Unless you’ve been living under a connectivity rock for the past two years, you have noticed the explosive growth in the use of fiber optics for a wide variety of communication needs. Take my house for example. After living with basic DSL for 12-14 years, we recently updated our system to the AT&T U-Verse “super DSL” about 12 months ago. What I soon found out was there was a price to be paid for higher bandwidth — increased packet loss and communication problems. I badgered the U-Verse people until they brought singlemode fiber right to my desk — well, underneath it, to be precise. Now I’ve got the power and the big pipe that only fiber optics can provide.

Having been a fiber optics trainer for more than 12 years, I have seen and heard of a wide variety of applications using fiber optics, such as manufacturing, prisons, tollways, wind farms and many security camera connections. Fiber is the way to go to get big bandwidth, great distance and immunity to RFI/EMI.

While the use of fiber grows, the availability of basic fiber optic tools, components and testers for technicians is still a problem. Fiber work requires very specific tools and cleaning materials — you cannot do the work without the right stuff. Even in a big city like Chicago, finding a distributor that stocks these items is difficult.

So for the past eight to 10 years I have been purchasing many fiber tools and components from a company named Fiber Instrument Sales Inc. (FIS), located in Oriskany, N.Y. The beauty of FIS is that they have the equipment and accessories on hand, the pricing is reasonable, and the delivery is like lightning. Order today and get it tomorrow — kind of like the Amazon for all fiber optic equipment needs.

Recently they introduced the Fiber Fence Security System which uses the physics of fiber optics to detect cutting or climbing on typical chain-link fences. Fiber optic cable (singlemode in particular) is sensitive to being bent. So an individual climbing the fence will bend the laced fiber strands within the fence mesh and create an alarm event that can be monitored and annunciated in a number of ways based on the customer’s needs. The alarm signals will also activate upon the cutting of the fibers. 

This system can deliver alarms in a basic relay output for each “zone” of the fence, and there is software available to provide a graphic display showing the zone or area of the fiber activation.

When training the technicians at the Long Beach Harbor about 10 years ago, my contact there explained to me how the “bad guys” would simply drive a semi-tractor through their fencing, hook onto any available trailer and drag it away. So fence security is a first line of detection for large facilities, open area storage and other such locations.

While I have not had the opportunity to actually test the Fiber Fence Security System, the functionality and optical physics used in the system make total sense. The bending or breaking of the fiber can be easily detected with optical time domain reflectometer technology that has been available for decades. So it would seem that this system is certainly worth investigating when a fence detection system is being considered.

And if you are looking for any type of fiber optic tools — connectors, jumpers, accessories, etc. — give the good people at Fiber Instrument Sales (Fiberinstrumentsales.com or 800-500-0347) a call. They’ve got the stuff, their salespeople are knowledgeable, and the pricing is within acceptable ranges.