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Spark-Free Utility Cover Sensor

Fiber Instrument Sales Inc.Request Info
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ORISKANY, N.Y., Sept. 10 -- Fiber Instrument Sales Inc. (FIS) has developed a fiber optic security system designed to protect underground telecommunications networks.

The patent-pending utility-cover surveillance (UCS) system helps assure that only authorized personnel have access to telecommunications equipment via manholes, handholes or other means. The actual detection mechanism, called Cover Cop, uses no electricity, so it can't spark an explosion in underground utilities where volatile gases may be present.

In this example, the UCS control unit monitor displays a map of a metropolitan area. The map depicts the location and status of manhole covers, which are shown as solid dots and open circles in this aerial view.
   According to FIS President Frank Giotto, "It is startling to realize how much of our nation's vital communications infrastructure is accessible to anyone via unsecured entranceways. Even utility covers that have locks can be forced open, and that's where UCS steps in. It signals an alert whenever a manhole or other utility cover is opened, regardless of whether it has a lock or not. The system also shows the exact location of the open cover on a video display, enabling security personnel to investigate immediately."

Giotto said that the system is also useful for common sewer systems to protect manhole covers and metal grates from theft.

"Cities and towns are finding it very costly to replace stolen manhole covers and grates," he said. "Some cities have resorted to welding covers shut, but this is dangerous because it delays workers when they have to make emergency underground repairs. Also, an open manhole puts vehicles and pedestrians at risk, especially children. Thefts of manhole covers have increased dramatically in recent years, as the price of scrap metal has skyrocketed."

UCS uses the same fiber optic used in the company's Fiber Fence perimeter monitoring system for above-ground monitoring of large perimeters such as airports, water reservoirs, military bases and manufacturing facilities.

Giotto said 500 or more utility covers can be connected in a single system, over a distance of 30 or more kilometers, and that installation is relatively easy: "The installer simply attaches the hermetically sealed Cover Cop, which is a mechanical sensor, at each entry location. The final step is to use fiber optic cable to 'daisy chain' the covers together, running the cable underground to the head-end where a laser light source is attached at the central monitoring unit.

The Central Control Unit, which includes a laser, computer and a monitor, starts at $10,000; the individual sensing devices that are attached to the utility covers cost about $149 per unit. The optical cable is charged by the foot.

"The fiber optic cable is so light that it requires minimal mounting hardware," Giotto said. "In fact, it can be strapped to existing pipes and cables within a utility tunnel. Optical fiber is immune to electromagnetic interference, so running it alongside electrical cable poses no problem.

For more information, visit:; e-mail: [email protected]

Fiber Instrument Sales Inc.
161 Clear Road
Oriskany, NY 13424
Phone: 315-736-2206
Toll-free: 800-500-0347 ext. 107
Fax: 315-736-2285
Sep 2004
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