Network Design for Mining Technolgoy

By Ron White, 3D-P Vice President of Technology

ronwhite@3d-p.com

The Evolution of a Network

In real-world outdoor deployments of wireless networks, most infrastructure deployments begin with a network design covering primary areas of coverage, and allowing overlap to secondary areas. As the client’s coverage and throughput requirements mature beyond the initial scope of the network, network black spots and areas of weak throughput are typically found. New infrastructure is often deployed to cover these holes. These new infrastructure devices effectively increase the noise floor in the network coverage area. This increased noise floor reduces the fade margin to the point that the performance of individual client radios is reduced rather than increased, particularly in areas where distance to AP’s is great, or multiple AP’s are visible. This shows up as new coverage issues (fade margin has eroded to the point that signal strength is less than noise floor) and performance issues (fade margin is low enough that high data rates are no longer available).

Adding higher gain antenna’s and amplifiers on the clients, and the addition of even more infrastructure is typically the attempted solution for these problems. These solutions again increase the noise floor and actually cause additional coverage and performance issues, typically showing up in slightly different areas of the network. A vicious cycle has begun.

Solving the Coverage and Throughput Problem

The solution to this problem involves reducing the coverage areas of individual access points, and reducing the power on individual clients. These solutions are both quite the opposite of the typical solution. Individual coverage zones for each AP must be designed. Terrain, antenna selection, and output power should be utilized in the building of these coverage zones. Individual coverage zones should have an overlap at the edges of each zone, but should not completely overlap each other. This way a client traveling between the two zones will have a single AP which is the obvious choice for communication. When the unit leaves this coverage zone, there will be an overlapping zone where the device will be able to see both AP’s, and as it continues on it will switch to the new coverage zone. While working in one coverage zone, the noise from the others is reduced by the terrain, antenna, and power masking that is utilized to define the coverage zone. Utilizing this design, the units within the zone obtain good performance. Coverage is ensured through multiple coverage zones. It’s just important to ensure the size of the zone is designed and maintained, through the use of power, terrain, and antenna selection. If those zones are allowed to creep and overlap each other beyond the design, the network will soon be right back where it started, and that vicious cycle begins again.

By Categories: Technology Solutions

3D-P Upgrades Endpoint Manager Product Line, EPM v1.3

By Ron White, 3D-P Vice President of Technology

ronwhite@3d-p.com

3D‐P, a leading provider of technology products for the mining industry, is pleased to announce the latest upgrade to the companies Endpoint Manager Product Line, EPM v1.3.

Endpoint Manager allows customers to configure the powerful networking and integration tools included on the Intelligent Endpoint product line from a web based GUI. Endpoint Manager 1.3 includes a new, more powerful network configuration feature which makes it
possible to configure bridges and VLAN’s on the Intelligent Endpoints without opening a terminal and manually editing configurations.

EPM 1.3 also includes the ability to configure some of the latest Intelligent Endpoint integrations, such as controlling the
Digital IO features and HDD Downloads directly from EPM, as well as the ability to configure the latest additions to the 3D-P Intelligent Endpoint product line such as the 802.11n capable e55 and dual radio e57, etc. EPM 1.3 is an upgrade to the Endpoint Manager product line, and as such, existing EPM customers on a 3D-P Support Agreement will receive the upgrade at no cost.

Along with EPM 1.3 3D-P is releasing a new version of firmware on their Intelligent Endpoint products. This version 110715 firmware is available for all 3D-P Intelligent Endpoints, and is required for interoperability with EPM 1.3.

Customers who are using the current 3D-P product line (e30, e55, e56, etc.) and upgrade to version 110715 will also find the new EPMOnboard feature of this firmware extremely useful. EPMOnboard allows the customer to configure the basic networking functions of the Intelligent Endpoint directly from a web page on the Intelligent Endpoint itself. This makes it very easy to get a new Intelligent Endpoint up and talking on the network. EPMOnboard also includes diagnostic information about the Endpoint, making it even
easier to maintain your 3D-P Intelligent Endpoint. EPMOnboard is even available to customers of legacy 3D-P equipment such as the e50 product line for a small charge.

The upgrade to the 110715 firmware requires an over the air patch, and in some cases, some re-configuration of the Intelligent Endpoint after upgrade. It is highly recommended that 3D-P support personnel be utilized onsite for this upgrade to ensure minimal
downtime and maximum availability of your critical networking equipment.

For more information on these upgrades, please contact your 3D-P Account Manager, Service Representative, or any of our helpful staff at 1-800-955-93DP (9337).

By Categories: Technology Solutions

The significance of downstream processes to support new technologies

Author: Vivien Hui, 3D-P Mining

In recent years there has been a boom of new technology both for on-site and office applications. Often times everyone gets gung-ho about bringing in and implementing new technologies and/or techniques, with the hopes of creating a more efficient and effective operation. Unfortunately after the technology is bought and paid for and introduced with great fanfare it is too often left to wither away unused or misused. This phenomenon could be attributed to everyone going 90 in a 45with mineral prices soaring (again), trying to do more with less, high employee turnover rates prompting a culture of short term, or a variety of other reasons. Whatever the reason is  there seems to be an overall lack of attention, structure, governance and/or training that needs to be put into place for the downstream process  to facilitate the change that is about to take place at the operation and the other process changes that should take place as a result of the new technologies introduced.Technologies could include a new in-pit wireless network, fleet management system, drill guidance solutions, semi-autonomous or fully autonomous mining, real time condition monitoring and more.

How many projects do you know of, whether it was a corporate or site initiative, that have failed because nobody used the technology available? Or nobody was trained to use it? Or nobody knew about it?

For example: Your mine is planning to install a tool for real time condition monitoring on their truck fleet, the fancy new network will allow you to see the sensor’s information with milliseconds of delay; but how would you make sure that the implementation grabs hold and becomes a part of the operating culture? First and foremost, you need a project champion that has support from upper management to drive the project. Before you even start installing the first hub make sure to involve any and all stakeholders for their input. Then you will need to have the procedures written and personnel trained to accept the inflow of information that will be coming and coordinate between mine ops and mine maintenance to handle this information. Changes in management (I like to call it transition handling) also plays a significant  role but I will save that topic for another soap box session.

If I told you your right-hand exhaust and left-hand exhaust have a 20% differential in temperature but you have no procedure to either: down the truck for an inspection,  send a mechanic out during shift change,  save it for the backlog, or identify that it is a faulty sensor, then how are you justifying your million dollar implementation? All this process development, implementation, salary for a champion and training may cost you in the tens or hundreds of thousands, but last I checked – a rebuild on a 60L engine was about 250K, –  not to mention the downtime costs of about $1000/hour in truck revenue.

It’s often the simple philosophies that we forget. Put a process in place that addresses the new system and have the properly trained people to support it before you go live. Remember: On-Board Systems –> Data –> Software & Applications –> Reports –> Action

The Action that takes place at the mine ops/maintenance level due to the new information is how you payback the cost of the systems to start with. Don’t forget what you built your decision upon in the beginning. I would also recommend setting a baseline KPI  or two prior to implementing these technologies, whether is cost/ton or cost/hour, and checking periodically on what the system is achieving for you.

By Categories: Technology Solutions

Technology Leapfrog

By Hugo Untiveros, Latin American Sales

What to choose?

While today’s technology changes very fast and allows more flexibility when interacting with different players; what and when to pick the technology is the key. However, most of the time choosing the right technology is a task that cannot be accomplished alone or at least without a right partnership.

Meeting your needs

You might have picked the right technology, but how long will it last in a hostile environment as the mining operations?

Reliability is another key factor for success, where humidity, static, lighting, dust, rain, mud, and even snow are just part of the day-to-day scenario. Indoor technology won’t last long in outdoor environments.

Did I mention altitude? Yes, altitude can change how equipment behaves and could have a big impact in productivity. Yes, ruggedness is a must when picking the right technology.

Technology leapfrog

Latin America mining is in privileged position where choosing the right partner with the right experience is an essential step to success. The true partner can point you in the right direction without unnecessary steps; saving you time and effort, which translates into money and money is what makes this business a challenge.

Next time you look for a solution for your mining operations, the first task to complete is choosing the right technology-partner.

By Categories: Surface Mining, Technology Solutions

Taking a Lesson from Corporate IT: Overcoming Technology Creep

Open-Pit or Surface Mines

By Sean McClary

Not long ago a typical surface mine needed very little in terms of data across a wireless network. Fast forward to today and that same mine may need 10 or 20 times the wireless network throughput. Unfortunately, many mines have never addressed the need at the wireless infrastructure layer and are not able to take advantage of the latest technologies that can lower cost and increase production, efficiency and safety.

It’s no secret that technology in the mining space is picking up speed, but to take advantage of the many benefits of new, onboard applications two factors have to be in place:

  1. A reliable wireless network
  2. Space to mount and house the applications within the cab of the equipment

In many instances neither the wireless network nor the space within the cab is available.  Thus, mining companies very often are unable to take advantage of technologies that can create the efficiencies.   Too often we hear complaints about having to install multiple appliances because the different technologies are unable to communicate together.   There just isn’t enough space to install a multitude of boxes and screens to support all of the technologies.

In addition to space constraints within the cab, bandwidth requirements are an issue. Can the existing wireless network handle the bandwidth requirements of the onboard technologies?  Most surface and open pit mining operations throughout the world operate with wireless technology to communicate within the mine and to transfer all of the data from the different in-pit applications and onboard applications.

This is where technology creep comes into play: too many applications on an out-of-date or insufficient platform. Therefore, when considering onboard technologies a producer has to consider:

  1. The initial value and impact
  2. If current operations can support these new technologies

So, what’s the solution? Surface and open-pit mining operations would benefit from a single, onboard, ruggedized computing and networking appliance that would not only handle all the onboard applications but simultaneously manage the wireless network as well.

The reality is that this is not a radical new idea.  This methodology has been implemented at the corporate level for over 15 years.  In the IT space it is commonly referred to as “NAM” or Network and Application Management.   Many companies over the years such as F5 Networks, Packeteer as well as others have built a $20B market catering to corporations who were unable to manage the ever increasing need for additional network bandwidth while simultaneously growing the business. NAMs have successfully added new applications and integrated new users to the network.  These companies were successful at developing an appliance box that was capable of managing the network bandwidth without having to add bandwidth, applications accessing the network and finally the end users.  Corporations and businesses utilizing NAMs have decrease cost of operations by as much as 20% – 30% adding back to their bottom line and increasing ROI.

So the question is, “If the IT space has proven NAMs effective, why has the wireless mobile space been slow to adapt?”  Here are some of the factors to consider:

  1. Unlike fixed piped networks at the corporate level, wireless is unstable in most instances with too many variables that provide low quality of service.
  2. Wireless applications for the mobile environment have just really begun to hit the market.
  3. Not enough understanding of requirements and need for developing a management layer at the mobile client level.
  4. Insufficient demand of a solution from end users

With that being said, a lot of this has changed over the past year.  Customers are now looking to take advantage of net new technologies and applications that allow for increased production, and lower cost.  As it was on the corporate side 15 years ago, mine operators are seeking long term best-of-breed solutions to future needs and forgoing short-term technology stacks.

The soup-to-nuts technology stacks are being seen as old school and not advantageous for today’s modern mine. An example of this would be when an open-pit mining operation is operating a mixed fleet and decides on multiple systems from multiple vendors. They buy a Dispatch system from one vendor, a Health Monitoring system from a second vendor and a Proximity & Situational Awareness system from a third vendor.  While these systems fit the needs of the mine, the Dispatch System vendor often times locks down their network and the protocols, interfaces and securities of their onboard solution, not allowing the mine to utilize an existing network which they have bought and paid for.

Mining companies must do as the corporate world did in the late 90s. They need to bring pressure on the OEM application vendor to provide the application, while the mine provides the best wireless network for their goals and objectives. This would bring the change necessary to elevate mining operations to the 21st century. The mine could then install the necessary mobile asset applications on a single, open source appliance. This would allow them the flexibility of having best-of-breed applications and networks not only for today but in the future as technologies change.

Just as the corporate world showed us, there is a need for an open source computing and networking platform:  An agnostic system that will allow all applications, regardless of vendor, to reside on the appliance, as well as, a networking platform that will adapt to any radio technology and provide security, reliability and functionality unparalleled in the industry today.  Such a system would allow for network management and instant wireless network health monitoring. Additionally, this system would manage the applications looking to gain access to the network much in the same way corporate environments manage network with protocols, QOS, prioritization, packet shaping, and even timed or event based reporting capabilities.

Much of what has been described is actually possible today, but adoption and understanding by mining environment is slow.  Mining companies often feel they are at the mercy of the vendor and the solution(s) presented and offered. Isn’t it time, to make a change?

If you would like to better understand how 3D-P technologies can assist you in realizing these possibilities, please contact us toll free at 800-955-9337 or visit our website at www.3D-P.com.

By Categories: Surface Mining, Technology Solutions

The Silver Bullet – Sexy and Smart

By Mal Jones, 3D-P. AsiaPac Sales Manager

Organizations facing the daunting task of selecting the best proximity awareness or collision avoidance product fit to meet their requirements may find that there is no silver bullet solution from any one vendor, indeed, they may find that there may be something from Vendor A that suites one scenario of the operation while the product or sensors from Vendor B provide a better fit while operating the same machine in a different scenario or part of the mine.

This is similar to the way a mining operation may find a particular vendor’s dispatch solution provides a better fit for the operation while the machine health application from another vendor provides a more appropriate reporting and post processing result for your maintenance department. The same holds true for high precision applications, tire pressure monitoring, fatigue management and so on. The reality is there is no single vendor that has the silver bullet suite of applications that meets all your needs.

Miners typically take one of two roads. They either take a single vendor’s products because they really like one aspect of their suite of applications, and will just have to make do with the rest or, they select best of breed applications from various vendors for each specific part of your mining operation.

There are pro’s and con’s either way. However there is another technical issue that is looming here. I have just been talking about multiple and disparate applications that all need to coexist on the same machine and most, if not all, will need to transmit data across a wireless network. Some may even need to exchange and share data between applications. Historically, this meant a separate wireless network for each application. That’s a lot of resources and maintenance dollars in infrastructure and people.

 The solution: You need something that can take all your applications, integrate them into one box on board your machine in such a way that data can be exchanged between the applications as needed and also manage and carry them across a single wireless network. How do you do that and ensure the integrity of every application?

Enter 3D-P and the Intelligent EndPoint! Wow you say, what is that red box with the doohickies on it and ribbed for my pleasure to boot? It sure does look sexy, what does it do? The 3D-P Intelligent EndPoint is exactly what the name suggests. “Intelligence at the EndPoint” It is platform that integrates all your on board applications and interfaces through one box and manages the way each of those applications talk between each other and across one common wireless network.

The concept is not so new in the Telco industry handling a mix of corporate clients with multiple applications on a variety of different communications standards. The core difference is that 3D-P has done it with mining applications in mind and built hardware you can shoot out of a cannon and it will survive.

Construction wise, the box comprises of four distinct modules:

• A computing or core processing unit that is completely open source which enables anyone to create or customize applications to meet their needs

• Firmware module that hosts the tools developed by 3D-P that provide the mining specific application and network management capability. It also allows the hosting of 3rd party applications such as a proximity awareness application or a machine health application or any other widget you care to think of

• I/O (input output) module. A choice of pretty much any combination of interfaces includingSerial, Ethernet, CANBus, digital I/O

• Radio module can be one or more radios of your choice whether it is standards-based 802.11 b/g/n, proprietary such as MotoMesh or some sort of 3G, 4G/LTE/WiMax or a combination based on your design requirements.

Take your pick. Ultimately, what you have is a completely open, standards-based product that is an upgradable, future-proof solution that works with any protocol, any application on any interface over any network. Built to last the lifetime of your machine and designed to give you the choice of best-of-breed applications to maximize your ROI and lower the total cost of ownership.

By Categories: Mining News, Technology Solutions

Welcome to Global Mining Solutions

Thanks for visiting Global Mining Solutions, hosted by 3D-P.  We hope you visit us often to hear the latest in Global Mining News, Resources, Technologies and Wireless Solutions.  We will be posting often and we hope you will comment often.  Join us to discuss the issues we as managers and engineers face when connecting technologies remotely and globally.

By Categories: Mining News