Fibre optic data shows the accurate impact of NZ earthquake on buildings

Mark Englund, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at FiberSense

FiberSense, a leading infrastructure sensing and monitoring company, has shared remarkable high-resolution results in its detection of the magnitude 5.8 Cook Strait earthquake that occurred 70km northwest of Wellington, New Zealand on 22 September.

How is fiber optic data helping in earthquake detection?

Founder and CEO of FiberSense, Mark Englund said “Our DigitalSeismic sensing service that we have operating on fibre optic telecoms cables in Wellington detected a range of activity from the earthquake centred on the Cook Strait last week. We cross-referenced our measurements with the records of the official earthquake sensors & the results were remarkable, for the first time ever we calibrated the impact of quakes down to a building-by-building analysis level.”

“Immediately after the earthquake last week we first confirmed that the main data points from the official readings like magnitude and wave movement across ground closely matched with our readings. This established that our fibre optic-based quake detection is as reliable as current methods that depend on monitoring stations scattered across New Zealand,” he said.

“Because the fibre-based method constantly records the activity as the event wave moves across the earth, our DigitalSeismic service captured the peak ground acceleration with around 1000x greater fidelity compared to what conventional seismic networks achieved,” he said.

Why use Fiber optics data to study earthquakes?

FiberSense Vice President of Research & Development, Dr Nate Lindsey, said “Fibre optic telecoms cables are the hidden web of communication within a city. FiberSense’s DigitalSeismic service uses this web to take the pulse of a city, block-by-block, building-by-building.”

“When an earthquake strikes, we use advances in distributed sensing to make measurements of how much the ground shook at positions every few metres along the optical fibre, improving on the traditional seismometers separated by kilometres, at best,” Nate said.

“The DigitalSeismic concentrates ground shaking info where it matters most – in and around the populated areas where the fibre is commonly located. This contrasts with conventional seismic networks which have traditionally been located far from noisy city activity. Targeting populated areas adds important data-driven insight right where people are most impacted, making DigitalSeismic tech a real game changer for how we respond to seismic hazards.”

“We believe this capability will be an invaluable tool for first responders, utilities, critical infrastructure owners and seismologists, as well as government authorities in assessing the damage from earthquakes. Whilst we can’t prevent natural disasters occurring, we can inform the way we plan for and respond to these inevitable events,” Dr Nate Lindsey said.

“It is critical that the quality of data we base our recovery plans on should be as complete & well informed as possible. At FiberSense, we are pleased to be able to contribute to meeting that challenge and help make the world around us safer & more secure for all,” Mark said.

FiberSense is engaged with seismologists at Victoria University of Wellington & University of Auckland through a grant by Earthquake Commission (EQC) to study the earthquake recordings, is availed by FiberSense. Through this science partnership, FiberSense hopes to build a bridge to new opportunities in earthquake early warning and seismic hazard analysis.

What are the Digitalseismic results of the NZ earthquake?

Researchers working to understand the impact, scale, and dangers that earthquakes have on communities, have to date been informed by the data collected by individual seismic readers scattered around the globe. In the quake-prone islands of NZ, this can mean just a few dozen seismic meters, kilometres apart, are relied upon to capture data for the country.

They measure not just the onset and duration of ground motion, but also critically important information like the maximum ground acceleration and directionality of shaking. Taken together, this data informs the public sector’s responses to natural disasters and underpins our preparations to proceed with a plan of action when the inevitable next event occurs.

However, the current quality of earthquake data is about to be turbo charged by using info detected across the ubiquitous fibre optic cables that link up cities, connect communities & the globe. The team at FiberSense has invented and patented a new class of sensor system over optical fibre cable infrastructure called Vibration Detection & Ranging (VID+R).

This tech acts as a series of ‘virtual seismic sensors’ set every few metres along a fibre cable. These distributed sensors can then detect momentum of the earthquake as the damaging waves move through city blocks & even individual buildings. This detailed info about the event is available right after the earthquake as the data is aggregated automatically in the cloud.