Underground fibre optics and pipelines for power, water and gas are essential set-ups for our city to run smoothly. As our city evolves as a smart city, it is useful to collect data from pipelines fitted with sensors, such as the real-time temperature sensor developed by Science Park company Optical Sensing.
Optical Sensing’s CEO Matthew Lam says that the company’s Distributed Temperature Sensing (DTS) system applies Optical Time Domain Reflectometry (OTDR) to calculate ambient temperatures with a spectrum of data transmitted via the fibre optic network. The system can check if a power cable is overloaded or overheated, which helps to lower fire risks for the power grid and data hubs.
Prior to setting up Optical Sensing in 2012, Matthew worked in mobile telecommunications dealing with fibre optic cables, engine rooms, power systems and data centres, and he was keenly aware that system overheating or power system overloading had caused fires. He founded the company with a few like-minded partners and worked on the idea of a monitoring system. Their research led them to apply OTDR to temperature monitoring, and the rest is their startup history.
Wide adoption by industry leaders
A host of leading organisations and corporations have since adopted the DTS solution. Among them are CLP Group, Gammon Construction, MTR Corporation, Langham Place, Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital, Tuen Mun Hospital, Hong Kong Jockey Club and various government departments. They use Optical Sensing’s products and services to monitor their power systems and networks. For example, MTRC is using the solution on the Airport Express line and plans to extend the application to the circuit breaker rooms of stations. CLP plans to use the solution in the engine rooms of the Heung Yuen Wai Boundary Control Point at Liantang, Matthew reveals.
Many of the company’s clients maintain round-the-clock operations and services at high standards. In the past, they had to rely on visual inspections by engineering staff, which were inefficient and inadequate. Matthew says that Optical Sensing’s networked monitoring system can help these organisations significantly step up their hazard control capabilities and service standards.
Matthew admits that Optical Sensing competes with a large number of DTS solution providers in the global marketplace but he is confident that the company’s unique R&D capabilities and all-round solution set it apart. As well as offering hardware supply and installation, staff training and maintenance services, the company provides flexible and multi-level services for remote monitoring and outsourcing to meet the diverse needs of clients. Its proprietary data analysis software can perform risk analyses on big data and come up with recommendations and solutions for preventive measures. The company’s technical team is also researching sensors and Internet of Things applications specifically for smart city development.
Eyeing Southeast Asia
Optical Sensing has already expanded beyond Hong Kong to Southeast Asia. According to Matthew, the company has won contracts in Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. It has also connected with prospective clients in some Middle East countries, where the potential opportunities depend on political and economic factors. He says that Southeast Asia accounts for only 10 to 15% of the global DTS market estimated to be worth more than US$400 million, indicating plenty of room for growth.
Going international with HKSTP’s help
Optical Sensing has been based at Science Park since its early days. After graduating from HKSTP’s incubation programme, the company progressed to HKSTP’s Leading Enterprises Acceleration Programme (LEAP). Matthew is grateful for HKSTP’s generous support with business development and partner connections, which has helped the company get to where it is. He looks forward to continuing the partnership with HKSTP to contribute to future smart city development and help promote Hong Kong’s innovation globally.