20 Sep 2023
Israeli firm’s optical fiber sensing technology is designed to improve electrical grid management and renewables integration.
Prisma Photonics, the Tel Aviv-based optical fiber sensing startup, says it has raised another $20 million in a series C round of venture finance.
Bringing total funding in the company so far to $50 million, it follows the $20 million series B round completed in February 2022, and private investments made prior to that.
Founded in 2017 by a team of photonics experts led by CEO Eran Inbar - who was previously the general manager of Spectra Physics’ Tel Aviv operation - Prisma’s latest funding was again led by Insight Partners, with contributions from the venture wings of Schneider Electric and energy giant E.ON.
“Grid congestion and the integration of renewable sources have become pressing challenges for power market operators such as our Tier-1 customers,” said Inbar.
“Our AI-driven technology not only adds a layer of resilience to the grid but also enables dynamic line rating capabilities, unlocking the full potential of existing infrastructure. This investment led by Insight Partners highlights the urgent need for innovative, scalable solutions in critical infrastructure management.”
Optical sensing upgrade
Prisma explains that its approach to distributed fiber sensing works by connecting an “optical interrogator” unit into a standard single-mode optical fiber, as part of a cable laid alongside the asset to be monitored.
The interrogator sends pulses of light down the fiber, a tiny fraction of which is reflected from each point along the fiber. That reflected light can be used to determine strain, temperature, pressure and other quantities with sub-meter resolution.
“The fiber is turned into a continuous acoustic sensor - as if there were tens of thousands of microphones spanning hundreds of kilometers,” states the firm on its web site. “Prisma Photonics Hyper-Scan is a quantum leap over first-generation fiber sensing technologies.”
Prisma adds that the quality of the data gathered is so high that its algorithms can accurately classify events - and not just detect anomalous signals.
“This unprecedented level of data produces reliable alerts in real-time, with [meter-scale] accuracy while drastically reducing false-positive and negative alarm rates and nuisance alarm rates,” claims the firm.
It means that although optical fiber sensing has already been widely deployed by electrical grid operators over the past two decades, Prisma’s equipment is able to turn those existing fibers into a set of highly sensitive, distributed sensors extending over thousands of kilometers.
And with grids now becoming more complex with the addition of large amounts of intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar farms, there is a greater need for accurate monitoring.
Earlier this year Prisma extended a collaboration with Israel Electric to monitor 1000 km of its transmission network using an existing optical fiber - equivalent to one-fifth of the firm’s grid.
Its systems are able to monitor weather conditions around the electrical lines, as well as locate faults and vandalism, providing alerts pinpointing the location of the closest power tower to enable a rapid response.
Prisma said at the time that its technology also uncovers slow processes such as partial discharges, which can harm a power network, thus allowing preventive maintenance and increasing resilience.
Ganesh Bell, the managing director of key investor Insight Partners, said following the latest funding round:
“In a rapidly accelerating power and energy sector, we see both the market necessity and vast potential for Prisma Photonics' solutions.
“Their unique blend of AI and engineering expertise addresses some of the most urgent challenges facing power operators today, and their AI application can help solve consequential problems in infrastructure.
“It's a high-growth space, and doubling down on our investment in Prisma Photonics is not just strategic but imperative.”
Aside from electrical power grids, Prisma's units can be deployed on oil and gas pipelines, railway lines, roads, and for sub-sea applications. The company also won a Prism Award in the energy category during the 2020 Photonics West event.