Fluke Networks launches FiberLert, the first live fibre detector

Fluke has today announced the launch of a handheld tool that detects invisible near-infrared (850-1625nm) wavelengths used in fibre-optic communication to troubleshoot cable, port, polarity and transceiver issues.

Easy troubleshooting

Designed for one-handed operation, the FiberLert is an easy-to-use troubleshooting tool that allows technicians and engineers to simply test for the presence of near infra-red light without the need for complicated setup or interpretation of the measurement data. When placed in front of an active fibre optic port or patch cord, the tester emits a continuous light and optional tone. The tool is unique in the market for users to resolve the cause of the communications failure in fibre-optic networks.

Removing the guesswork

Fibre networks carry a significant amount of data and issues that arise can impact many users making a quick resolution essential.

“There are a lot of network engineers and technicians who need to test and troubleshoot fibre connections on an occasional basis but lack the tools and expertise to do so,” said Robert Luijten, Fluke Networks training manager and test and measurement expert.  “So, they are forced to guess as to the cause of a communication issue and replace components such as transceivers and patch cords in the hope of solving the issue.”

FiberLert removes the guesswork by clearly indicating where the signal is present and where it is not.  This allows users to quickly pinpoint and remedy the cause of the problem, such as a failed transceiver or failed patch cord and replace it. FiberLert supports single-mode, multimode, UPC/APC patch cords and ports and can test without contacting the port or patch cord, reducing the risk of contamination or damage.

Keeping it simple

FiberLert’s LightBeat feature flashes the LED, indicating a powered-on condition and good battery. A timer shuts the tester off after five minutes of inactivity to extend battery life. Rugged design includes a convenient pocket clip and is backed by a two-year warranty.

Are your PLCs an easy target?

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the UK have faced a surge in cybercrime. In fact, research indicates that UK businesses experienced one attempted cyberattack every 46 seconds on average in 2020. Industrial businesses are a prime target for hackers and the ramifications of a data breach or denial-of-service attack are far-reaching, making system security imperative. Here, David Evanson, corporate vendor relationship manager at Novotek UK and Ireland, explains how industrial businesses can keep their vital systems secure.

For many business leaders and engineers, it is still tempting to consider large multinational companies or data-rich digital service providers to be the prime target for hackers. However, the growing volume of cyberattacks on businesses globally show that any company can be a target of malicious attacks on systems and services.

According to research by internet service provider Beaming, there were 686,961 attempted system breaches among UK businesses in 2020, marking a 20 per cent increase on 2019. Of these attacks, Beaming noted that one in ten intended to gain control of an Internet of Things (IoT) device — something that indicates a tendency to target system continuity rather than conventional data.

Both factors together are cause for alarm among industrial businesses of all sizes. Hackers are targeting all manner of companies, from start-ups to global organisations, and focussing more on the growing number of internet-connected devices and systems that were previously isolated.

The consequences of a device being compromised range from data extraction to service shutdown, and in any case the financial and production impacts to an industrial business are significant. There is no single quick fix to bolster cybersecurity due to the varying types of hacks that can take place. Some cyberattacks are complex and sophisticated; others less so. Many attacks on devices tend to fall into the latter category, which means there are some steps industrial businesses can take to minimise risk.

Novotek has been working closely with industrial businesses in the UK and Ireland for decades. One common thing that we have observed with automation hardware and software is that many engineers do not regularly upgrade software or firmware. Instead, there is a tendency to view automation as a one-off, fit-and-forget purchase. The hardware may be physically maintained on a regular schedule, but the invisible software aspect is often neglected.

Older firmware is more susceptible to hacks because it often contains unpatched known security vulnerabilities, such as weak authentication algorithms, obsolete encryption technologies or backdoors for unauthorised access. For a programmable logic controller (PLC), older firmware versions make it possible for cyber attackers to change the module state to halt-mode, resulting in a denial-of-service that stops production or prevents critical processes from running.

PLC manufacturers routinely update firmware to ensure it is robust and secure in the face of the changing cyber landscape, but there is not always a set interval between these updates. In some cases, updates are released in the days or weeks following the discovery of a vulnerability — either by the manufacturer, Whitehat hackers or genuine attackers — to minimise end-user risk. The firmware version’s upgrade information should outline any exploits that have been fixed.

However, it’s important to note that legacy PLCs may no longer receive firmware updates from the manufacturer if the system has reached obsolescence. Many engineers opt to air-gap older PLCs to minimise the cybersecurity risk, but the lack of firmware support can also create interoperability issues with connected devices. Another part of the network, such as a switch, receiving an update can cause communications and compatibility issues with PLCs running on older versions — yet another reason why systems should run on the most recent software patches.

At this stage, engineers should invest in a more modern PLC to minimise risk — and, due to the rate of advancement of PLCs in recent years, likely benefit from greater functionality at the same time.

Firmware vulnerabilities are unavoidable, regardless of the quality of the PLC. At Novotek, we give extensive support for the Emerson PACSystems products that we provide to businesses in the UK and Ireland. This involves not only support with firmware updates as they become available, but also guidance on wider system resilience to ensure that businesses are as safe as possible from hardware vulnerabilities.

The growth in cyberattacks will continue long beyond the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and infrastructure and automation are increasingly becoming targets. It may seem a simple step, but taking the same upgrade approach to firmware that we do with conventional computers can help engineers to secure their operations and keep running systems safely.

Max Planck Institute uses Spectrum’s digitizer cards to measure diameters of distant stars

The MAGIC telescopes on the Canary Island of La Palma were built to observe cosmic objects that emit high-energy gamma rays, i.e., supernovae or black holes. Astronomers also use the twin telescope to measure the diameter of stars to investigate the processes throughout their life cycle. This is a challenging task for earthbound telescopes, since the angular diameter of stars is extremely small: only a few milli-arc-seconds. That is about the size of a coin on top of the Eiffel Tower as seen from New York! Not even the largest telescopes in the world are able to measure them directly. Instead, the researchers record the light intensity of an object by combining the light from several telescopes at a distance of tens of meters – a technique called intensity interferometry. However, the signals are very weak so any spurious signals and crosstalk would swamp them. Having evaluated several makes of digitizer card, Spectrum Instrumentation M4i.4450-x8 digitizer cards were selected.

The twin telescope MAGIC at an altitude of over 2200m on the island La Palma.

“We found that these cards not only had the lowest levels of spurious signals and crosstalk of all the PC cards that we tested,” said David Fink from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, who is in charge of Electronic Development on the project, “but the performance of each card was also identical. The latter is so important as you are trying to compare the differences between the signals from each telescope. The technique is very sensitive to correlated signals and crosstalk between channels including anything picked up along the way from the optical sensors through to the computer that the digitizer cards are mounted in. To put it into perspective, these Spectrum cards enable us to precisely measure fluctuations of the light intensity on nanosecond time scales giving unprecedented sensitivity that is around ten times better than that achieved in the 1970s with the Narrabri interferometer.

MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-Ray Imaging Cherenkov) are the world’s largest air-Cherenkov-telescopes each with a diameter of 17m.

“The other important factor in choosing Spectrum digitizer cards is their excellent reputation for reliability. The cards are located by the two telescopes that are high up in the mountains on the island of La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, so it is not a simple matter to swap in a new card if there is an issue. Plus, there is the cost of instrument downtime and lost observation time. The fact that Spectrum provides a five-year warranty shows their faith in the high quality and reliability of their cards which was supported when we checked with other users in the scientific community. Lastly, Spectrum assured us that they can repair cards long after the five years have passed. That i very reassuring as long-term experiments can often be confronted with a large effort to redevelop a system because the original hardware at the heart of it is no longer available.”

Because of the large quantities of data being handled, the system uses Spectrum’s SCAPP software (Spectrum’s CUDA Access for Parallel Processing). This is a way of sending all the collected data from the digitizer not to the CPU of a PC with 8 or 16 processor cores, but to an NVIDA PC graphic card because the GPU graphic processor has up to 5000 cores giving much faster data processing. This enables recordings to be run in high resolution with 500 Megasamples per second.

Spectrum M4i.4450-x8 2-channel digitizer with 500 MS/s speed

The diameter of a distant star is measured by digitizing the variations in the light received from a star. The cross correlation is then computed and averaged during observation to determine its variation as a function of the separation between telescopes. The geometry changes as the star moves across the sky. Measuring a shape requires observations along multiple axes.


Imaging Atmospheric Cherenkov Telescopes (IACTs) have large mirrors and in the order of one nanosecond time response to signals of a few photo-electrons produced by optical photons. This means that they are ideally suited for optical interferometry observations. Thanks to their sensitivity to visible wavelengths and long baseline optical intensity interferometry with IACTs, angular resolutions of tens to microarcseconds can be achieved. This project has installed a simple optical setup on top of the cameras of the two 17m diameter IACTs and observed coherent fluctuations in the photon intensity measured at the two telescopes for three different stars.

Monitoring data can underpin river quality improvements

The UK’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has requested written evidence from Meteor Communications, the specialist provider of remote water quality monitoring systems, as part of the committee’s ongoing inquiry into water quality in rivers. The submission was timely because it was made while sewage spills were the subject of intense media attention, and after the Environment Act 2021 placed a new responsibility on sewerage undertakers to progressively reduce the impact of discharges from storm overflows.

“We have been following the EAC enquiry closely,” explains Meteor Technical Director Andrew Scott, “and with over 300 of our ESNET outstations currently monitoring UK rivers, we were concerned that some of the participants may not be fully aware of this technological capability.

“Conveniently, data from the Environment Agency’s pollution investigations were recently made public, so we were able to show the EAC examples of the ways in which our technology is able to continuously track the key signatures for different types of pollution, and how these can be correlated with events such as heavy rainfall; delivering legally defensible information.”

Following an online meeting with representatives of the EAC, Meteor staff were asked to provide a written submission, describing the current monitoring networks and explaining how these could be upscaled to monitor downstream and upstream of sewage treatment works in England.

There are two main types of ESNET (Environmental Sensor NETwork) water quality monitoring system; a portable monitoring station, and a kiosk-housed pumped system for semi-permanent or fixed installations. The systems were developed to allow rapid deployment with no requirement for pre-existing power or communication infrastructure. As a result, high resolution, real-time, multiparameter water quality data can be obtained within minutes of deployment.

ESNET monitors are typically loaded with sensors for parameters such as dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, turbidity, ammonium, temperature, blue green algae and chlorophyll. However, it is also possible to include other water quality parameters as well as remote cameras, water level and flow, or meteorological measurements. The addition of autosamplers enables the collection of samples for laboratory analysis; either at pre-set intervals and/or initiated by specific alarm conditions. This is a particular advantage for water companies and regulators because it enables the immediate collection of samples in response to a pollution incident, which informs mitigation measures and helps to identify the source of contamination.

The EAC inquiry follows increasing concern about water quality in rivers, with just 14% of English rivers currently achieving ‘Good’ ecological status and no river rated ‘Good’ on its chemical status. It has also been reported that in 2020 there were over 400,000 discharges of raw sewage into English rivers.

Looking forward Andrew says: “All stakeholders are currently looking for ways to improve water quality in rivers, and effective continuous monitoring of receiving waters will perform a vital role in achieving that objective. In addition, the Environment Act 2021 places a new responsibility for monitoring the quality of watercourses into which storm overflows discharge.

“Water companies, regulators, consultants and water users can therefore be reassured that proven technology exists to better understand the factors affecting the quality of receiving waters.”

OTT HydroMet invests in UK growth

As the world is seeking new ways to fight climate change and develop mitigation strategies for severe weather, OTT HydroMet’s UK business has invested in two new positions to help meet that need. “Our technologies and data management solutions enable customers to monitor water resources and weather more effectively than ever before,” explains OTT HydroMet’s Robin Guy. “This means that we can play a role in not just monitoring the changing climate, but also helping to create severe weather warning systems that issue timely alerts to protect life and property. We have therefore recruited two new highly qualified and experienced business development managers that will offer customers the highest levels of support as they plan their monitoring and rapid response capability.”

Lewis Taylor

Lewis Taylor will support old and new customers in the south of the UK, and Wendy Strain will cover the north.

Lewis has a first class degree in Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering from the University of South Wales, and a Post Graduate Certificate in Professional Engineering from Cardiff University. He has worked as a CAPEX and OPEX process improvement engineer on several major water projects, and has 15 years of experience in sales and project management for major industrial water customers.

Wendy has a degree in Applied Chemistry from Liverpool John Moores University, and has 15 years of experience in municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment, including 8 years in a consulting role; providing technical advice and training on mechanical and chemical water treatment.

Wendy Strain

“We are delighted to welcome these two talented individuals to our UK team,” adds Robin Guy. “The UK is already experiencing more frequent instances of severe weather, and COP26 has highlighted the fact that this situation is likely to worsen in the coming years. “We are therefore determined to help customers ensure that their monitoring networks are better able to detect issues such as intense rainfall, rising water, flooding and severe winds. These issues threaten lives and infrastructure such as highways, railways, buildings, industry and domestic housing, so Lewis and Wendy will be tasked with helping customers take advantage of the latest technologies in remote measurements, communications and data management software.”

Delivering excellence in benzene monitoring instrumentation for the chemical, pharmaceutical and petrochemical industries

Monitoring benzene exposure levels is critical for the health and wellbeing of staff and the public who may encounter this group one carcinogen. While benzene has many useful and practical applications in industries, the risk to health is undeniable and requires exact and precise monitoring to mitigate damage. Having accurate and dedicated monitoring instrumentation specifically for managing the risk of benzene is essential for any business that works with this chemical.

As benzene is both widespread in industrial applications and poses a significant risk to health, there is pressure from public health and industrial safety perspectives on making sure it is managed and monitored properly. The most effective way of minimising exposure to benzene is through appropriate safety and monitoring practices. Using PID (photoionisation detection) instruments from ION Science is an excellent way of protecting against potential hazards.

ION Science has a dedicated range of instruments specifically designed for monitoring benzene. As a compound that poses a range of long- and short-term health risks associated with exposure, having instruments that can monitor wherever staff are working and in areas where there is potential for public or environmental exposure is key.

For protecting individual staff, ION Science offers the Cub TAC (total aromatic compound) 10.0 eV personal benzene gas monitor. This personal monitoring solution is worn within the breathing zone on the person, allowing individual monitoring of exposure levels to be exact. Equipped with audio and visual alarms when exposure goes beyond pre-set levels, the Cub TAC is designed to keep workers safe in all situations. Data can be uploaded for review by the site Occupational Hygienist or Health and Safety Officer, so any exposures that pose a risk can be quickly addressed and dealt with.

The Titan fixed benzene specific gas monitor is a standalone unit that can be fitted around sites, factories, and storage units. This is particularly useful for monitoring

benzene, as one of the highest risk factors in benzene exposure is related to the storage and distribution of petrol and petroleum-based products. Benzene can also be found on sites such as oil refineries and foundries, which are often large and not necessarily always monitored in person. The Titan fixed unit is wall mounted and samples air every minute, providing an accurate readout of benzene air concentrations within just 60 seconds. With a dynamic detection range, the Titan is designed to monitor for benzene at just 0.1 ppm concentration levels, keeping staff as safe as possible when in proximity.

Where portable detection is essential, ION Science offer the Tiger Select portable benzene gas detector. Ideal for use around sites and for checking levels while working, the Tiger Select keeps staff safe as well as monitoring air levels and concentrations for health and safety purposes. With both 15-minute short term exposure limits and 8 hour time weighted averages, the Tiger Select makes it possible to monitor exposure risks at all levels and throughout the day.

What really makes ION Science’s range of benzene specific instruments valuable to the customer is the fast lead times available on the majority of products. ION Science is proud to offer delivery time turnaround of days, not weeks, and in some cases, it may even be possible to have products arriving to customers within 24 hours.

With a global network of suppliers, distributors and offices, ION Science boasts superior supply chains to get products where they need to be. Whether customers have an immediate need, such as a suspected leak or impending legislation change, or a long term commitment to improving environmental and public health, choosing from ION Science’s range of benzene detection instruments means products can be on site in some of the fastest lead times available.

Siemens offers 33 UK university students early careers opportunities after recruitment drive

Siemens has continued its drive to increase the number of women in engineering with a recruitment event to spot the STEM talent of the future.

Female students from universities across the UK attended Siemens’ UK headquarters in Manchester where they met inspirational women engineers at various stages of their careers.

Of the 42 students who attended, 33 have been fast tracked for early careers opportunities at Siemens’ Digital Industries, Smart Infrastructure and Mobility divisions, such as three-month summer placements, intern development and graduate development programmes. Meanwhile, other participants have been offered opportunities with Siemens’ Healthineers, Gamesa, and Energy divisions.

Women only make up 24% of the STEM workforce in the UK* and Siemens, holding events such as this, demonstrate that it is playing its part to address the gender gap. 

Earlier this year Siemens revealed it is targeting 50/50 gender parity in its early careers recruitment by 2025. Current figures show 43% of those enrolled in graduate programmes and 36% in apprenticeship schemes are female.

Victoria Little, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner for Siemens, said: “Social mobility, inclusivity and diversity are priorities for our business. As a company we acknowledge that we need to do our bit to empower, inspire and break down some of the stereotypes surrounding a career in STEM.

“While we have run similar kinds of events like this over the years, we’ve never attempted it on such a large scale. This was a real opportunity for Siemens to ramp up recruitment of talent and skillful young women and play a leading role in bridging the gender gap. With more than 30 participants now being considered for internship and graduate positions, it has been a resounding success.”’

Participants from universities from Southampton up to Glasgow travelled to Manchester for the Women in Engineering event on October 21 where senior engineers Sarah Black-Smith, Head of Factory Operations for Siemens Digital Industries, and Faye Bowser, Head of Energy & Performance Services at Siemens plc, shared their inspirational career journeys.

Meanwhile, Siemens’ current crop of female engineering talent, including Natalie Gristwood and Kathryn Grimwade, from Siemens DI, and Sophie Beckingham, Marvellous Nikwocha, Yanely Jimenez, Allegria Bwitonzi, and Kelly Lo from Siemens Mobility, gave their insights of what a career in engineering can look like.

Reflecting on the event Faye Bowser, Head of the Energy & Performance Services team for Siemens plc, said: “It was a delight to be able to meet the fresh wave of young female talent looking to explore a career in engineering, and reflect upon my career so far to inspire this next generation. I remember being there myself, feeling daunted and excited for what the future would be. I felt inspired and energised by seeing this group of gifted young women who I’m sure will go on to achieve wonderful things.

“As a business we need to proactively keep raising the bar. Currently only 12% of the UK engineering workforce are women**. At a time when we’re facing society’s greatest challenges such as climate change we need to harness diversity-of-thought to become a more inclusive and vibrant workforce fit for the future.”

RS Components launches activist engineering programme urging DesignSpark community to engineer for a better world

RS Components (RS), a trading brand of Electrocomponents, has launched its DesignSpark #ActivistEngineering programme, further strengthening the company’s commitment to engage and inspire design engineers across the globe to ‘make amazing happen for a better world’.

The DesignSpark #ActivistEngineering programme gets underway with a pilot project addressing the challenges of rising air pollution, particularly pollution indoors caused by airborne particles, household odours and gases, carbon dioxide, among others. The ‘Air Quality’ project urges the more than one million registered members of the DesignSpark engineering community to help design, build and deploy a global network of portable indoor air quality monitors for the home, workplace, or other public indoor spaces and share the data collected back to the community.

To support the project, RS has unveiled a new cloud-enabled open-source prototyping platform that consists of open-source hardware and code developed in collaboration with DesignSpark partners. The DesignSpark Environmental Sensor Development Platform is based on a Raspberry Pi single-board computer with wireless connectivity to connect to the cloud. The kit comprises a set of Air Quality sensor modules that plug into a Raspberry Pi-compatible board with touchscreen. The platform and 3D printed enclosures are optimised for the Raspberry Pi model 3B+, though any model can be used. It is also compatible with peripheral modules (PMOD), allowing connection to an extensive range of PMOD add-on boards.

The Air Quality project will roll out over three phases for six months from November 2021, with a small group of first phase participants selected to Alpha test the sensor development platform. These users will create and share inspirational projects to the DesignSpark community, paving the way for phase two of the project which will be extended to all DesignSpark members with an opportunity to win one of 50 sensor kits. Commercial availability will follow in the final phase.

“Sustainability is critical to the future of our planet, which is why we are calling on engineers across the globe to use their skills and take action,” said Mike Bray, Group Lead – Innovation and DesignSpark at Electrocomponents. “Through programmes like this, we hope engineers will join together in force to create sustainable designs that will make a positive difference to people and communities.”

The launch of the DesignSpark #ActivistEngineering programme supports the broader goals of the Electrocomponents Group, which published its global 2030 ESG action plan: For a better world on 4 November.

To find out how engineers can get involved, please visit

New PT100 Calculator by Fluke Calibration

Fluke Calibration just created a new PT100 Calculator:

The new online tool will calculate temperature and resistance values from the standard PT100 curves. The calculator will produce a temperature value from an entered resistance or calculate resistance and thermometer sensitivity values from an entered temperature.

Powelectrics IIoT vendor managed inventory technology helps global AdBlue supplier GreenChem to enhance customer service and improve efficiency

The Task

GreenChem is one of Europe’s largest AdBlue producers and distributors with thousands of contracted customers, supplied from over 40 production facilities around Europe and Brazil. In 2010 they needed a more reliable telemetry solution to measure tank levels and ensure customers did not run out of essential supplies.

The Solution

Powelectrics lloT hardware reports level data to Powelectrics software, held on GreenChem’s own servers, with data exported into their ERP, to assist a range of operational activities. A huge advantage is the ability to remotely configure units to accommodate over 40 tank designs.

The Result

GreenChem delivers exceptional service to thousands of customers, ensuring that trucks, cars, off-road equipment and agricultural machinery can operate efficiently. Logical deliveries minimise fuel costs and environmental impact. On-site installation is easy with remote configuration.


  • Excellent customer service                      
  • Efficient logistics
  • Reduced fuel costs
  • Environmental impact minimised
  • Simple installation and retrofit                  

“As one of Europe’s largest AdBlue distributors, GreenChem rely upon efficient logistics. Powelectrics’ dependable and robust tank level monitoring solution supports that and helps us deliver exceptional customer service. Powelectrics have been our telemetry partner for over a decade, because the technology is exceptionally well-proven in many countries and we are fully supported technically and commercially,” commented Guy Flochlay, MD, GreenChem Holding BV.

What can Powelectrics do for you?

Please browse the Powelectrics website and get in touch with any tank level monitoring queries you have or vendor managed inventory applications you would like to discuss. Call +44 1827 310 666, email or use this contact form.