The Group for Fibre Optic at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has developed a method of using fiber optic cables to give fine spacial details about fatigue, temperature, and other physical measurements. Previous methods could only resolve data-points every meter, whereas this new method can give data spaced by centimeters. Resolving such fine spacial detail will allow more accurate predictions of stress points in infrastructure (e.g.: tunnels and bridges) which will better guide preventative maintenance, saving both money and, possibly, lives. The team envisions their new method being able to be embedded in smaller (than a bridge) devices, such as appliances, engines, robots, and pipes. The team also claims that their method can monitor changes in pressure and magnetic fields.
Having the ability to monitor a structure in such detail would give a ship crew or colonists the same advantages that it gives engineers on Earth: a chance to fix an issue before it becomes bad.