Verizon has teamed up with NEC to test fiber sensing on its already existing fiber network. The proof-of-concept (PoC) field trial used Verizon’s existing fiber optic cables as distributed optical sensors to collect information on city traffic patterns, road conditions and road capacity information. 

The trial used new optical sensor technology developed by NEC with software underpinned by artificial intelligence for traffic monitoring including the measurement of vehicle density, direction, speed, acceleration and deceleration, and other information. 

Using existing fiber that’s already in the ground means that Verizon wouldn’t have to trench in purpose-built fiber to gather the same type of information. Fiber trenching is both costly and disruptive, especially in urban areas. 

In addition to traffic monitoring, the data gathered from the distributed optical sensors could also be used to support public functions such as helping first responders detect and find where gunshots have been fired. 

“This test marks an important milestone for technology that could provide a huge leap forward for those building smart cities and those tasked to manage them,” said Verizon’s Adam Koeppe, senior vice president of technology planning and development, in a statement.  

“Instead of ripping up tarmac to place road and traffic-sensing technology, cities will be able to simply piggyback Verizon’s existing fiber optic network.” 

The trial used a fiber sensing system that worked with the existing wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) communications channels on the same fiber with minimal impact to the data communications capacity, which would make it suitable for use even in traffic congested networks. 

Verizon and NEC said the trial marked the first time that a 36.8 Tbps transmission system and distributed optical fiber sensing were demonstrated together on an operational telecom network. 

The two companies also said the trial marked the longest distance that such sensing data has been collected via an operational telecom network. AI tools such as convolutional neural networks (CNN) and software vector machines were used in order to take advantage of distributed intelligent traffic informatics (DITI). 

“The results obtained from this joint research program with Verizon are a great advancement for smart city business opportunities, especially for safer city solutions such as the conservation of roads and the utilization of traffic information,” said Atsuo Kawamura, executive vice president of NEC, in a statement. 

“We are confident that these cutting-edge solutions will provide meaningful new value for optical fiber networks.”