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Fiber optic line increases security at U.S.-Mexico border

By Max Burkhalter
December 22, 2010
Fiber optic cable is a versatile tool. The Zonge Engineering and Research Organization have discovered a use for fiber optics that goes beyond providing high-speed broadband internet connectivity. The firm has developed a fiber optic cable system that aims to help the U.S. Border Patrol secure the border.

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the fiber optic cable is potentially a cheaper alternative to border fences, a concept that has been widely criticized. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently conducted a test of the fiber optic cable. They found that, when buried with a remote sensor, the cables could instantly detect when someone or something crossed it. The system, called the Helios Distributed Acoustic Sensor, could also differentiate between humans and animals and tell the difference between horse riders and vehicles.

The system would cover the entire southern border. It would be broken into 64 sections with 50-kilometer lines between sensors. However, before it can be implemented, the system must undergo more rigorous testing at distances of longer than 100-meters. "I observed a 100-meter sample," said Kevin Moffitt, a research scientist at UA’s Center for Border Security and Immigration, to the Daily Star. "But they say it works up to 50 kilometers. It's not like a ground sensor, localized in one small area."

Gary Jones, a security consultant working with Zonge on the project, praised the technology’s versatility. "You could run it around checkpoints where people are concerned that people are avoiding them by going through their neighborhoods " he said to the Daily Star.

He also said the technology is inexpensive and easy to maintain.

According to UA professor Moe Momayez, the technology has also been proven to work elsewhere. Fiber optic cable has been used by British firms to monitor pipeline flow and leaks.

According to the university’s report, the next step for the system should be a series of 2-to-5-kilometer tests over a long period of time in order to build a database of sonic footprints.

However, according to Momayez, the system will not be proven to work until a full section is installed and running.

Fiber optic cable has also found more traditional uses in border states. Recently, Time Warner expanded its fiber optic network in southern California, installing 361,000 miles of cable.


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