Verizon & NEC partner on fibre optic AI smart city pilot

Richardson, Tx and Tokyo, Japan

In a recent proof-of-concept field trial, Verizon and NEC Corporation were able to use network infrastructure with existing fibre optic cables already laid in the ground as distributed optical sensors to collect information on city traffic patterns, road conditions, road capacity, and vehicle classification information.

The trial used new optical sensor technology developed by NEC with software underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI) for intelligent traffic monitoring including the measurement of vehicle density, direction, speed, acceleration, deceleration, and more. Historically, companies have had to lay purpose-built fibre very shallow in the ground with fibre grating at pre-determined intervals to gather and synthesize this type of information. Now, with optical sensor technology developed by NEC, Verizon is able to use non-purpose built fibre already in the ground to generate similar data. This new technology could lead to or improve other solutions that support public functions such as helping first responders detect and respond to gun shots and enhancing municipalities’ ability to more quickly and efficiently identify earlier deterioration of bridges, tunnels and other infrastructure.

"This test marks an important milestone for technology that could provide a huge leap forward for those building smart cities and those tasked to manage them," said Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice President of Technology Planning and Development with Verizon. "Instead of ripping up tarmac to place road and traffic-sensing technology, cities will be able to simply piggyback Verizon’s existing fibre optic network."

Verizon is uniquely positioned to be able to scale this solution nationwide. With hundreds of thousands of miles of fibre already in place and plans to deploy 1,400 miles of additional fibre per month, the breadth of geography where Verizon can mine for data to assist municipalities’ efforts is substantial.

According to the companies, this is the first time and longest distance that such sensing data has been collected through an operational telecom network. AI tools such as Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) and a Support Vector Machine were used in order to take advantage of Distributed Intelligent Traffic Informatics (DITI).

"NEC has a strong history of leadership in the area of optical fiber technology. The results obtained from this joint research programme with Verizon are a great advancement for smart city business opportunities, especially for safer city solutions such as the conservation of roads and the utilisation of traffic information. We are confident that these cutting-edge solutions will provide meaningful new value for optical fibre networks," said Atsuo Kawamura, Executive Vice President of NEC.


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