UK National Grid Selects EXFO for Innovative Fiber Health Monitoring Pilot Project
EXFO delivering industry-first combination of Intellisense Systems weather tracking plus remote fiber testing, monitoring and AI analytics solutions to predict and prevent operational failures
EXFO, the communications industry’s test, monitoring and analytics experts announced that National Grid, one of the world’s largest publicly-listed utilities focused on transmission and distribution of electricity and gas, has selected EXFO for an innovation pilot project to provide monitoring for its ongoing fiber network health assessment in the UK, supporting the UK’s goal of becoming net-zero by 2050.
National Grid has deployed an overhead fiber optic operational telecommunications network across its electricity transmission infrastructure that carries critical information essential for secure and efficient utility operations. EXFO’s technology will help assess the operational condition of the fiber network, while predicting its remaining technical lifespan and identifying potential points of weakness or failure.
For the first time in such an application, EXFO will also collect data from Intellisense Systems micro weather station Internet of Things (IoT) devices being deployed to measure the specific environmental impact of wind, humidity and meteorological events. EXFO’s Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based analytics solution will amalgamate and correlate data from both the fiber optic network and weather system inputs, and dynamically predict, detect, and prevent outages and impairments in the network that might otherwise go unnoticed.
National Grid anticipates that EXFO’s proactive monitoring and fault detection can deliver a net benefit of as much as £2.9m (approx. $3.5 million USD) derived from failure avoidance and extending the lifespan of the existing network.
EXFO will measure, analyze, and report results from an 80 km span of the National Grid network — in one of the most challenging areas of the UK for weather issues – over a 12-month period. Deployment of test equipment and Intellisense devices got underway in October 2022.
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- EXFO’s optical time domain reflectometer (OTDR) fiber monitoring units are being deployed at key nodes on the fiber optic network to monitor its optical transmission characteristics and measure its health and condition.
- Data inputs from both the fiber monitoring units and the Intellisense micro weather station devices will feed into EXFO’s SensAI platform which classifies, correlates and groups abnormal events affecting network performance.
- The UK’s operational telecommunications network is part of the country’s Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and has been operating for over 30 years.
- The age of the system and environmental impacts makes faults and failures harder to detect.
- In the long term, improved operational communications networks will be critical for control and protection systems in the transition to renewable energy power stations and the UK’s path to net zero.
“EXFO is pleased to support a national-level provider like the National Grid. Our remote, proactive fiber testing and monitoring solution provides complete visibility across the fiber network, with capabilities to predict and detect potential outages in real time. Coupled with weather sensing equipment, we can help ensure network reliability so the lights stay on for everyone,” said Wim te Niet, Vice President, EMEA, EXFO.
“Operational telecommunications networks are an important part of our critical national infrastructure and play a key role in enabling our transition to a net zero economy by 2050. Large parts of our fiber network are reaching an age where failures may become more frequent and more difficult to address. We are therefore exploring new ways to monitor and model fiber health and its evolution over time to enable optimized planning of refurbishment and replacement interventions,” said Tom Charton, Senior Innovation Engineer at the National Grid.
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