Underground/overground low latency communication

SMART Mining Security Solutions 2023 IT infrastructure, Mining (Industry)

In the age of smart mining, where technology is used to optimise operations, enhance safety, and increase efficiency, reliable communication is absolutely vital. From 5G networks to secure and reliable underground and open cast (M2M) communications, the mining industry is embracing digital transformation to improve the flow of information across sites, streamline decision-making, and enable safe, secure remote operations.

Willem Wentzel.

“The smart mining discussion has been going on for a few years, but technology could only address certain underlying mining communication requirements. The introduction of low latency, high bandwidth 5G (especially) ORAN communication means the complete set of communications requirements can be addressed. The next step is to make sure the business case is solid,” says Willem Wentzel, head of Wireless at NEC XON.

“The industry is hungry for low latency networks that enable control of machinery, reduce the risk of human injury, and increase productivity. The technology can work 24x7. A lot of mines can’t currently work at sunset because of safety concerns,” says Wentzel. Innovative 5G OpenRAN (ORAN) solutions enable mines to use the RAN network on multi-vendor platforms. It’s an opportunity to maximise the benefits of smart mining on cost-effective infrastructure.

Physical location challenges

Due to the often-unique location and layout of mines, radio frequency network planning can be complex. In this regard, NEC XON is developing a unique panel which deflects 3.7 GHz signals into specific areas where coverage is limited but required – underground, for example.

In terms of security, there are two levels that mining executives must think about. Data integrity, which is dealt with in the communication layer of the 5G ORAN technology, and data security, which implies appropriate access control of information to a large workforce. NEC XON has effective biometric solutions that facilitate this. “From a security perspective, the infrastructure must underpin a layer of trusted data which forms part of the solution,” says Wentzel.

The ability to privatise 5G ORAN will enable machine-to-machine (M2M), business to business (B2B), and push-to-talk communication on campus or anywhere in the country (or the world) where the customer has a presence using ORAN as a foundation. Wentzel says finding the right operation and business support system (OSS/BSS) is vital to the value proposition. This is especially important in mining where the network coverage need is intricate, a reality that impacts on cost.

Business optimising communications

To help ensure that network performance meets the mining industry’s exacting standards, NEC XON has adopted a methodology which includes end to end network assurance complimented by optimising power consumption to adhere to carbon reduction. This enables NEC XON to identify any weak points and optimise network usage on any vendor’s solution. That doesn’t just improve the network itself, but it reduces total cost of ownership by allowing for predictive maintenance, for example. The solution will tell support workers what to look for and what spares to take with them to effect repairs, allowing a suitably qualified technician to simply replace the part as indicated.

The plethora of sensors, devices, and machines generating data in real-time, means the ability to communicate information quickly and accurately is critical to optimising processes, reducing downtime, and improving safety. Effective communication systems allow for remote monitoring and control of operations, enabling mining companies to operate in hazardous environments without putting workers at undue risk. As such, the integration of advanced communication technologies has become essential futureproofing for the mining industry.

Find out more at www.nec.xon.co.za

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