The use of fiber optic cables for communications dates back to the 1950s when some of the first demonstrations of the world’s earliest transmission systems occurred. Since then, continuous innovation of optical fiber has significantly improved the performance characteristics to a level that now fiber optic cables serve as the backbone for global communications systems.
Sending and receiving data using light-based optical signals, fiber optics have transformed and advanced numerous industries, with the most prevalent being the internet, computer networking, telephone, and television networks to name a few. More recently, it has revolutionized data centers, wireless, and cloud providers that send and manage vast amounts of data required to support these industries. While these use cases are known to most, there are also other lesser-known use cases. Here we discuss six of them - keep in mind, while they may be lesser-known, they are widely used for some of the most important technology capabilities relied upon by people every day.
6 Lesser-Known Use Cases for Fiber Optic Cables
1. Rail and Road Transportation Systems
Optical fiber cables are used in light rail transit and other railway systems for railway communication, signal, and command-dispatching networks. Entertainment applications, onboard internet, and relaying information regarding train control and passenger information require the faster yet reliable transmission of larger volumes of data in trains. Ethernet systems in trains connected with fiber optic cables suit the purpose well.
In addition to the railway systems, the traffic camera systems installed on roads and highways are typically connected using fiber optic cables as they constantly stream or capture high-quality video images.
2. Medical Devices and Imaging
Today, healthcare is not only one of the most important sectors serving people, but also a highly competitive area, and healthcare device manufacturers strive to innovate and support providers with advanced biomedical instrumentation to provide more efficient diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment for patients.
Fiber optic technology is beneficial in the medical field primarily because it is smaller and insensitive to ionizing radiation from X-rays, Computed Tomography (CT) machinery, and electromagnetic interference from Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) devices. Furthermore, this chemically inert and nontoxic material can withstand high temperatures; thus, an ideal material to use in light guides, imaging tools, and surgery lasers, devices that should be used inside and near the human body.
3. Electrical and Nuclear Power Systems
The electrical power industry faces several daily challenges, from electromagnetic interference to extreme temperatures. And to provide safe and reliable electricity to our homes and workplaces, electricity providers rely on a wide array of systems. In addition, the employees of the electricity providers should stay away from the dangers of high voltage, and at the same time, they should maintain clear communication. Therefore, many power utility companies choose fiber-optic communication systems such as Optical Ground Wire (OPT-GW) for monitoring and controlling their power grid systems.
Similarly, in recent years, nuclear power systems have adopted fiber-optic technology-enabled signal transmission for process monitoring and control using radiation-hardened optical fibers. As a result, fiber-optic technology is the data transmission technology choice in critical atomic power systems with very high data availability requirements.
Lastly, with electric utility providers having vast conduit infrastructures and the right-of-way to deliver power, many are starting to install and lease optical fibers as part of their infrastructure helping to provide internet services to more consumers and serving as an additional source of revenue.
4. Automotive and Decorative Lighting
The ability of the fiber optic cables to transmit light also makes them a good candidate for lighting solutions. Combined with light-emitting diode (LED) technology at lower wavelengths and utilizing plastic optical fibers (POF), fiber optic cable offers attractive lighting solutions.
It’s not uncommon for illuminated fiber optic cables and lighting strips to be used for interior and exterior automotive lighting, along with other decorative uses in nightclubs, saunas, spas, and swimming pools, to name a few.
5. Consumer Audio & Video Devices
Fiber optic technology is a powerful tool for consumer Audio/Video (AV) devices such as home theatres and sound systems. It can transmit high-resolution AV signals to a longer distance without losing signal strength by avoiding the risk of ground loop hums and electrical interference.
Fibre optical cables may be more expensive than other cables, such as coaxial and High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). Still, they are much more effective at transmitting and reproducing AV signals. When looking closely at the connection ports on many consumer audios and video devices like home theatres or sound systems, one may note there is often an “optical” port included for this purpose.
6. Mechanical Inspections
Since fiber optic cables are made of thinner and lighter materials and some include bend-insensitive properties, they can be a useful component in tools designed for mechanical inspection. These processes can include inspecting hard-to-reach places, such as pipelines, automotive or aircraft systems, buildings, and other engineering works.
Fiber Optic Cables: Driving High-Speed Networks
Currently, businesses and consumers worldwide continue to demand faster and more secure systems for supporting their communications needs. Fiber optic technology is the primary solution and is expected to continue to play a lead role in this data networking revolution.
A recent study conducted by Research and Markets reveals that the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the global fiber optic market may reach nearly nine percent by 2025. This means that more industries and sectors will rely on this technology in the coming years as a crucial component in their industrial infrastructure.
To support this, fiber optic cable technology will also continue to grow and innovate to support business, consumer, and other communications applications. Along with advances in the optical fibers themselves, cable designs that allow for higher densities of fiber, new connector types, and new cabling materials are all likely to occur to support the growing demands and changing system architectures.
Lastly, fiber optic technicians necessary for installing, troubleshooting, and maintaining fiber optic cables will need to continue to grow their skill set to effectively support these networks. Using advanced training platforms like Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) and PON network simulators in the classroom will enable them to quickly develop the expertise and required skillsets.
Interested in receiving more information about the various types of optical fibers utilized in fiber optic cables? Have a specific question about fiber optic cables?
With a passion for optical fiber and a team of experienced fiber experts, M2 Optics specializes in manufacturing customized optical fiber and cable solutions for network simulation, training, connectivity, and latency-driven applications.
Contact M2 to learn more and increase your fiber and cable knowledge today.