Since its inaugural class in 2015, the Cabling Innovators Awards program has showcased some of the brightest lights in fiber-optic innovation.
As the deadline (May 6) nears for submissions into the 2022 Cabling Innovators Awards, it’s likely that the eighth year of the program also will be the eighth year in which fiber-optic projects and products are featured prominently among honorees.
Launched in 2015, the Cabling Innovators Awards program honors projects and products that display innovative qualities in one or more of seven areas: 1) an innovative approach; 2) value to the user; 3) positive impact on the customer; 4) sustainability; 5) meeting a defined need; 6) collaboration; and 7) making a difference.
Over the years, many fiber-optic-based products and projects have gained deserved recognition in the Cabling Innovators Awards. Here’s one example from each year.
2015: Powered Fiber Cable System from TE Connectivity (now CommScope). The Powered Fiber Cable System brings network connectivity as well as power to any location. It includes a hybrid cable that combines fiber communications and copper power cables within one housing. The system also includes a power supply, a media converter that enables PoE, and a PoE extender that allows distances up to 3 kilometers. The system is used in applications like small cells, WiFi access points, surveillance cameras, digital signage and others. In 2015 Jade Communications of Boca Raton, FL designed the Powered Fiber Cable System into a golf course. The system allowed the course to turn up a 36-camera surveillance system, including cameras that are more than 10,000 feet from the power source. Jade Communications estimated a savings of more than $140,000 in network buildout costs for the project compared to alternative communications-and-power solutions.
2016: FlexScan Complete Kits from AFL. The kit contains a pocket-sized OTDR with an integrated optical light source, optical power meter, and visual fault locator, along with a FOCIS Flex inspection probe and OFI-BI Optical Fiber Identifier, and cleaning supplies. AFL explained at the time, “As Gigabit fever spreads across America and reaches beyond our shores, network operators struggle to equip their technicians with affordable, needed tools to effectively and efficiently troubleshoot expanding fiber-based networks. These technicians may be required to non-intrusively identify active versus out-of-service fibers, verify transmit or receive power levels, measure insertion loss and optical return loss, clean and inspect connector endfaces, verify splice loss or connector loss and reflectance, or troubleshoot networks—and they may need to perform these tests while up a pole or fiber-based antenna, or down a hole.”
2017: AROONA from CAILabs. AROONA is an optical solution that enables network upgrades through legacy fiber. Based on CAILabs’ light-shaping technology of Multi-Plane Light Conversion (MPLC), AROONA is installed at the end of a multimode fiber to give that fiber the same capacity as one or more singlemode fibers.
2018: Passive optical network (PON) and WiFi installation by Vision Technologies. Vision Technologies designed, installed, and commissioned a unified WiFi and PON system for The Wharf, a mile-long, 24-acre, $2.2-billion mixed-use development along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The system provides state-of-the-art, pervasive 802.11ac wireless services to the outdoor, garage, and 6,000-person indoor-venue areas. The entire implementation, testing and commissioning was accomplished on a 30-day schedule. After completing the system buildout, Vision performed testing and commissioning, and continues to extend the network, allowing high-speed WiFi access for additional Wharf areas including 11 five-star hotels.
2019: Fiber installation project in Estes Park, CO, with technology from Dura-Line. Dura-Line’s FuturePath Figure-8 Self-Support Aerial was used to bring broadband to a unique city. Estes Park sits in the middle of the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of 8,000 feet. With all of their poles still being climbed, and only 40% access to their existing poles, they decided for a fiber installation they wanted to go up on the poles one time and never have to do it again. The initial project went up a 7-mile canyon and because of the FuturePath multi-chamber pathway design with a micro cable, they were able to jet fiber the entire route without splicing. This method brought the city’s installation cost down from $18 per foot to $7 per foot. In total, using the FuturePath Figure-8 Self-Support Aerial saved the City of Estes Park Power and Light $3.5 million in labor hours.
2020: The SWK Connector from Swick Designs (pictured at top of page). The SWK Connector is a self-cleaning, self-protecting connector that its creator Swick Designs explains “makes supplemental cleaning and dust caps things of the past. The connector’s cylindrical shape allows for quick on-the-fly polarity and key flips, while its extended handle allows for connector operation away from the patch panel.” Key features of the SWK Connector include the ability to support between 24 and 192 fibers; self-cleaning capability to eliminate dust and debris; a self-protecting shield shroud; low insertion loss and return loss; high density; quick polarity flips and gender changes; easy reach and push-twist connect operation. The SWK product line includes patented patch panels and fanout cables to adapt the connector to LC, MPO, and QSFP.
2021: Robotic fiber panel system with mini chassis, by Tripp Lite. Using remote control and automated robotic latching, these rack-mounted systems reconfigure layer 1 fiber connections quickly and precisely, saving IT managers time and money while increasing efficiency. This efficiency reduces the need to purchase new equipment and lowers operating expenses.
What fiber breakthroughs will we honor with 2022 Cabling Innovators Awards? That remains to be seen. But rest assured, fiber projects and products will be notable parts of this year’s program, as they have been in the past.