can be installed in reduced spaces and it transmits cold light. Companies like Volvo, Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Saab use fiber to build the communication system that connects sensors with airbags and traction control devices in order to increase passenger’s safety.
Roll Royce’s trademark “Starlight headliner” is built with over 1300 optical fibers which make Phantom’s ceiling look like a starlight night.
Optical fiber sensors measure, pressure and strain. But they are also used to look for displacements, vibrations and rotations in civil structures such as highways, buildings and bridges or smart structures like airplanes wings and sport equipment. They are also very helpful for monitoring oil, power cables and pipelines in places that are really hard to reach.
Sensors work with a detector arrangement that measures the subtle changes that happen in the light as it travels through an optical fiber.  They offer a lot of advantages because they don’t require electrical cables, therefore can be safely used in high-voltage and electrical environments.

New hardware could make FTTH expansion cheaper

A new way to solve the “last mile problem” and provide real fiber connections to households was developed by scientists and researchers from the UCL Optical Networks Group and UNLOC program in London as they designed a simplified optical receiver that could be mass-produced cheaply.
Although current networks are mostly composed with optical fiber, they usually terminate in cabinets away from the user premises and that last mile that goes from the cabinet to the end user is mostly made with copper, which slows down connections, because it is really expensive to install in every home the optical receiver needed to read the optical signals.
“We have designed a simplified optical receiver that could be mass-produced cheaply while maintaining the quality of the optical signal. The average data transmission rates of copper cables connecting homes today are about 300 Mb/s and will soon become a major bottleneck in keeping up with data demands, which will likely reach about 5-10 Gb/s by 2025. Our technology can support speeds up to 10 Gb/s, making it truly futureproof”, said Dr Sezer Erkilinc, lead researcher from UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering.
The design of the optical receiver developed by UCL researchers is simplified because it contains a quarter of the connectors that are usually used in a conventional receiver. It is able to improve sensitivity and network reach compared to current technology. When commercialized, the cost of installing and maintaining a real FTTH network will be dramatically reduced.
 The laser stability of the receiver is currently being tested by the researchers, but Dr Erkilinc said once they it is quantified, they will be in a strong position to take the receiver design to trials and commercialize it.