Reliable Data Collection In Challenging Underground Environments With Ackcio Beam

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Today’s infrastructure and mining industries deploy a vast array of sensors to monitor the geotechnical and structural parameters of their worksites. To acquire data from these sensors, industry professionals usually rely either on cable-based networks, manual monitoring by site workers, or wireless IoT monitoring networks such as LPWANs. The latter has been gaining traction in recent years due to its greater cost efficiency, data quality, data collection frequency, and minimal risk posed to worker safety.

However, not all LPWANs tick those boxes so sweetly. Drawbacks of some include the limitation of communication direct to a central receiver, often referred to as a Gateway (a star topology), significantly restricting the communication in underground environments due to high signal interference.  There are also limitations in design features that restrict the size and number of messages that can be reliably transmitted at any given time, some are also inflexible to the integration of new devices into an existing network.  Finally a fail-safe for data loss using an automated data recovery system.  These are areas where Ackcio Beam can prove to be a more capable wireless monitoring technology.

When it comes to monitoring underground, the deployment site is typically a mine shaft or tunnel. Monitoring these environments presents some daunting challenges to site personnel.

Challenges of monitoring mines

  • Harsh working conditions
  • Trunking space is at a premium due to it being shared with other services (electrical power, ventilation, communication devices, etc.)
  • Equipment is prone to damage from exposure to a harsh environment and accidental collisions or forces
  • Cables are subject to electromagnetic interference in “noisy” environments, which will affect the accuracy and reliability of acquired data
  • Twists and turns in a tunnel may inhibit radio transmissions from reaching the surface

Challenges of monitoring tunnels

  • Conditions within the tunnel are harsh
  • Train or road service closure hours significantly limit opportunities for installation and maintenance work of the monitoring network
  • In train tunnels, the movement from trains can disrupt signal transmission and lead to significant data loss
  • Transmission distances of up to a kilometre or more make high-frequency transmissions, like 2.4GHz, unreliable
  • Bends in the tunnel may weaken signal transmission over long distances

How Ackcio Beam overcomes common problems of monitoring underground environments

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Ackcio devices or Nodes use a radio module capable of transmitting at 1W (30dBm at a data rate of 50kbps. Where there are restrictions on transmission power, the radio may be programmed to transmit at 25mW). This enables signal transmission over long distances. The Nodes also work as part of an Ackcio Mesh, a patented long-range wireless mesh network by which data is transmitted between Nodes and the Gateway. This forms a robust network within an underground environment that reliably transmits data either to the surface or the nearest collection point.

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Transmitting data at sub-GHz frequencies affords a longer signal range compared to higher frequency transmissions such as 2.4GHz. A single transmission hop can cover up to 500 metres underground, a network of Ackcio Nodes, therefore, offers more flexibility with the deployment of sensors and nodes, allowing data to be acquired from the furthest, most difficult reaches of a tunnel or mine making use of the 12 hops available in the Ackcio Mesh network.

In a case of signal interruption caused by external factors, an Ackcio Node will store data in its onboard memory and retransmit it at longer intervals until successful, thereby ensuring that that data is never lost.

Ackcio Beam also combines lower power consumption and long battery life with a durable die-cast aluminium construction (that encloses devices with IP67 rating) to achieve longer maintenance intervals and minimal repair work, and improve cost efficiency.

Conclusion

Ackcio Beam is a fully featured wireless mesh data acquisition system that allows users to reliably transmit accurate data readings from even the most difficult underground monitoring environments while posing minimal maintenance costs and a reduction of risk to worker safety ensuring a productive work site.