◢ Selective hearing
’ SP2x lets workers cut through the noise around them. The speech-enhancement and noise-suppression ear bud technology blocks ambient noise up to 110 decibels, while also enabling communication, whether face to face, via two-way radio or Bluetooth on a cell phone. The portable SP2x, which can be clipped to a belt, connects to most radios through a cable, so an operator can communicate over radio – or through Bluetooth technology – without a boom microphone. This is because the SP2x, using Sensear’s microphone-array technology, actually picks up soundwaves in the ear and separates speech from the background noise, says David Cannington, Sensear’s chief marketing officer. The SP2x is useful to haul truck operators in open pit mines, who often have to crank up their radios to make them audible in their vehicle cabins, where noise levels can range from 80 decibels to 90 decibels. “Typically, they’ve been given earplugs to protect their hearing and it tends to defeat the whole purpose,” says Cannington, adding that operators using the SP2x can turn everything down and protect their hearing as a result.
◢ Signs of sleep
Australian company Optalert has come up with a novel use for protective glasses. A light-emitting diode built into custom frames can read an equipment operator’s eyelids 500 times per second and detect the early physiological signs of drowsiness. Based on how widely and how quickly the driver’s eye is opened, a score from one to 10 is displayed for the operator on a dashboard reader. When drowsiness, in the form of a high reading, is detected, three alarms are triggered – including a 90-decibel auditory warning alarm – to avoid fatigue-related accidents. Kathryne Panna, the company’s marketing projects coordinator, says Optalert Glasses are meant primarily for heavy-equipment operators like haul truck drivers. Customers can also access real-time alertness readings for their workforce or they can browse the individual fatigue patterns of specific employees.
◢ Communicate without a network
In the event of an underground emergency, Vital Alert Communication Inc.’s through-the-earth CanaryLink-IS transmitter can provide a lifeline to stranded miners. The Toronto-based company has developed technology that allows for wireless, real-time, two-way voice and text communication vertically through up to 1,500 feet of rock and earth. The transmitter, which uses the principles of magnetic induction to generate a magnetic field that pulses through the earth, operates independently of a mine’s communication infrastructure. “Safety is our target,” says Andrew Moores, Vital Alert’s senior sales manager. Placed in a refuge chamber or a safe room, the 200-pound device transmits a very low frequency (VLF) signal from underground to operators in a surface control room. The CanaryLink-IS is designed for use in coal mines and is currently in the MSHA-approval process. Moores says the company hopes to release the product within eight months. The company’s hard rock CanaryLink transmitter, weighing roughly 15 pounds, is commercially available and in use in mines from Sudbury to South America. Both products are compatible with UHF/VHF radios and pre-existing leaky feeder communication systems.
◢ Long-distance relationship saver
Wenco International Mining Systems Ltd. can replicate a company’s entire surface mining site digitally to give customers an overview of their operations while work is happening on the ground. A rugged onboard computer is fitted to each piece of machinery a customer wishes to monitor, relaying coordinates wirelessly from that machine to Wenco’s system software and onto a virtual mine plan overlay called MineVision. This system can improve safety with its proximity-warning capabilities and facilitate equipment navigation around a mine site, while also monitoring equipment health. The FleetControl system automates dispatching by telling operators where to go based on predetermined productivity or quality requirements. Equipment operators receive instructions on a display screen mounted to their dashboards, and this can eliminate backlogs around excavation sites or inform operators to get specific ore blends at loading zones before heading to crushers, says Glen Trainor, director of global marketing and North American sales. Dispatchers can override the automated directions. Wenco staff provide system-commissioning and ongoing training on site, says Trainor, adding that clients tell him the system is easy to learn.
◢ Tough computers
The MOBL-D2 from Octagon Systems is its smallest and most cost-effective ruggedized mobile computer to date. Sean Fendt, the company’s principle engineer for the mining division, explains that the computer enclosure was designed without active moving parts like spinning discs, coolant pumps or fans to eliminate failures associated with vibration and repeated shock. “It’s really meant to withstand the harsh applications of heavy equipment,” says Fendt. The computer has a mobile power supply, can operate in temperatures ranging from -30 C to 70 C and functions on just six to 11 watts of power. The computer has potential for a wide range of applications: with built-in GPS, location tracking is a major feature, as is vehicle diagnostic interfacing to monitor equipment health. The MOBL-D2 can log and record data, support user-display interfaces and enable Ethernet, radio, 802.11 Wi-Fi network, cellular and even satellite radio communications. “The applications are limited only by the imagination of the person writing the software,” says Fendt.