Sensor device pinpoints exact location of cable damage

A sensor device for telecommunications cables is able to pinpoint the exact location of damage using self-diagnosing technologies.

According to researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and US telecommunications company PPC, their ‘Smart Connector’ would be installed in the connecting units of coaxial cables to provide real-time information about primary failure modes in radio-frequency (RF) cables.

Deterioration and damage to cellular telecommunications cables costs organisations and customers millions in lost revenue and services in the digital economy. The current team set about designing a sensor-disk system that might alleviate some of these issues.

‘This technology is really exciting, and the impact it could have on the industry is only just becoming apparent,’ said Robert Bowman, professor of electrical and microelectronic engineering at RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering. ‘Up until now, connector and equipment failures could be detected only after tower capacity had been diminished and only pinpointed on site with the system shut down.’

The system monitors the primary failure modes in RF cables. Each sensor disk contains a unique site identifier, monitors critical conditions and reports the sensor status using a technique called back-scatter telemetry. Each smart connector is capable of activating or powering down its energy capacity by extracting minuscule amounts of RF energy from the coaxial cables.

Noah Montena, principal engineer at PPC, said: ‘Beyond cellular connectors, it is easy to imagine this technology finding a place in other high-value or “can’t-fail” applications such as communications or internal networks in spacecraft or aircraft.’