"Revolutionizing Science and Technology: The Story of Fibertool and its Founder Nikolay Khorkov"

Nikolay Khorkov

Nikolay Khorkov, a renowned expert in the field of fiber optics, shares his journey as a technology entrepreneur and inventor. He founded Fibertool, a company that played a crucial role in the growth of the fiber optics industry in the CIS.

As data consumption continues to surge and the Internet of Things evolves, the demand for fiber optic products and equipment has skyrocketed. Nikolay was among the pioneers in the CIS to start producing fiber optic equipment, and he established mass production of passive components for network building.

His personal involvement also resulted in the creation of large labs at leading universities in Russia, providing broad opportunities for the study of optics.

When fiber-optic Internet appeared in the CIS countries, optical fiber and equipment were purchased only abroad?

- Yes. At that time, business from Japan actively cooperated with Russia. Japan was the country where the leading optical fiber and equipment manufacturers, Fujikura and Furukawa, were ba - sed. At first, Japanese companies supplied coils with fiber optics to cable factories in Russia.These coils were then covered with plastic, metal, or corrugated sheath.

However, I recognized the need for Russia to have its own production of fiber-optic components without relying on their import. As a result, I founded the company Fibertool in Moscow in 2006, becoming one of the first in the country to produce patch cords using Japanese technology. These cables were used to connect devices to signal transmission equipment, such as connecting equipment at the top of a cell tower to a junction box below. Previously, patch cords had to be ordered from Switzerland and other countries, but I proved that they can be successfully produced in Russia. Additionally, the company expanded its production to other passive components for network building, including cables, adapters, and network cabinets.

I also established the production of fiber-optic fusion splicers that could compete with Japanese ones. I visited leading enterprises in China and South Korea, where a cluster of manufacturers of such equipment had emerged since the 2000s. I visited the leading enterprises. By integrating our R&D advancements into partner prototypes, Fibertool began to supply fiber-optic splicers to Russia and the CIS countries that could operate in various climates, ranging from temperatures of +50 to -50 degrees.

Today, Fibertool has grown from a startup to a company with 180 employees and an annual revenue of $67 million, up to 15% high revenue growth annually. It occupies about 60% of the fiber optic splicer market in the CIS and provides technical support in five languages: English, Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish and Chinese. At the moment, we continue to improve products at the sites of our partners in China and South Korea. One of the improvement options is related to 5G technology: we plan to equip the devices with a system for monitoring employee performance and transmitting data on the place and number of splices performed to the central office.

In addition to supplying equipment to the largest telecommunications companies in the CIS, you were engaged in equipping laboratories of universities and research institutes. Did it require any specific experience?

- Our involvement in supplying scientific equipment for fiber optic research institutes began when we established a robust R&D department in the company. Our focus was to select equipment that would enable scientists to test theories and make new discoveries. I was personally involved in communicating with scientists as this type of work requires a deep understanding of the field.

We had the privilege of working on an exciting project at the Far Eastern Federal University whose campus on Russky Island was built 11 years ago. Together with our American colleagues, we were involved in equipping and launching a laboratory on the campus. Similar projects were also carried out at institutions such as the Moscow State University.

I'm proud that our efforts have contributed to advancing scientific research in universities and institutes. Having access to modern, well-equipped labs is crucial for researchers to conduct more studies and increase their Hirsch Index. It also provides students with opportunities for interesting research projects and opens doors for scientific careers. Furthermore, it helps universities improve their positions in world rankings.

In 2013, you launched a startup related to Fiber optic sensing technology and the new company became a Skolkovo resident. Why did you decide to venture in this direction?

- Working with scientists sparked my interest in pursuing a more ambitious project. We discussed a lot about market developments and the most promising technologies of the time. At that time, Fiber optic sensing was gaining popularity: interest was shown in this technology abroad, and the number of stands at exhibitions devoted to this topic was growing.

So in 2013 I founded a new company and began to assemble a team for the Optolex project. My team and I passed the examination and became residents of the Skolkovo scientific cluster.

Today, our technology is being used to secure several airports in the CIS and has been relied upon for expertise in India to protect pipelines from illegal tap-ins. The technology enables monitoring of objects up to 100 km in length while reducing security system costs by half.

How does the device you invented work?

- To give you an idea, let me share with you a project we completed in India. Our partners there faced two major challenges: the possibility of illegal tapping into the pipeline to steal oil products and the environmental concern of a pipeline being damaged due to earthquakes, landslides, or construction equipment that could result in an uncontrolled spill of fuel. Early detection of pipeline damage is crucial in minimizing losses.

To address these issues, we laid a fiber optic cable next to the pipe. This cable which acts as a distributed sensor can detect acoustic and deformation waves in the ground or structure, such as when a person approaches or a vehicle drives up, or a fence hits. The data from a particular area is then read using our device, processed through pre-trained neural network algorithms. The guards then receive notifications of the location and type of incident recorded to take adequate measures.

I believe that Fiber optic sensing has a bright future ahead and will not be limited to just perimeter security. As smart city infrastructure continues to be developed, this technology is becoming increasingly in demand. For example, you can use fiber optic sensors to monitor the condition of a building's foundation or railway tracks.

Moreover, the technology enables real-time monitoring of roadways, bridges, and overpasses, which helps to assess the need for repairs and schedule maintenance effectively. This results in improved road quality and safety for all road users while reducing road infrastructure costs.