New partnership to promote Distributed Acoustic Sensing for traffic monitoring

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A new partnership will be promoting a new traffic monitoring system that uses a combination of lasers, optic fiber and acoustic vibration sensing technologies. OptaSense, a QinetiQ company, has entered into a two-year partnership with Siemens Traffic Solutions to exploit its Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) system for traffic monitoring applications. The agreement will enable OptaSense to roll out, support and maintain a fully networked traffic monitoring system, using Siemens’ established 24/7 response facilities and broad engineering base. The partnership follows successful road monitoring pilot projects by OptaSense in the UK and overseas, which verified the performance of the DAS system, when compared to the conventional inductive loop technology, in providing information on average speed, journey times and congestion. A pilot project in New Zealand demonstrated that DAS was able to meet flow management and incident detection demands two-and a-half times more cheaply than inductive loops.

Unlike inductive loops, which are concealed beneath the road surface, the OptaSense DAS system uses fiber optic cables already installed alongside the carriageway, removing the need for lane closures during installation or maintenance and improving safety for highway workers. The DAS boxes are also only required to be installed every 50-62 miles (80-100km), rather than every 1,640ft (500m) for inductive loops, significantly reducing cost. The DAS technology works by firing a laser down a fiber optic cable and measuring any disturbance to the laser and analyzing it to create a series of microphones every 30ft (10m). This compares to the existing system that can only monitor traffic which is spaced out over hundreds of feet. DAS can therefore eliminate blind spots and also reduce the response time in the event of an incident, by pinpointing the location more accurately to within 30ft (10m), as well as build a more detailed picture of traffic flow to the area. For drivers, the system results in more timely and accurate traffic data and less disruption caused by road closures.

“Distributed fiber sensing has the potential to greatly reduce the monitoring cost for road operators by significantly reducing the amount of roadside sensors,” explained Magnus McEwen-King, managing director of OptaSense. “Having spent the last few years working directly with a number of highways agencies to develop and test the system performance, we now move into a more commercial deployment phase and are pleased to partner with Siemens to enable this. This partnership gives us access to an established and globally recognized firm with a UK-wide support capability.” Gordon Wakeford, managing director of Siemens Traffic Solutions, said, “We have a long heritage in providing traffic management solutions and we are always looking to bring forward innovation within our industry, and are impressed with the potential for DAS to perform many of the functions currently achieved with a number of sensors. We look forward to taking OptaSense DAS to our customers to help them improve the performance and costs associated with traffic management.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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