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Mesh Networks in Underground Mining [MeshDynamics]

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Mines and industrial sites are becoming more networked. Emerging safety requirements demand real-time wireless communications for voice and data. These new applications create expectations of high performance over many hops. MeshDynamics nodes provide both voice and video in both surface and underground mines. Some underground tunnels are over 44+ hops deep.

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Mesh Networks in Underground Mining [MeshDynamics]

  1. 1. << mobiledata >>Miners Give a Nod to Nodes New mesh networking technology boosts worker safety and productivity and fulfills new federal requirements. By Byron Henderson undreds of feet under- ONLY Online H ground, nearly a mile away from the mouth of the mine, a miner realizes he Visit MCCmag.com for the results of a reader survey on mesh needs to repair a key piece of networks and more on equipment. Summoning an engineer used to mean a long third-generation mesh walk back through the mine or network technology. a long wait for the man trip, a motorized shuttle vehicle. While the miner is walking or waiting, no coal is being dug, so these interruptions add up quickly in lost production. But now, with the push of a but- ton on a wireless VoIP handset, miners can request that engineering resources be dispatched to a location without going anywhere. If the VoIP system is connected to the pub- lic phone network, staff in the mine may be able to get serv- ice assistance from equipment manufacturers while at the working face. In a few minutes, the miner is safely and pro- ductively back to work. Multiply this scenario by dozens or hundreds of times per week in a large mine, and there is an obvious, immediate positive impact to the bottom line. But how did this step- and time- saving exchange take place nearly a mile down the mineshaft? Tradi- tional cellular signals don’t propa- gate through rock, and there’s no time for laying wire phone lines Compact wireless mesh node and ▼ antennas mounted on a support column are designed for harsh environments.
  2. 2. Miners Give a Nod to Nodesthat might be damaged by rock falls Mining network communications quarters site, with public switchedand moving equipment. The answer is and tracking supplier Active Control telephone network (PSTN) access viathird-generation wireless mesh tech- Technology (ACT) of Burlington, the PBX. Clear voice connections arenology based on the Wi-Fi 802.11 pro- Ontario, Canada, has installed wireless provided at 12 hops to the farthesttocol. A series of multiradio enclo- mesh technology supplied by Mesh- extent of the current installation.sures, called wireless mesh nodes, Dynamics in a number or mines. A miner location and tracking sys-propagate the signal down the length tem based on Wi-Fi is also supportedof the mineshaft and wirelessly con- Underground Coal Mines over the wireless infrastructure, whichnect miners working or traveling near- Underground coal mines, both helps fulfill the MINER Act require-by. The nodes may be placed along “long wall” and “room and pillar,” are ments. In addition, an IP-based videoentries, travel ways, beltways or in air- challenging settings for wireless com- camera remotely monitors a key junc-way intakes and returns to wirelessly munications. There are often multiple tion of the belt system crucial to minelink miners at the working face to the adjacent entries (tunnels) into the mine. productivity. The mine operator enjoysrest of the mine, as well as to the At the least, the network must provide multiple benefits from the installation.office and managers outside the mine. coverage in the belt entry, the main Besides fulfilling MINER Act require- travelway, primary escape route and ments, mine personnel are instantlyImproving Safety for the working unit at the mine face. more productive through better com-and Response Another challenging characteristic is munications. Requests for repairs, sup- Besides the time-saving productivi- that the mine is constantly changing: plies, tools and other material may bety boost, the wireless mesh nodes also The working unit progresses forward made over the VoIP system, saving theprovide infrastructure that delivers life- everyday, and therefore the supporting time and inconvenience of multiplesaving miner location and communica- infrastructure must move with the unit. man-trip shuttles. The ability totions capability in case of an accident Any communications systems must be remotely monitor the operation of keyor disaster. Preserving the safety of easily deployable, configurable and belt locations via video has alsounderground mine personnel has been resilient. increased uptime and productivity.an important focus of government and Because of the vehicle and humanindustry. In the aftermath of the Sago traffic and hazards such as moisture, Surface Mining Applicationsmine disaster, a coal mine explosion in rock fall and vibration, a compact and Outdoor, aboveground miningSago, W. Va., in January 2006, the fed- robust physical device is required. The sites also require wireless voice, dataeral government set in place a safety and communications mission and video communications. There istimetable for underground coal-mining demands the ability to work from bat- an increasing need for up-to-the-operations to upgrade procedures, tery power and for isolated portions of minute status on operations, equip-equipment and technology with the the network to continue operation if ment and personnel, as well as apassage of the Mine Improvement and disconnected by an incident. Because strong move toward mine automa-New Emergency Response (MINER) distances in the tunnels can be quite tion. But because an open-pit mine isAct in 2006. Major elements of the long, the mining environment poses a constantly changing landscape, it’sMINER Act require a wireless two- unique challenges for real-time data necessary for any network deploy-way medium of communications and over many hops. ment to be simple to deploy and rede-tracking of individuals by 2009. A A recent successful installation in a ploy. The wireless mesh nodes actwireless communications system that working room-and-pillar underground similar to “radio robots” to locateprovides two-way communications coal mine required long-distance con- one another and quickly establish abetween underground and surface per- nectivity for voice, location tracking network without operator intervention.sonnel and an electronic tracking sys- and video process monitoring. The nodes may also be in motiontem that allows surface personnel to Because the headquarters and pro- relative to one another and to fixedindependently determine the location cessing plant is 3.5 miles from the elements of the network, yet remainof anyone trapped underground is key main lateral entry to the mine, multi- constantly connected. It’s critical forto meeting the requirements. New Wi- ple hops were needed both outside mining enterprises to monitor the pro-Fi wireless mesh technology delivers and inside the mine. In a number of ductivity of a haulage fleet and reporthigh performance and reliability at low locations within the mine itself, wire- that information back to local and cor-cost over long distances in under- less mesh nodes were secured to the porate management. Additionally,ground coal mines in numerous pilot roof bolt or supporting timbers and visual monitoring through video cam-and production mine networks, powered by a battery backup system. eras mounted on mining vehiclesbecause it allows for reliable two-way Individual miners carry wireless Wi- allows for immediate response fromVoIP communications and Wi-Fi loca- Fi VoIP handsets that provide voice the control center rather than requiringtion tracking. connectivity to the PBX at the head- a manned trip to a location in the
  3. 3. The nodes wirelessly link miners at the may also easily be deployed over the wireless mesh infrastructure.working face to the rest of the mine, as The wireless mesh technology pro- vides the high performance, low delaywell as to the office and managers and jitter, and mobility required foroutside the mine. reliable communications in demanding mining environments. Best of all, net- works deployed to increase miner safe-mine. Extending the network into the nodes on haulage trucks and loaders ty may also boost productivity andmine also extends the private tele- provided communications for the vice-versa. As mining becomes morephone network into the pit — vital for automated mining application in use technical and automated, third-remote locations that are often without on the vehicles. Because of third- generation wireless mesh keeps thecellular service — and at much lower generation radio intelligence, the mining enterprise seamlessly connect-cost than satellite telephony. nodes maintain communications ed from working face to office. ■ In a recent installation in an open- throughout the active area of the minepit mine, a fixed wireless mesh node and can be easily relocated. Optional Byron Henderson is vice president, market-was placed at the administrative GPS capability allows managers to ing for MeshDynamics, which serves cus-office, and several relocatable wireless instantly locate any of the wireless tomers in many market areas: mining andmesh nodes with solar power were mesh nodes and its host vehicle on a industrial sites, defense, transportation, pub-deployed on trailers throughout the map view of the mine. Additional lic safety and municipal networking. E-mailactive area of the mine. Mobile mesh safety voice and video applications comments to editor@RRMediaGroup.com.RadioResource MissionCritical Communications delivers wireless voice and data solutions for mobile and remote mission-critical operations. The magazine covers business, publicsafety, and regulatory news; case studies; in-depth features; innovative applications; product information and comparisons; emerging technologies; industry reports and trends; andtechnical tips. In addition, each issue contains Public Safety Report, a special section devoted solely to the needs of the public safety community. Editorial content targets organizationsin the United States and Canada with mobile and remote communications needs, including public safety, government, transportation, manufacturing, utility/energy, business, andindustrial entities. To request a FREE subscription or get more information, go to www.mccmag.com. RadioResource MissionCritical Communications is published by the RadioResourceMedia Group. Pandata Corp., 7108 S. Alton Way, Building H, Centennial, CO 80112, Tel: 303-792-2390, Fax: 303-792-2391, www.rr mediagroup.com. Copyright 2008Pandata Cor p. All rights reser ved. Reprinted from the July 2008 issue of RadioResource MissionCritical Communications. For more infor mation aboutMissionCritical Communications and the RadioResource Media Group please call 303-792-2390 or visit www.mccmag.com