Keeping IoT Data Moving in Challenging Environments

2 April, 2019
Mining | Smart technology and automation are becoming part of our everyday home and work lives, however real-world challenges need to be overcome to make data usable.

‘Internet of Things’ or IoT is becoming a hot topic.  Based on the growth of smart technology and automation for greater operational efficiency, almost every sector of the economy will experience significant change over coming decades as a result of this trend. 

The 2019 Deloitte’s Tracking the Trends Report suggests the following trends relating to technology in mining:

  • The frontier and analytics of artificial intelligence: to leverage the data they generate to sharpen planning and decision-making to improve safety, increase productivity, reduce costs and enhance employee experience;
  • Manage risk: both existing and anticipating emerging risks;
  • Digitising the supply chain: interlink from pit-to-port to break down operational silos for hard dollar savings;
  • Re-imagining work, workers and workplace: taking into consideration the changes digitization and automation will make to how to attract the right talent to suit changing roles.

Not only for the big miners facing large scale change, this technical revolution is finding its way into the home.  Smart apps now allow you to adjust your lighting or the ambient temperature of your house or check your security cameras while at work, at the push of a button. We are now used to technology being a pervasive part of all areas of our lives.

For all this to work, it comes down to smart devices needing to make complex decisions.  And to do this, these devices need accurate data.

Collecting data

The diagram below demonstrates just some of the different information that IoT devices will be used to measure, which can be summarized into four areas: geo-spacial proximity, acceleration, temperature and motion.

Diagram Reference: https://www.iotone.com/guide/internet-of-things-sensors-amp-sensing/

However, there are some issues that need to be considered for IoT installations to deliver on promises, particularly when the data is coming from remote areas:

  1. Many of these devices need line of site to be able to transmit data effectively, which over long distances can be difficult to achieve;
  2. Assets or data collection points may be in remote locations which may not have electricity mains supply;
  3. The location may be subject to extreme, remote environments and interactions with nature that can affect reliability – dust, storms, flooding, cyclonic winds, local wildlife and even seasonality, can affect equipment; and
  4. Flexibility around placement of items and the ability to move things around as site needs change.

The obvious solution is pole mounting of these IoT devices, such as cameras, wind turbines, sensors and data transmitters particularly where line-of-sight is needed for signal transmission.  Demand for poles with flexibility in mounting a wide range of fittings is growing rapidly. However, with the use of sometimes expensive, precision instruments, the choice of mounting system that won’t subject the fitting to unnecessary vibration or potential damage will be of paramount importance.

Ensuring that equipment specified is fit-for-purpose with features using lighting as an example, such as impact-proof for conveyor areas (IK07 or higher), high IP ratings (IP65 or greater) for water and dust ingress in exposed areas, and getting the right advice on lighting design to ensure that you are not over or under specifying for the job.  Equipment manufacturers can usually assist with designs and advice for your particular site.  

Dealing with extremes

The recent experience of Cyclones Trevor and Veronica wreaking havoc on the Pilbara coastal region highlights the harsh reality of operations in Northern Australia.  

Extreme environments need a robust solutions, particularly if required to also be portable, so proven systems incorporating concrete bases, poles, protected cables and connections, as well as waterproof fixtures and battery/cable housings, are now available.  

Forklift sleeves or a trailer setup allows the device to be moved around a site as needed, as well as the ability to fold or pack away more fragile devices quickly and easily when the extreme weather warnings arise.

Electricity supply, especially for remote or temporary work sites can be solved with solar panels and battery storage. However, expertise is needed to ensure the system is capturing the amperage needed to power devices on a 24-hour basis, while keeping maintenance to a minimum. 

This can represent a significant saving when compared to diesel generators for lighting, which at one site was calculated to be costing around $300,000 per annum to fuel up each night.  Solar and diesel hybrid options are ideal for keeping running costs low with backup power option as needed.

The Earthtrack IoT Solutions

EarthLight LED and EarthSolar towers are designed for the mining and heavy industrial sector, proven to be robust and reliable source of power, on- or off-the-grid.

Adding to the benefits of solar power, EarthLight LED is a highly energy-efficient and eco-friendly product range, offering superior area lighting for street, pathways, carparks and sports-fields.  Being a modular system, components can be ordered to ‘make-your-own’ solar tower for any number of IoT devices and fittings.  The new 4G Data Repeater option, now available from Earthtrack, offers new possibilities for moving data through your site, powered by the sun.

Earthtrack manufactures the concrete bases in their Forrestdale facility that will stand up to cyclone-prone areas, with a range of size and weights to suit most sites.

Pole heights can be modified to assist with line-of-site issues, with fold down options to allow for lowering of fixtures for cleaning, maintenance or replacement.

Lastly, EarthSolar MAXI, MEGA and MINI towers are tried and trusted, and our experienced team can advise on the best fit-for-purpose option for your site.  Over the years, we have upgraded and perfected the system to ensure they perform reliably and importantly, capture and efficiently utilize the sun’s energy. Talk to us about our soon to be released hybrid solar-diesel option to give you the powerful benefits of solar energy, with reliable, low-cost diesel back up when needed.

Our specialists offer a specialized audit and maintenance program to test the performance of each solar tower to ensure optimal performance and longevity of your investment, with upgrades as they are developed.

There is a reason why EarthSolar is specified by the largest Australian ASX-listed companies to power their IoT projects.

For more information, talk to us at sales@etms.com.au.

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