Fiber Optic Detection in Smart Cities

Cities, with their complex and adaptive structures, both need technology and inspire the development of technology. With their unimaginable technological developments, today’s cities are rapidly moving towards a structure that is more intertwined with the technology they are getting smarter. Within the city concept of the future, which is defined as the Smart City, all kinds of infrastructure, superstructure, and services are managed by integrating them as a whole focused on quality of life, continuity, environment, and efficiency. And while the population of cities is increasing rapidly, the rapid decrease in natural resources necessitates smart cities.

So, how are we going to make cities smarter? The answer to this question, which is actually very difficult to answer, is short: data. Data is the basis of the technologies used today to make a system smart. Smart Cities will be equipped with sensor systems from top to bottom. This is where IoT comes into play. With IoT sensors, data will be collected using wireless technologies such as NB-IoT, LORA, SigFox, 4G-5G. But ultimately this huge data has to be transmitted to a cloud system. It seems inevitable that a fiber-optic network will be used to transmit data quickly. The fiber-optic network will grow exponentially as the city gets smarter and the residents use the technology more.

In addition to the use of fiber optics in data communication in Smart Cities, its use as a sensor will gradually increase. Today, Fiber Optic Sensors can detect many physical quantities such as temperature, pressure, strain, vibration, sound, speed, acceleration, rotation, or chemical quantities such as the concentration of a substance in a liquid. Fiber optic sensors, which are basically based on measuring the interaction of the quantity to be sensed with the light passing through the fiber, offer advantages over other types of sensors for remote sensing, due to their small size, not requiring power at the point of detection, being unaffected by conditions such as high temperature, high vibration, and humidity.

While fiber optic sensors can detect at a single point, a long sensor can detect from every point of the fiber optic line. Such applications of fiber optic sensors are called distributed fiber optic sensing systems. In this way, every point of the optical fibers, which are kilometers long, acts as a sensor. You can imagine this by measuring thousands of thermometers, thousands of microphones, thousands of strain gauges all together on a fiber optic line. Thanks to this feature, distributed fiber optic sensing creates an alternative that can replace thousands of IoT sensors.

Author: Erkan Ozkan
Koç University Electrical and Electronics Engineering Graduate
He worked on telecommunications and remote sensing technologies at TÜBİTAK BİLGEM.
Currently, he is the R&D manager of SAMM Teknoloji, and works on fiber optic sensing technologies.