Google and Sumitomo Electric Industries back science to double the capabilities of fiber optics
The New York Times (NYT) has reported that researchers at the University of California, San Diego have made a scientific advance that could double the amount of data sent by fiber optic cable, as well as sending it faster and at a lower cost.
One way to understand the challenge of sending data through fiber-optics is to imagine a person standing in front of a wall while pointing a lit flashlight at it. The circle of light on the wall would be bright, well-defined, and you’d be able to see details on the wall. As you moved back farther and farther while pointing the flashlight at the same spot on the wall, the circle of light would grow larger and less defined and the intensity of the light on the wall would degrade.
Designers of networks that carry data through fiber-optic circuits face a similar challenge. “Beams of laser light packed densely in fiber-optic glass wires need to be both amplified and recreated at regular intervals to send them thousands of miles,” writes the NYT. A significant part of the cost to build these networks is the process of converting optical lasers from light to electricity and then back again. “The process also limits how much data they can carry,” reads the NYT.
The proposed solution is to “predistort” the data transmitted via laser beams so it can be deciphered easily over great distances.
To achieve this, one creates guardrails for the light beams with something called a frequency comb. The result is that the information is encoded before it is transmitted.
“That has the effect of embedding a digital watermark in the original data, making it possible to transmit data accurately over much longer distances and dispense with the need to perform optical-to-electronic conversions at relatively short intervals,” writes the NYT.
In the lab, the researchers conducted an experiment—not discussed in their scientific paper—where they sent a message 7,400 miles without having to regenerate the signal.
The research has been partly supported by Google and Sumitomo Electric Industries, a maker of fiber-optic cables.
A network like this would be significantly less expensive and could carry more data. So far, the researchers have been able to increase the power of the signal up to twenty times over a long distance. Until now, when network builders increased the signal power in an attempt to send data faster, the signal behaved like a man in quicksand. Under the old model, the more power you exert, the lesser results you get. This new model offers different outcomes.
Scientists are divided in their reaction to the advance. Critics of the paper, like Alan Huang, former researcher at Bell Labs, think there will be challenges applying this approach to the real world.
However, if these challenges are overcome, there may be a great investment opportunity in this science.
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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.