Using machine learning, existing fiber optic cables to track Pittsburgh hazards

Existing fiber optic cables used for high-speed internet and telecommunications, in combination with machine learning, may be able to help scientists track ground hazards in Pittsburgh. The National Science Foundation awarded a $937,000 grant to a team of Penn State and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers to further develop the low-cost monitoring approach.

The effort, which is led by Tieyuan Zhu, associate professor of geosciences at Penn State, relies on prior research that shows hazards such as flooding, landslides, sinkholes and leaking pipes can be monitored at a fraction of the cost of existing methods…

According to Zhu, the research team chose to further develop and test their approach in Pittsburgh because of its aging infrastructure, challenging terrain and susceptibility to geological hazards. Collaborator David Himes, sustainable communities manager at the Penn State Center Pittsburgh, will help the team leverage and expand upon existing partnerships with local municipalities and utilities. In addition, collaborator Karen Lightman, executive director of CMU’s Metro21: Smart Cities Institute, will guide the team’s interactions with community partners with the goal of facilitating diverse, equitable and inclusive engagement.

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