Making room for Mother Nature while protecting profits

February 2002 Surveillance

Hi-tech innovation has thwarted the best efforts of elephant and warthog to disrupt security communications.

"When I saw that elephant and warthog were leading causes of damage to security infrastructure at the copper mine in Phalaborwa, I realised we would have to come up with innovative solutions to make room for mother nature and still protect profits," said Roy Wyman, Technology Manager at Securicor Gray North. Securicor Gray was contracted to design a closed circuit television (CCTV) system for the Phalaborwa Mining Company to limit shrinkage without disrupting ongoing operations or the wildlife that abounds at the open cast mine.

"In Gauteng, the biggest natural threat we have to plan for are the rats that eat fibre-optic cables. This risk is solved by using a 2 mm steel pipe as a cable sleeve. At the Phalaborwa mine, the list of fauna is a bit longer, and topping the list are elephant and warthog," said Wyman. The warthog often root up cables in their quest for bulbs and roots. The usual solution is to string the cable between poles, but the elephant in the area use poles as handy back-scratchers, usually leaving a line of splintered masts and broken lines in their wake.

Wyman, who used light-wave multiplexing techniques in designing a fibre-optic based CCTV system that provides live links between a central monitoring station at SA Technical in Johannesburg and South African Airways Cargo centres nationwide, decided to go retro. "The established technology of wireless transmission provided the most cost-effective solution to send data from cameras placed five kilometres away over hilly terrain to a central control room. I opted to use a microwave frequency to beam video and data over a 20 km2 area. This took care of the warthog worry, and delivered live visuals at the control room at 25 frames/s which exceeded the security needs of the client. To take care of the itchy pachyderms, we attached the cameras to existing buildings which could not be pushed over," Wyman said.

Securing SA's largest foundry

Securicor Gray has also been contracted to upgrade the outdated analog camera system at Highveld Steel in Witbank. Highveld Steel is South Africa's largest foundry, producing ferro-vanadium pellets and mild steel plates. Wyman opted to replace some 80 analog cameras at the foundry with a combination of digital cameras to ensure optimum coverage of the site and some 6 km of fencing.

"We are phasing in fixed, pan and tilt as well as dome cameras, linked to an alarm system on the fence that automatically starts the cameras recording," Wyman said. The cameras are linked by fibre-optic to a central control room that enables rapid response and recording of all movement.

"CCTV monitoring is increasingly used by large employers not only to deter crime, but also to determine health and safety standards as well as design better ergonomics on the shop floor," concludes Wyman.

For further details contact Securicor Gray on tel: (011) 616 1218.

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