“Power Companies recognize the potential of our technology”

Six month after announcing joint pilot, Israel Electric Company (IEC) announced a strategic investment in Prisma Photonics Company from Tel-Aviv, the developer of fiber based monitoring solutions. No further details were given regarding the extent of the investment, but it is estimated at millions of dollars.

Prisma Photonics’ technology is based on a physical phenomenon in which part of the photons within the light pulse are being scattered, and a small fraction of the traveling pulse’s energy is reflected back, holding information about the fiber’s environment. The solution used by the IEC is capable of detecting maintenance and safety events along the power lines, such as attempts of equipment sabotaging, people climbing on power towers, partial discharges, short circuits and even weather conditions that endanger the power lines such as wildfire, strong winds or lightning strikes.  

Till now, within this pilot, which was officially announced six months ago but has actually been going on for more than a year, the IEC uses the solution to monitor several segments of its network, in a total length of more than 100 km. Aside from the financial aspect, this investment marks an expansion of the cooperation between the two companies.

Eitan Elkin, Prisma Photonics’ Director of Marketing, says to Techtime that during the pilot, the system successfully identified in real time faulty components and problems related to the insulation between high voltage lines, and to locate the exact power tower. “It is about great saving in time, manpower and resources. The immediate detection assists also in preventing power outages and further damage. The intention now is to expand the coverage. IEC is highly advanced, technology-wise, and most of its power lines are already accompanied with optical fibers, which is an optimal situation for our solution”.

“Having your strategic customer as your strategic partner is the strongest vote of confidence a company can hope for,” added Dr. Eran Inbar, Prisma Photonics’ CEO. “As an innovative corporation, IEC started collaborating with us six months ago. The current investment supports its commitment to advancing Israel’s power supply industry through innovation. To date, our system has transformed the optical fiber infrastructure deployed on IEC’s high-voltage grids into a sequence of extremely sensitive sensors that identify issues and track their precise location down to the nearest power tower level in real-time and with no need for placing additional sensors along the transmission lines”.

The cooperation with the IEC is added to similar cooperation with New York Power Authority, who also uses Prisma Photonics’ solution, and to other investment made by the German E.ON global electric utility. “Power companies recognize the potential and added value which Prisma Photonics’ technology offers”, says Elkin.

“Listen” to the fiber

Prisma Photonics’ technology is based on a physical phenomenon in which part of the photons within the light pulse are being scattered, and a small fraction of the traveling pulse’s energy it reflected back, holding information about the fiber’s environment. This way, the fiber is used as an active sensor and detector. Analyzing the scattered energy allows for detection of environmental events, similar to the way radar works. The main challenge is that the back-scattered signal is very low – typically, as low as 1 billionth of the transmitted pulse, makes it hard to differentiate between different signals and build a clear picture of the outside environment. This is the reason why most solutions currently in the market are having problems to reduce false positive and negative alarms.

Prisma Photonics’ solution uses patented laser-based optical interrogator for ultra-sensitive and intelligent-learning detection, producing “acoustic signature” of each event, later used for a smart event identification and classification.

According to the company, its solution is 100 times more sensitive than the other solutions currently in the market. It can identify changes in pressure, temperature and vibrations outside the fiber at resolution of one millionth of a millimeter, and build a precise detailed picture of the events based of these changes, providing dramatic reduction of false alarms.

Another advantage is the ability to monitor up to 100 KM using a single Optical Interrogator unit. Based on this technology, Prisma Photonics developed a variety of solutions for the infrastructure world, such as locating leacks and theft attempts from oil & gas pipes, damages and sabotage attempts to submarine cables, hazards and people crossing railways, peripheral defense and detecting trespassers along border lines.

Actelis crossed the Gigabit barrier over telephone copper lines

[Pictured above: one of Actelis backhaul solutions]

Israeli Actelis marked another milestone in its backhaul technology. The company developed communication network solution which allows for a significant expansion of the data transfer capacity within existing telephony infrastructures. The solution becomes feasible by neutralizing electromagnetic interruptions and cross talks, which take place between copper cables coiled together at the telephony lines.

Currently, Actelis announced that the new generation of its solution makes it possible to transmit one Gigabit per second on the standard copper cables. In this manner, the new technology actually upgrades to data transmittal level of telephone lines into an optic fiber one, and propose an attractive alternative to the complex challenges facing the Telecom world these days. These challenges include the ability to provide wider bandwidth for each end-user, deployment of communication infrastructure in the public space for IoT, and providing solutions for internal Ethernet networks.  

The key is in neutralizing the noise

Actelis was founded in 1999 by CEO Tuvia Bar-Lev, Yuval Brown & Kamran Elahian. With its headquarters in the USA and R&D in Tel-Aviv, the company has raised $130 million, mainly from American Venture capital funds. Actelis concentrates in developing network solutions which allows for extremely high upgrade of the data capacity that is transferred through standard copper cables. Usually, telephony lines are composed of several braided copper cables. In this configuration, data cannot be transmitted at high rates, since the high energy emitted by high frequency transmission creates electromagnetic interruptions in between the cables, which, in turn, exchange the transmission into unrecognizable noise. In addition, signal quality is being worn out as distance is greater. Due to these limitations, the increase on internet speeds at the last two rates was mainly based on switching the DSL infrastructure into optic fiber one. 

Actelis solutions, combining hardware & software and installed in backhauls, are based on unique algorithms, ciphering techniques, compression and error correction, as well as the usage of amplifiers and signal repeaters, which neutralize the interruptions and allow for the transmission of strong communication without affecting the signal quality.

In his conversation with Techtime, Actelis CEO Tuvia Bar-Lev explains that this technology makes it possible to use older infrastructure and adjust it for current standards. “Telephone lines, outspread today everywhere, are unexploited resources. Current technologies refer separately to each cable in the braid, thus are capable of transferring data in a very low rate, in order to avoid noises. Our technology refers to the whole braid as entirety, and when you know what is going on at each line – you can neutralize the noises. No one did it before simultaneously for this amount of lines. We are able to clean the line at a factor of 50 Decibels, which is considered phenomenal. Our systems are solid even more then optic fibers”. 

Significant tier in the hybrid network structure

As said, Actelis is being active in the field for more than 20 years, and in the last two decades its technology made progress together with the internet, starting from dozens of Megabits, going through hundreds of Megabits and ending today with Gigabit.

According to Bar-Lev, especially today, in spite the wider deployment of optical network, the need for his company’s technology is even more emphasized. “There is always a need for more bandwidth, especially with COVID-19 in the background, the many devices connected in each smart home and the IoT world. Everybody wants to be connected everywhere, not only at home and not only in their Smartphone, but at each and every sensor. Optical fibers are not available everywhere, and it is not economic to deploy a fiber for each end user. The Telecom industry gets it, and therefore tends towards the hybrid solution. This is where we go in. Our technology allows using the existing telephony and telemetry infrastructure and brings rapid communication without the enormous engineering costs of upgrading the infrastructures”.   

Actelis provide solutions for some significant use cases in the Telecom market these days, starting with the provision of wide bandwidth to each end user at a defined residence, without the need to share the same optical fiber; using the existing traffic light telemetry infrastructure in order to upgrade them to smart traffic lights; connectivity along railway tracks and constructing Ethernet networks in campuses, military bases etc. According to the company, it has currently about 300 clients, and it employs some several dozens of workers.