The internet of things (IoT) widely spans from the smart speakers and Wi-Fi-connected home appliances to manufacturing machines that use connected sensors to time tasks on an assembly line, warehouses that rely on automation to manage inventory, and surgeons who can perform extremely precise surgeries with robots. But for these applications, timing is everything: a lagging connection could have disastrous consequences.
It’s hard to believe but 10Mb/s Ethernet is becoming a very hot topic in the industry again. I get asked “Why are we going back to the 1980s?” There is a simple answer, and to those of us in the industry at that time, it’s very familiar. In that era before Ethernet became ubiquitous, networking truly was the wild west. Everyone had their own protocols, physical layers, connectors etc. However, since then IT has converged a core set of technologies, with Ethernet leading the way, that provides seamless connectivity to billions of people.
The Internet of Things is the future, but it’s also key to the past. Yes, its main function may be to make environments and objects more reactive to our needs through the use of various connected sensors, but increasingly these sensors are being used to monitor historic buildings and structures. And thanks to such monitoring, we’re getting better at preserving the world’s heritage, using future technology to keep us connected to our collective past.
Existing buildings far outnumber any new construction. Statistics show that for every new commercial property being built, there are approximately 100 existing buildings of a similar type. Retrofitting an existing building requires weaving “smart” technology into the existing infrastructure, including WiFi, ethernet, Bluetooth mesh and smart sensors. Once the “smart” infrastructure is developed, a retrofitted “smart” building can return all the same benefits of a newly built “smart” building.
Modern industrial machinery requires an increasing number of sensors to boost their performance, and these devices have to survive in increasingly harsh environments, placing larger demands on the performance of the connectors.
Last month, I wrote about types of fiber optic sensors that are used in specialized applications. Most of these affect the transmission of light in the fiber to allow the physical parameter to be sensed either along the entire length of the fiber or at discrete points where sensors are connected to the fiber. Many of these sensors can be attached in series along a single fiber to connect up sensors over a large area and monitored using an instrument such as an optical time domain reflectometer.
Today’s smart buildings are beginning to leverage the industrial internet for improved business outcomes, such as better energy efficiency, improved occupant experience and lower operational costs. They may contain thousands of sensors measuring various building operating parameters including temperature, humidity, occupancy, energy usage, keycard readers, parking space occupancy, fire, smoke, flood, security, elevators and air quality.
Verizon and NEC are providing further details of a proof-of-concept field trial in which the two companies used communications fiber-optic network cables as distributed optical sensor networks. NEC sensor technology attached to Verizon’s fiber-optic cable was able to collect information on city traffic patterns, road conditions, road capacity, and vehicle classification.
Today’s networks are more demanding than ever—always on, always reliable, and no downtime regardless of application or environment. Instead of responding to issues once they occur, owners and operators are looking for ways to proactively manage their infrastructure. How can issues be detected and addressed before they happen, so reliability is guaranteed and downtime is eliminated? Imagine being able to detect small acoustic, temperature, and/or strain changes anywhere along an optical cable in an outside-plant environment, continuously, accurately, and in real-time. And depending on the source used, you could have the ability to detect various environmental events at distances from ones to tens of kilometers away, with large numbers of distributed virtual sensors along the path. All this is possible by using optical fiber as an intrinsic sensing medium.
Industrial automation and industrial internet of things (IIoT) manufacturer Opto 22 has named Josh Eastburn as the company’s new director of technical marketing. In this position, the company says Eastburn will lead the creation of useful and engaging customer content, highlighting and enabling discovery of Opto 22 customer applications, and working closely with industrial automation media outlets.