Anyone considering unlawfully entering sensitive government sites in several countries might want to think again. The perimeters may be protected by an advanced intrusion detection system developed by Australian company Future Fibre Technologies.
Future Fibre Technologies manufactures fibre-optic intrusion detection and location systems that detect interference with fences, perimeters and pipelines at industrial, petrochemical, military and government sites. This technology can pinpoint the exact location of an intrusion and is integrated into other security sensors and systems as appropriate for the site.
The company's artificial intelligence system can also distinguish between real interference and false alarms.
Future Fibre Technologies employs 45 staff at offices in Australia, India, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the US. It also sells its products through 15 distribution partners in Belgium, India, Iraq, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the UK. Around 95 per cent of the company's revenue is generated from overseas contracts.
Future Fibre Technologies got its first big break in 2000 when it won a contract with Singapore's Ministry of Defence. In 2001, it also entered the government market in Australia with a contract to provide intrusion detection systems for important government sites in Canberra.
The company's journey began in 1995–96 when it was awarded a Competitive Grant by the Australian Government to develop 'weigh in motion' technology in conjunction with the Australian Road Research Board. The companies tested highly sensitive loops of fibre-optic cables that when placed beneath a highway, could weigh heavy vehicles while they were moving past at highway speeds.
Key outcomes from this project included advancing the company's knowledge and skills in the areas of optical instrumentation, developing locally manufactured fibre optic-based Michelson interferometers able to detect minute movements, and advancements in managing background environmental noise in highly sensitive measurement situations.
"This experience developed and refined our expertise in high-sensitivity fibre optic sensors, as well as their potential applications," says Alec Owen, International Client Manager.
While the project proved that the core technology worked, it did not become a commercial success.
"We decided to move in another direction and start developing fibre-optic sensing applications, eventually striking the right market with intrusion detection," says Owen.
Future Fibre Technologies has received subsequent grants under Austrade's Export Market Development Grants Scheme. The grants have helped the company meet the direct costs associated with growth activities, such as establishing a distribution network and exhibiting at trade shows.
"The grants really helped us commercialise our intrusion detection technologies overseas," says Owen. "They enabled us to connect with the right people – we regularly worked with Austrade and participated in seminars and exhibitions under the Austrade banner."
In 2010, the company won the prestigious Prime Minister's Australian Exporter of the Year Award. It was also the Governor of Victoria Export Award winner in the small to medium manufacturer category in 2009 and 2010.