The mining operators I talk to are either already using autonomous and / or tele-remote vehicles—or want to. It’s smart. Autonomous haulage vehicles and tele-remote vehicles like dozers and drills take operators out of harm’s way and make the job more appealing. They also increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) by eliminating idle time while operators are bussed in for their shifts. For more on the advantages, check out my first blog in this series.

What’s the holdout? Some operators have been waiting for a more reliable wireless technology before putting expensive vehicles on the line.

New Cisco Validated Design for open pit mining

I’m happy to report that the wait is over. Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul (formerly Fluidmesh) provides the fiber like performance you need to connect assets on the move to critical applications with confidence. Picture it: 99.99% reliability, up to 500Mbps dedicated bandwidth, negligible latency, security, and zero packet loss during handoffs between access points.

Now setting up ultra-reliable wireless backhaul is easier than ever. We’ve just published a new Cisco Validated Design for Open Pit Mining. It gives you a fully tested complete design for setting up the network for autonomous vehicles, tele-remote mining, and fleet management. Fleet management involves collecting telemetry information from mining vehicles. A good example of how to use this data would be to know that a $150,000 transmission on a haul truck will fail unless it gets attention in the next 12 hours.

Keep using your Wi-Fi network

Cisco Ultra-Reliable Wireless Backhaul is the best way to connect high-value assets. But Wi-Fi still has an important role in mining. Besides connecting laptops and IP phones, Wi-Fi is useful for monitoring the health of tailings ponds. (Tailings are the sediment left over when minerals are extracted.) A ruptured pond can flood nearby neighborhoods, so constant monitoring is critical. Traditionally, slopes engineers drove out to the tailings pond in the morning, took readings, recorded them, and drove back to the operations center hours later to enter the readings in a spreadsheet. The problem: a worrisome reading taken at 8:00 a.m. might not be recorded till 4:00 p.m.—possibly too late to take action to avert catastrophe.

To collect time-sensitive readings in real-time, deploy industrial internet of things (IoT) sensors like strain gauges and moisture, movement, and water level monitors. Extend sensor battery life by connecting them to a low-power wireless network like LoRaWAN, and then forward the data over the Wi-Fi network to the operations center. Using Wi-Fi for sensor monitoring preserves ultra-reliable wireless backhaul bandwidth for connecting high-value assets like vehicles.

Have it your way, with our new access points

Our newest industrial access points will support both wireless technologies—ultra-reliable wireless backhaul or 802.11—reducing equipment costs and management overhead. If you’re currently using 802.11 for autonomous and tele-remote vehicles and fleet management, you can smoothly move them to ultra-reliable wireless backhaul, continuing to use Wi-Fi for assets like sensors, laptops, and IP phones.

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