Increased reliability at decreased cost

June 2014 Mining (Industry)

It is no secret that the advent of computerisation has simplified our lives. At first our working environments changed, becoming more efficient and more manageable. But what was a revolution in the office and the household is small compared to the impact it has had for the technical sector, the mining industry being no different.

The big challenge for the mining industry has always been to balance cost, reliability, and because of the long distances often involved, range. Unfortunately these factors always have a negative influence on each other, to increase range you either have to suffer a drop in reliability or an increase of cost.

In the past the distance/reliability issue was fixed either with fibre or with microwave applications. Microwave tended to be expensive, but also low bandwidth, while fibre had the required bandwidth, but was even more expensive than microwave links, primarily due to prohibitive cable and fibre modem costs. Fortunately the boom in the fibre industry has led to a new range of low-cost, yet fully reliable systems becoming available.

Security Warehouse’s S-Link switch comes not only with a full set of PoE ports, but also SFP multi-mode modules for easy integration into new or existing fibre networks. For longer distances the Multi-mode SFPs can be swopped out for single-mode units. The big advantage with SFPs are of course that they can be linked to other manufacturer’s devices, so if the fibre infrastructure already includes an SFP switch at the next contact point the different devices can simply be connected to each other, with no further integration required. Along with the drop in cable prices and the availability of personnel qualified to splice fibre, the fibre option is now available for both complex long-range networks, as well as simpler internal infrastructures required, such as IP CCTV or IP intercom systems within large buildings.

Wireless options

Wherever cable cannot be laid, however, wireless is still a viable option. Devices such as the Ubiquiti Nanostation are now readily available, and when set up correctly by experienced wireless technicians can easily extend a network into previously hard to reach places. While line of sight remains an issue, the small size of the unit along with its PoE capability (which reduces the cable requirement to only the one Ethernet cable) allows it to be mounted without the need for major infrastructure changes. The lower bandwidth can then be augmented with a fibre backbone for high throughput, low latency networks.

Another advantage to the use of IP links is of course that not only are the links multi-functional, but since the fibre cable usually has a minimum of four optic fibre cores, the installation of fibre becomes an investment in the future growth in need for more network capacity. Not only can multiple devices (such as a fence-monitoring system and a network of cameras) share one link, the installation of cable with more fibre cores can be used for redundancy purposes or even the linking of old analogue systems, such as the BFR Fibre Pro systems which allows up to eight analogue camera signals to be transmitted over one fibre core.


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