Having developed what it says is world-first geolocation technology for mining that could improve safety underground and potentially save companies millions of dollars each year, GeoMoby has now tested out its solution in an underground section of Karora Resources’ Beta Hunt gold and nickel mine, in Western Australia.
GeoMoby – the name of the company and product – uses wireless, cable-free and reusable beacons to geofence sites, track assets and check on workforces, providing a layer of safety and efficiency never seen before, the company says.
It recently tested the location and communication network at Beta Hunt, with results gathered from the project confirming the possibility of live audio and video streams in real time, using Bluetooth Low Energy, GeoMoby said.
Before now, audio and video communication from underground to the surface has only been possible with Wi-Fi or LTE powered wireless networks.
Bluetooth capabilities enable mining companies to reach optimal connectivity without having to stop operations – at a large cost to the business – to lay cables and wires throughout the site, the company said. The technology allows the transfer of live audio and video streams to the surface in real time, in addition to existing real-time location, messaging and photo transfer capabilities, ensuring surface teams can have eyes and ears underground.
GeoMoby CEO, Chris Baudia, said the high-speed wireless network powered by Bluetooth Low Energy was able to transfer a range of important operations information from down the hole to the surface.
“Using our point-to-point network of nodes and technology platform, we have been able to stream audio and video in high quality and real time to the surface, allowing those above ground to hear and see what’s going on beneath them,” he said.
He said the simple, cable free, low disruption deployment method was a game changer for miners looking to improve their communication with minimal interference to operations.
“Key data transferred from underground to surface includes speed calculation alerts for vehicles and machinery, proximity awareness and real time proximity detection alerts,” he explained. “These features, along with file transfer and geofencing technology, are being delivered through our updated Underground Zero Harm application, giving miners the advantage of a one stop technology shop for monitoring people and assets.”
The roll out of a wireless point-to-point network at Beta Hunt involved the installation of 16 nodes across 2 km of underground mine tunnels and was completed in 2.5 hours, with no impact on the mine’s operations, according to GeoMoby. It connects a range of devices – both personal and company issue – directly to nodes, which combine to feed information in to the platform for users to see.
Baudia added: “Our benchmark is entry-level technicians correctly positioning or replacing nodes with no or minimal assistance from GeoMoby. Software diagnostic tools incorporated into the platform allow site personnel to detect any fault in the network and respond immediately, which is critical to ensuring communications remain intact at all times.”
Karora Senior OHS Adviser, Jody Herd, said there had been a steep change in operator behaviour since the GeoMoby technology was installed.
“We have 120 people on site at any given time,” he said. “Previously we tracked personnel and equipment underground the old school way with tag board systems, so we didn’t always know where everyone was at any given time without using a radio.
“We’ve already seen a change in operator behaviour due to workers understanding that machines are now monitored using the GeoMoby solution.”
Baudia said GeoMoby was working through added use cases of contact tracing capability in the instance of infectious disease entering sites, individual health monitoring and geofencing solutions that are currently only available with their on-surface solution.