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Solving the Data Dilemma

How Smart Cities Benefit from Fibre Optic Technology  

We are living in a data-driven world. Whether it is data gathered by online vendors about our buying habits or the constant collation of information to help leaders make critical decisions about safety and security, the power of data cannot be underestimated.

But data needs to be collected accurately, securely and efficiently, and – crucially –analysed properly. For smart cities, this is where fibre optic technology is key. It can be leveraged to gather the right data at the right time and ensure it is used effectively and responsibly. 

Data – and the sensors and technology used to collect it – is central to smart city development. It gives decision-makers valuable insights to efficiently manage assets, resources and services. Surprisingly, however, smart city designers are often challenged by basic data-gathering. From the early planning stages, it is vital to understand what elements need sensing, what data is required and how to best measure and analyse it constructively.

The right technology is already here

Fibre optic networks are usually more associated with 5G and mobile communications. But fibre optic telecommunication cables can be used as sensors; Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology uses fibre networks to provide continuous sensing along the full length of an asset. For smart cities and cities being transformed into smart spaces, monitoring infrastructure gives a complete picture with real-time insights and analysis. DAS easily taps into already-laid fibre optic networks. 

What are the uses for DAS in smart cities?

Data collection provides smart cities with the information required to meet the demands of urbanisation and societal changes, as well as improving safety, security, connectivity and quality of life for residents. The data needs to be gathered from every layer of the city, from street to air, and this is where DAS technology truly shines.

Underground infrastructure, such as utilities and railways, require constant monitoring. Power outages from faulty cables, leaks from pipelines and telecommunication failures can devastate cities, but DAS technology provides a simple way to monitor these networks. And better still, allowing for instant responses to problems.

Urban planners and transport operators can use DAS technology to monitor the flow of people at public transport hubs, leveraging these insights to optimise schedules to rider demand even to plan future upgrades.

Above the ground, traffic management becomes easier when road conditions are monitored in real time. Having full visibility of bus and car movements makes it easier to put smart, responsive traffic management systems in place, improving traffic flow and reducing emissions caused by idling, gridlocked vehicles.

Monitoring a city’s footfall via DAS has multiple benefits. Operators can be alerted to potential intrusions if unexpected movement is detected, and crowd control is made easier at locations such as busy stations or stadiums. But even energy savings can be made by monitoring of pedestrian movement and linking to smart lighting systems that illuminate only when people are detected.

Important considerations when introducing monitoring technology

Ease of installation, operation and maintenance, reliability, longevity, operational costs and power source requirements - all important factors for urban planners and smart city designers and developers to take into account. DAS technology ticks all the boxes.

Privacy is another key concern when it comes to data-gathering. Data protection needs to be a priority when introducing any form of monitoring technology. Many options rely heavily on personal information to be effective, raising legitimate concerns about whether smart cities come at the cost of privacy. One of the main benefits of DAS is that it does not – CAN not - detect personal information. As an acoustic sensing technology, it monitors for vibrations, and can distinguish the type of activity making the vibration, but it simply cannot identify the person or vehicle carrying out the activity. Using this sort of anonymising technology helps allay concerns about excessive intrusion.

Versatile technology for smart cities

Data is at the heart of DAS. It enables relevant information to be assessed in real-time so that informed decisions can be made quickly, helping established cities become smarter, and ensuring the new smart cities are safe, secure, efficient.

For more information, please download the full white paper below.


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