IM 2021 September 21 | Page 86


Future proofed networks

As demands on mining networks continue to increase due to greater use of digital technologies , high resolution cameras and automation , Paul Moore reviews some key surface and underground solutions and how they are meeting the challenge

New mining technologies continue to enter the market at an astounding pace . It ’ s no surprise considering the contribution mining makes to the world economy . Last year it was reported the industry added more than $ 111 billion to the US economy alone . Everyone working in the industry knows how competitive it can be , which explains why more and more technology-based solutions enter this space .

And mining networks are no exception . While there has been and is significant uptake of LTE ( which stands for Long Term Evolution ), also known as 4G LTE , network technology in mining – it is important to recognise the continued importance of wireless mesh networks and WiFi in mining , for which there are good reasons . One of the most innovative and reliable systems used in mining is the self-optimising mesh network solution from Rajant Corporation , where IM spoke in some detail to Todd Rigby , Director of Sales . “ There are applications for managing fleets , monitoring equipment health , tracking operator alertness , and measuring slope stability . There are also applications for mapping ore bodies , increasing drill accuracy , and loading efficiency . Video surveillance has been around for many years , while drones have come along more recently . Aerial surveys were once a novelty but now are commonplace . The idea of autonomous equipment has become a reality . Man / asset tracking has been common underground and is now starting to find its way into open pits .”
Whether an operation is open pit or
underground , operators face the same challenges . “ You are keeping in constant contact with your equipment and personnel , even at the
working face . And ensuring you have sufficient bandwidth for the ever-increasing list of technology applications running in your mine . All wireless communications are not equal . Rajant stands alone when it comes to self-optimising networks . All other wireless networks run on a static configuration . I recall a concept my high school science teacher taught called entropy . Entropy is the idea that the universe is in a constant state of change . This applies to the
environment , and it also applies to your
operation . Data loads vary , machines are moving , static electricity in the air constantly changes as does the weather . All of these things ultimately impact your network . Static network configurations are manifest in inconsistent throughput and or loss of coverage or connection .”
Designed from the ground up to be better
Rajant ’ s Kinetic Mesh technology allows every radio in each node to have many redundant connections . This applies to fixed and mobile nodes . Using distributed intelligence instead of a master control node , each Rajant BreadCrumb ®
selects the best route to ensure maximum performance . “ Rajant supports mobile-to-mobile
communication , which dramatically improves coverage and performance . Additionally , nodes can change how they interact with one another
Rajant Corp says it stands alone when it comes to self-optimising wireless mesh networks
autonomously . Collectively , this allows the network to self-optimise continuously . It is a fact that LTE carriers employ one or two engineers to always monitor hundreds of towers in a city and make adjustments to the configuration . The last time I checked , engineers are expensive . In a Rajant network , each BreadCrumb radio node has the intelligence to modify routing and configuration many times per second , autonomously . Not a single person has to be involved reducing the overall cost . If you suspect having better performance is more expensive , you would be mistaken . There is no more costeffective network to operate than Rajant Kinetic Mesh ® .”
Rajant ’ s Rigby argues that it does not employ break-before-make , or make-before-break . “ Instead , Rajant Kinetic Mesh is make-makemake-never-break . The act of adding new connections is entirely independent of breaking a weak connection . And since the BreadCrumb is always sending data across the highest performing connection , there is no decrease in data rate , even when a vehicle or machine is moving at a high rate of speed . Imagine your machine ’ s network connection performing the same , whether it is moving at full speed or stationery . It works as a virtual ethernet connection .”
It is possible because Rajant uses a proprietary networking protocol named
82 International Mining | SEPTEMBER 2021