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Vodafone’s fiber optic cables in the underground are being used to monitor for earthquakes, gas leaks, and water leaks

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Vodafone's fiber optic cables in the underground are being used to monitor for earthquakes, gas leaks, and water leaks
(Source: FiberSense)

In New Zealand, Vodafone is deploying existing underground fiber cables to monitor for natural disasters or civil works, as well as to provide early warnings on unexpected crises like water or gas pipe leaks.

This is the first company in Aotearoa to harness existing underground fiber cables in this method, thanks to an expansion of its collaboration with FiberSense to Wellington.

The deployment involves a FiberSense unit providing round-the-clock monitoring on more than 100km of fiber cables within Vodafone’s optical network in central Wellington, with seismic activity an ongoing concern in New Zealand and accidental damage to utilities posing the potential for major disruptions.

Accurate vibration sensors, which are the equivalent of a virtual sensor every 3 to 5 meters, will improve network resilience for Vodafone services and are now available to third parties to improve consumer reliability.

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Vodafone New Zealand is the first telecom in Australasia to be able to offer FiberSense’s monitoring technology to its customers, following a successful pilot in Auckland. This means Vodafone can offer data on underground issues to utilities like water and gas providers, as well as capture critical data on seismic activity and enable other smart city applications like traffic monitoring.

Fiber sensors are increasingly being used by companies throughout the world to cut costs and consumer interruptions. The true economic cost of fixing an underground service, for example, is estimated to be 29 times the direct time and materials expenditures, therefore being instantly notified of an exact location of a problem should be a big benefit.

“Security and reliability are fundamental to operating a world-class network and the FiberSense service strengthens that capability,” said Tony Baird, chief technology officer at Vodafone New Zealand. “We are excited about the opportunity to utilize our network in new and innovative ways and working with FiberSense to turn our optical network into a massive sensing array is an exciting opportunity to expand our product offerings and provide new value-added services to our customers.”

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Mark Englund, CEO of FiberSense, added: “We are excited by the rapid growth of our New Zealand sensing capability underpinned by our relationship with Vodafone and its first-class network. This agreement with Vodafone New Zealand also represents a new model for fiber owners to extract revenue opportunities from their existing assets.”

The launch in Wellington lay the groundwork for the sensing capability to be expanded to utilities, governments, and municipal council offices. Whether the impact is due to water leaks, power outages, or natural disasters, protecting underground vital infrastructure against third-party accidental damage is a common risk.

Englund remarked, “Our Digital Asset sensing service helps mitigate the impact of these all-too-common events.”

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The Digital Asset service protects the Vodafone network and other underground vital utility assets with detection, prevention, and mitigation features such as:

  • Early warning and detection to identify and prevent potential fiber cable strikes before they happen
  • Real-time condition monitoring to enhance maintenance
  • Integration with dial-before-you-dig services to deter damage around fiber cables
  • Capture seismic data for assisting rapid response to damage from earthquake events
  • Explore the smart city and vehicle tracking use cases for those that use the Vodafone network as a massive sensor array.

Shubham Sawarkar

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