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InfoComm 2014: Fiber Optic Association’s Jim Hayes

Jun 12, 2014 9:01 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Part 1

Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

When you hit the tradeshow floor and you aim to talk fiber optics and see the all the new fiber-related equipment you may want to get yourself in gear on the latest fiber technology. The Fiber Optic Association is the place to start and Jim Hayes is going to tell us about what’s been going on there and how they can help. That’s coming right up on the SVC Podcast.

Jim, thanks for being with us here on the SVC Podcast, coming to us from California and the Fiber Optic Association. Before we get into training courses and what to look for at the trade shows, tell us about what’s been going on at the Fiber Optic Association. I think there’s been plenty going on.

There is. Fiber is very active around the world today. We manage over 200 schools in about 40 countries around the world, and last year they trained and certified over 5,000 new techs. Recently we’ve been expanding in many of those overseas areas, especially South and Central America have been very active. We’re also actively keeping up with all the new technologies in the business like fiber optics for wireless networks, optical LANs, a lot of alternative energy, and the usual traditional oil and gas industry are all discovering new uses for fiber optics. [Timestamp: 1:36]

Fiber has been around now for a long time but you see more and more of it in products at the big shows like InfoComm and that brings up an obvious need for more AV people to know how to work with it. The FOA’s main purpose is education so what type of FOA courses might help tech people when they visit trade shows and talk to company reps demonstrating their fiber-optic systems, how can they be a little more savvy when they get face to face with the people doing fiber demos?

As a worldwide professional society, we set the standards for basic certifications. We create the curriculums and the tasks, we train the instructors and we improve the schools, and they teach the courses. They take our curriculum and make it appropriate for the kinds of students they have. For example, we have specialist certifications for people who do premises cabling, which will actually include copper and wireless as well as fiber. We have programs for outside plant. We have programs specialized for all sorts of applications, and our schools can tailor the programs to a particular type of customer that they have. The FOA is totally independent of manufacturers. We really cater to the contractors and installers who are doing work for specialized applications. [Timestamp: 2:54]

You know, the advantages of optical networks are pretty well-known, but that industry has been breaking out of its traditional role in very big commercial networks and has been widening its acceptance over the past few years.

Optical LANs are a relatively old idea, but they have been taking advantage of some new technology primarily fiber to the home. Fiber to the home has been around for about seven years now, and over 100 million people worldwide now have fiber to the home. So whenever you get quantities like that for any kind of application, the products become cheap. So connecting people using fiber to the home networks is cheap. Within the last couple of years people have realized that fiber to the home network is actually very similar to a local area network or a premises cabling network, particularly in large buildings with large numbers of users or large physical spaces. They start looking very much like the way a town builds a fiber to the home network. So what companies are now doing is adopting the technology of fiber to the home and to building cabling systems. And of course the big advantage is that fiber to the home is specifically designed to deal not only with internet connections over Ethernet, but also voice, traditional phone and TV. So if you look at, for example, something like a convention center or a college campus, particularly dormitories, the fact that fiber to the home system can deliver triple play services – triple play being voice, data and video – is a big advantage to both the end user and the contractor. [Timestamp: 4:43]

And if people are going to a tradeshow and they’re interested in what’s going to be there in fiber-optic systems and they want to come up to speed on this stuff pretty fast, the FOA has some very good fiber tutorials on YouTube don’t you?

We do. We have over 80 videos now on YouTube. Most of them are 10 minutes or less and they’re very specific topics, so they’re designed for people to bop on, learn a little bit, and come back when they have time and pick up. And it starts with the basics, just what is fiber optics and where it’s used, and goes up to some very special technologies like characterizing fiber for ultra high-speed applications. And there’s even a fairly long 20-minute video lecture on managing fiber optic projects aimed at the contractor and the end user who are not familiar with fiber who’d like to know what’s involved in a project from concept to completion. [Timestamp: 5:44]

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