Tracking is tricky underground
Underground mining is an important industry for Australia's gross domestic product, but it can be a hazardous workplace. The mining industry continues to improve conditions for mine workers, striving for zero harm, however innovations which improve worker safety and increase operational efficiency are still needed.
Locating and tracking people and objects is crucial for underground working conditions. Unfortunately, traditional technologies such as GPS and WiFi tracking do not work well, or even at all, in many situations, such as underground, in open cut mines, or disaster zones where existing infrastructure has been destroyed.
New technologies are therefore needed to overcome the limitation or failure of common location tracking devices in these environments.
Letting WASP loose in underground mines
Through our expertise in wireless technology development we created the Wireless Ad hoc System for Positioning (WASP) which can track people and objects to an accuracy of about half a metre.
WASP uses small mobile tags attached to vehicles or mine workers together with a series of reference nodes placed at known locations around the area being monitored.
These nodes communicate wirelessly, calculating the arrival time of signals, allowing the system to accurately track the location and speed of objects as they move through an underground mine pit or tunnel.
The technology can be used to locate workers in emergency situations and has the ability to act as a network that could send sensor data such as a worker's heart rate, core temperature or gas or radiation levels in the surrounding environment.
Keeping on top of worker safety
WASP has been commercialised by mining communication company Minetec and incorporated into their Trax+Tags II suite of products, which offer a highly accurate, cost-effective solution specifically designed for underground mining environments, but also applicable to the open-pit use.
Minetec has expanded into South Africa, providing customers in the African market with safety solutions that are compliant with the South African Department of Mineral Resources Collision Avoidance Systems regulations. Using the WASP platform, Minetec is able to deliver key capabilities for the African mining industry including proximity detection, collision avoidance, tracking and mine management in underground and open pit mines.
The technology is improving productivity, lowering operational costs, and reducing health and safety issues for mining operations.