Part 2 Issue with deploying enterprise wireless in the mining industry

 

This is continuing on form Part 1 which can be found in the below link

Issue of deploying Enterprise wireless in the Mining environment Part 1

 

The aim of this blog is to highlight some of the common issues that I have faced when designing and installing enterprise wireless network in the mining industry.

Wireless technology deployed on sites is Cisco.

A picture paints a thousand words, so I am going use them as part of my explanations.

AP Placement:

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Picture: one CAT795F dump truck in a 8 bay garage

Picture above, highlights many issues I face with Antenna selection and AP placement.

  • Overhead mobile cranes systems, can dislodge APs or cause shadow zones
  • Heavy vehicles (massive tonka trucks)
  •  Insulation on walls and roofs. Antenna selection and AP placement consideration need to be taken into account to avoid excess reflections

Part 3 will doing into the specific of AP placement.

 

 

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Picture: CAT797B dump truck (RF Killer)

Cabling

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Picture 2: Cable trays

Running data and power cabling can be a very costly exercise given the size and structural design of the locations most installation required specialised equipment to be hired such as scaffolding, mobile elevated work platforms and at time cranes. All  equipment needs to be mine rated and requires  permits and license to operate.

Existing cable trays are often used for LV and HV cabling so alternate paths are need for data.

Locations

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Picture: Coal wash plant

Certain locations where client devices may operate are extremely problematic for RF propagation and AP installation, sometimes the customer may need to be educated and shown an alternate solution as ubiquitous coverage is not always  possible in certain environments as well considering the cost.

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Picture: Water plant

  • AP’s require maintenance, due to getting covered in material$$$
  • AP’s require specialised  engineered mounting brackets due to excessive vibration
  • AP life span is reduce due chemicals and material in area.

Some site contain locations that  are rather old and contain asbestos which can be a headache for the installation of cabling and AP’s

Point-to-point

Locations can be remote with no connection back to the main site, so a P2P link sometimes is required, but over time the link stops working and you discover that the mine has decided to put a massive stock of ore which once use to be road that now blocks the link.

Rogue Networks

Mine site use wireless mesh network for there production networks and mobile fleets, technologies suchs as Rajant and TropOS are the most common I have seen, which can operate up 4watts.

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Picture: Rajant Breacrumbs Antennas installing workshop

Apart form the ACI and CCI issue they can cause, some locations  have business SSID being broadcast over the mesh network. When a fleet vehicle enters a non-production are it can cause client connectivity issues given the EIRP and client behaviour. A simple solution would be to remove it from SSID form the meshed network but nothing is simple.

Contracting company’s  install there on wireless networks, most of the time its with the default 80MHz wide channels.

Mice

Mice eating newly installed fibres, this occurs often over the winter period. To install mice traps etc. requires approval which can be difficult depending on sitemice eat fibre.PNG

Picture: Mice have chewed fibre( notice the paw prints and mice shit).

 

Part 3 will address AP placement and considerations  to provide wireless coverage based

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Part 1: Issue of deploying Enterprise wireless in the Mining environment

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight some of the issues that I have faced over the past 6 years of trying to deploy enterprise and non enterprise wireless solutions in the mining industry.

Given the need for mobility,  guest access  and the demand for increased productivity, I have seen a dramatic increase in enterprise wireless networks being deployed in the mining industry.

dit.PNGPicture: Coal Mine

The mining industry is  a complex harsh beast. There are extremes of both hot and cold weather,  shift work, long 12-14hr days in environments where safety keeps you alive. Locations  are remote, some of the mines are hundreds or thousand of miles from the nearest town. Aside from the work environment, there are a great deal of  challenges and hoops one must jump through before even getting on to site.

For instance one cannot simply walk around with their Laptop and collect information easily, compared to an office environment ( love those surveys)

Each mine site has different access and safety requirement before you can enter  site and subsequent areas.

Things  that are common:

  • Site and area specific Personal Protective equipment (PPE)
    • Depending on the PPE requirements can make it rather difficult to conduct a WSS .
      • At minimum it is always
        • Hard hat
        • Eye glasses
        • Ear protection
        • Gloves( sometimes you have 2-3 different pairs)
        • High visibility clothing , long sleeved and pants
        • Steel cap lace up boots (some sites have specific boots to wear that are issued in location)
        • at worst, I have had to wear a full face respiratory system in the hot Australian summer  (could not see shit).
  • Site and  area specific inductions
    • These can  be 1hr to a full  day depending on the area.
  • Safety inductions
    •  Sometimes require additional first aid training
    •  Electric safety awareness induction
    • Working at heights( (some roof heights are 30m+)
  • Work permits
    •  May be required to sign on or have to have  you own specific work permit generated. this again is time consuming as it requires approvals.

Once you have the basic out of the way,  you maybe able (I stress “maybe”  as you still need  approval by the on shift superintendent or supervisor) to enter the area and 99% time it is under escort.

In my experience floor plans provided are never correct.  Most of the time I have to draw them up or use evacuation plans located near fire exits (sometimes they are correct).

  • Given the time constraints and environment an APoS is not able too be performed in most cases

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Picture: Heavy Vehicle workshop

  • Restricted areas:
    • production outage can cause millions of dollars per hour.   Miners will not stop working  so I  can walk around and collect some data points on a production piece equipment. All the time you stick to the designated walk way and collect what information you can.
  • Information gathering can be an issue as some locations have restriction on the types of equipment that is allowed into an area.  So a note pad and pen is all you have and given these environments are  extremely dirty, muddy and wet,  you need to ensure you look after (Zip lock bag) your gear. There is limited chance of  a second bite of the cherry if you forget to get the switch model number/details and communications cabinet number.

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Picture: Dusty areas

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Picture: standard comms cabinet out in the field (not one of mine)

  • Damage to equipment
    • As mentioned before these environments are dirty and  can be depending  extremely hot or cold  depend on the time of year. Your equipment is your life line, and it will get dirty. So far I have been lucky(or unlucky) and so far only damaged the screen on my Surface Pro 4. Still was able to use it complete WSS. Everything I have is stored in Pelican cases.

 

Picture: Pelican cases of equipment

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Picture: Tripod

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Picture: Couple of Pelican case when they were brand new.

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Picture: Damaged SP4 but still could charge on, used an iPad screen protector to keep it together.

Once you have completed the survey and collected all your required information, next comes the joy of trying to design the wireless network based on the environment and  wireless criteria.

Which I will discuss in my next blog post