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Underground Mine Cell Phone Signal Service Booster Installer

Underground Mining Cell Phone Signal Service Booster Installer

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Installing or need cell & Wi-Fi booster installed underground in a hard rock mine?

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The Importance, Current Status, and Solution to Underground Mining Cell Phone Signal Issues.

Effective, reliable communications systems are vitally important for the safety of hard rock underground miners, but today's technology can be limited. Discover how signal boosters can pair with new technology to provide a safer environment for workers mining underground.

Around the world, we are still mining underground for energy resources like coal and rare-earth metals. In recent years, America has been increasing its own production and relying less on foreign countries for these minerals. When miners go underground, they need to be able to communicate with each other to avoid dangerous situations. Fires, poisonous gases, and explosions are just a few of the risks miners can be faced with while on the job.

In such a perilous environment, a reliable communications system is vital. Search and rescue efforts are difficult underground because most mines are designed with a complex network of tunnels. To address these safety concerns, the federal government has implemented regulations that require mine operators to constantly pay attention to chemical levels (such as carbon monoxide and methane) in the air. When the air starts to become abnormal, the operators use underground mining communication systems to get in touch with miners. This technology is also extremely useful when miners are trapped underground.

Designing hard rock underground mining communication systems isn’t easy. First, the system needs to provide a dependable and strong signal that doesn’t cut out, while also allowing multiple devices to access it simultaneously. It also needs to be resilient when there's a serious problem underground. In this guide, we have shared the current status, overall importance, and future solutions for underground mining cell phone signals.

Current Options for Communicating Underground.

There're three main types of underground communication systems, with unique benefits and drawbacks:

  • Through-the-Earth: This signaling design relies on low-frequency waves that can pass through rocks and dirt. By transmitting in the 300-3000 Hz range, the signal can penetrate hundreds of feet of solid rock. It is a robust option that can stay fully functional, even after an explosion, but it is more costly and bulky than other systems.
  • Through-the-Wire: This refers to wired communication systems, which provide the best sound quality, but are the most impractical to use underground. Typically, optical or coaxial cables are used to connect equipment. However, if an explosion or collapse occurs, it can damage the cables and harm the connection.
  • Through-the-Air: These systems rely on high-powered wireless networks that expand coverage up to 2,500 feet. To achieve this feat, wired base stations need to be spaced and installed around the entire mine. This opens up the same potential problems as a through-the-wire system, because a base station could be damaged and affect the overall wireless connectivity.

Reducing the Cost of Tracking Miners.

Often, mining underground requires workers to wear expensive tracking units, which show the miners' locations for safety purposes. There still isn't an affordable system on the market that provides tracking and communication so that miners can talk to each other and avoid dangerous situations. Ideally, the system will utilize existing smartphones on a wireless network, so that the GPS technology and other sensors built into the phones can be utilized as well.

Recently, engineers have experimented with combining smartphone technology and through-the-air systems, so that the phone's sensors can be harnessed. With this arrangement, you could record how many steps each miner has taken that day, show the current direction of movement, and much more. After triangulating all this data, the engineers were able to pinpoint the phone user within a three-meter range.

Unfortunately, these recent studies were performed above ground, and it is much harder to achieve a consistent wireless signal underground. Coverage can be spotty in a labyrinthian mine, with wireless signals blocked and minimized by rock walls. Meanwhile, the devices need to be highly energy-efficient in a mine so they can last as long as possible without needing a recharge. If a device uses too much power, it may ignite flammable gases in the mine as well. There are so many variables to keep in mind when designing underground mining communication systems.

Creative Solutions to Underground Communication.

Mobile devices are ubiquitous in 2018, and heavy industries are thinking of ways to harness these devices to improve safety and productivity. Signal boosting alternatives can be less expensive to implement and install than their costly hardware counterparts. Meanwhile, app developers are creating specific tools for miners to use on a daily basis, including mining glossaries and tracking tools. Today's miners have a wealth of resources at their fingertips, but who is going to revolutionize underground communication?

Recently, a team of researchers at Colorado State University have been working with a hybrid hardware/ software system that connects smartphones together via small sensor nodes. These nodes are arranged deliberately around the mine so that the signal is consistent, miners can be tracked, and hazardous conditions can be detected as soon as the sensor picks it up. Even when a miner is trapped, the node-based design would allow for an open line of communication.

Lead researcher and investigator Sudeep Pasricha calls the design "cyber-physical", because it integrates computer software with physical nodes. The design avoids clunky hardware and vulnerable cables, so it is more resilient than traditional mining communication systems. Unfortunately, this revolutionary technology is still in the prototype phase, but the Colorado research team has come up with a design that will transform underground communication at a lower cost.

Right now, it is estimated that when the cyber-physical system hits the market, it will cost around $10,000 to equip a 3-mile underground mine. This is about $90,000 less than a typical wired system. Before that can happen, Pasricha and his team will need to design a wireless network that doesn’t rely on cellular or WiFi signals, without draining a smartphone's battery too quickly. Eventually, the team hopes to bring this game changing technology to the entire world, so that miners in developing countries can benefit from the various safety features.

Next Steps.

By creating a "mesh" or "web" network with low-cost sensors, miners will soon be able to bring their existing smartphones underground and communicate with ease. These sensors will be positioned based on a radio-frequency analysis of the mine, so that the installation team can design an arrangement that covers every potential "dead zone". Meanwhile, the communication system's software will integrate with smartphones so that their built-in GPS functionality can be shared with the entire network.

In a few years, the engineers hope that a cyber-physical system will be able to track miners, facilitate communication, and monitor underground conditions, all in a low-cost rig. This could save thousands of lives, simplify day-to-day tasks for miners, and even be used in other dangerous environments.

How We Can Help.

If you're working underground, our experts want to help you find the perfect underground cell phone booster system and install it to meet your current needs and specific environmental conditions. Submit your details for an underground signal booster installation quote, today.