SAN FRANCISCO--Researchers at Rochester Institute of Technology and PPC Corp. have developed a “Smart Connector” sensor to automatically detect equipment damage and pinpoint its exact location using self-diagnostics.
The researchers, led by professor of electrical and microelectronic engineering Robert Bowman, said that deterioration and damage to cellular telecommunications cables cost organizations and customers millions in lost revenue every year and that it was hoped the sensor could alleviate some of the impact.
The sensor slots into the connecting units of coaxial cables, where it monitors the primary failure modes in RF cables.
Each sensor-disc incorporates a unique site identifier, monitors critical conditions and reports back the sensor status using a technique called back scatter telemetry. Additionally, each smart connector is capable of activating or powering-down its energy capacity by extracting miniscule amounts of radio frequency energy from the coaxial cables themselves.
“This technology is really exciting, and the impact it could have on the industry is only just becoming apparent,” said Noah Montena, the principal engineer at PPC, a Syracuse-based telecommunications radio-frequency equipment company working with the RIT researchers.
“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,” he explained.
The university has signed a licensing agreement with PPC and both are currently in the process of final testing and technology transfer.
“It’s one thing to conduct laboratory testing and demonstrate viability, it’s another thing to get it into a product,” explained Bowman.
“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,” added Montena.