Reshaping the World with Quick Release Fiber Connectors

Written by Jeff Dominique

Intelligent Interconnect Release System

Have you ever heard of a fiber optic, multi-channel break-away connector? This is a device that simultaneously holds several fiber optic ferrules in perfect alignment and then...when disturbed, pops apart like a jack-in-the-box toy. And, just like the toy, you simply compress the spring and push it back together again.

This connector style was originally developed in a joint effort between FNT and Applied Optical Systems (now owned by Optical Cable Corporation). The break-away connector technology, known as IRIS (Intelligent Release Interconnection System), was designed for use in Intelligent Traffic Systems and was first deployed by FNT in a series of Department of Transportation Traffic Cabinets in the metro Phoenix area.

The traffic cabinets with the first ever breakaway IRIS 12 count fiber connector are located in the city of Surprise, Arizona. This little city is a giant when it comes to deploying advanced Intelligent Traffic System components. It is estimated that each IRIS traffic cabinet installation will save the city’s DOT a minimum of $15k in the case of a car struck cabinet. Expenses prevented by an IRIS install include damage to the fiber backbone, electronics, patch cords and further traffic accidents caused by an inoperable signal. The U.S. Highway Administration publishes an annual report stating that the single largest contributor to intersection traffic accidents is directly proportional to how long an accident scene remains with inoperable signaling.

The IRIS connection is based on rugged military connector technology that protects each optical ferrule from severe impact, crush, dirt, dust and even allows temporary transmission while fully submerged under water making it highly beneficial when dealing with flood disaster environments. When a cabinet is struck, a cage surrounding the connector is tripped firing the connector breakout directly upward to be carried with the displaced cabinet. Once a cabinet is placed back onto its pedestal, an IRIS connector can be reset within minutes to restore communications to the cabinet and signals.

FNT has been approached by several organizations to develop a similar solution for nautical industries. The IRIS connector becomes an excellent breakaway solution for dock-side shipping applications. It also has potential for undersea cables surrounding oil rigs which connect to measurement equipment on the sea floor. This specialty option is ideal for any situations where fiber is inadvertently frequently broken and costly to repair due to environmental restrictions.

Further development of this technology now allows the placement of electrical power circuit and copper data paths within the IRIS connector body. Soon this technology could be used to replace all connections into ITS traffic cabinets to provide the harsh environment quick release repair solution that the DOT industry has been waiting for. Contact FNT Toll Free 1-866-818-8050 for more information or click here to request a demonstration.

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