The Smart Connector, a new sensor device, is installed in the connecting units of coaxial cables to provide real-time information about primary failure modes in radio-frequency cables. Researchers in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering and PPC, a Syracuse-based telecommunications connector equipment company, developed the device. Image: Robert Bowman
and damage to cellular telecommunications cables cost organizations and
customers millions in lost revenue and services in the always-on
digital economy. A new sensor device, smaller than a quarter, might
alleviate some of the impact.
at Rochester Institute of Technology and PPC Corp. have developed the
Smart Connector, a new sensor that once installed in the connecting
units of coaxial cables can provide information about equipment damage
and pinpoint the exact location through self-diagnosing
technologies—some of the most advanced in the field today.
sensor is one outcome of corporate research and development initiatives
established at RIT that have grown over the past few years. The
university and PPC Corp. signed a licensing agreement in June, 2011. Both
parties are in the process of final testing and technology transfer,
says Robert Bowman, professor of electrical and microelectronic
engineering in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering.
university demonstrated the feasibility of the technology and is
working with PPC to further test the manufactured product, Bowman
explains. "It's one thing to conduct laboratory testing and demonstrate
viability, it's another thing to get it into a product. PPC worked very
closely with us during this research effort, and we'll work with them as
they try to integrate this technology into their product line."
and his research group worked with Noah Montena, principal engineer at
PPC, a Syracuse-based telecommunications radio-frequency, or RF,
connector equipment company, to design the sensor-disc system. The
system monitors the primary failure modes in RF cables. Each sensor-disc
contains a unique site identifier, monitors critical conditions, and
reports the sensor status using a technique called back scatter
telemetry. 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.
technology is really exciting, and the impact it could have on the
industry is only just becoming apparent," says Montena. "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."
sensors have been designed from the beginning with simplicity,
robustness, and cost-effectiveness in mind, and one of the advantages of
collaborating on the research has been the communication of
manufacturing considerations as design decisions get made, Montena adds.
"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. I look
forward to uncovering all the possibilities."