OptaSense, a QinetiQ company, is featured in a new exhibition, The Future Starts Here, which opened last month at London’s prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition focuses on technologies that are shaping the way in which we live and interact as a society.
A featured project within the V&A exhibition is San Francisco-based Stamen Design’s Big Glass Microphone, which is an interactive visualization of OptaSense’s Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) data from a system installation at Stanford University, California. OptaSense’s fiber optic sensing system is installed on five kilometers of fiber optic cable in the ducting below Stanford’s campus, as part of a research and development project for using DAS to detect seismic activity and potentially provide early warning of earthquakes.
Stamen Design’s project looks at how fiber optic infrastructure all around us can be leveraged as a sensor array. OptaSense converts fiber optic cables along pipelines, railways, roads and other assets into an array of ‘microphones’ by converting light into sound. On Stanford’s campus, the primary sensing goal is to detect seismic activity, but incidental day-to-day activity is also detected around the campus, like vehicles, students walking and cycling around, and even a fountain water feature. Big Glass Microphone is a data visualization of the distinct shapes that different kinds of surface events have on the sensing fiber optic cable. Using this information, an interactive visualization of the movements of people and vehicles within the campus was created.
The project is an offshoot of a collaborative research effort between OptaSense and the Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences for an on-campus fiber optic seismic observatory, designed to sense ambient noise and seismic energy, enabling scientists to conduct research in passive seismology. Located adjacent to a major geologic fault zone, the San Andreas Fault, the seismic array is used to image subsurface properties that provide scientists a better understanding of the complex geology in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Big Glass Microphone gives a glimpse at how this unique “listening” device can also be used to provide ‘smart’ monitoring of infrastructure assets over long distance in real time, using ubiquitous sensors that are all around us, like fiber optic cables. OptaSense provide this monitoring technology already on around 20,000 miles of pipelines, railways, roads and other infrastructure around the world. Fiber optic sensing is a technology that is revolutionizing critical infrastructure monitoring, providing many applications from a single sensing platform.
“We’re proud to have OptaSense exhibited at one of the world’s leading museums for design and innovation,” said Jamie Pollard, CEO of OptaSense. “Technology can have a massive impact on people’s quality of life, and fiber optic sensing is a prime example. This exhibit demonstrates our earthquake detection potential but we’re also monitoring infrastructure assets all around the world, making people’s drive to work, or their energy consumption safer and more efficient. This exciting technology will become more and more widely known in the coming years.”
The Future Starts Here runs until November 4, 2018, then will continue at other locations around the world. For more information in the exhibition, visit www.vam.ac.uk. To learn more about OptaSense, visit www.optasense.com.