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Smart Connector pinpoints problems in wired networks

By Damir Beciri
15 December 2011

smart-connectorResearchers at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) collaborated with PPC Corp., a telecommunications radio-frequency (RF) connector equipment company, in order to develop a new sensor that can be installed in the connecting units of coaxial cables in order to speed up the detection of equipment damage. Named Smart Connector, the sensor signals the exact location of malfunction by using its self-diagnosing technologies.

“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”, said Robert Bowman, professor of electrical and microelectronic engineering in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.

Bowman and his research group worked with Noah Montena, principal engineer at PPC, to develop the sensor capable to monitor primary failure modes in RF cables. Although it may not seem important, the technology could provide major benefits to telecommunication organizations. The technology could increase reliability of communication networks by pinpointing problems that cause signal loss.

Smart Connector is smaller than a quarter, and it can be powered by harnessing miniscule amounts of radio frequency energy from the coaxial cables in order to monitor critical conditions and report the sensor status using a technique called backscatter telemetry. Since each sensor has a distinctive designation, the system can be used to pinpoint problems it detects.

“This technology is really exciting, and the impact it could have on the industry is only just becoming apparent”, said 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.”

The sensor is simple, robust and designed with cost-effectiveness in mind. Aside cellular connectors, the technology could be used to monitor other networks where reliability and constant operation present great importance. For example, the Smart Connector could be used in for fast repairs that could be needed in spacecraft or aircraft internal networks.

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