People and Asset Tracking Device to Ensure Safety in the Mining Industry
Underground is a hazardous workplace. One way to improve the safety of people who work in mines is to use location-based services that track the location of people and can send alerts in case of emergency.
An Australian provider of location-based solutions for enterprises needed an energy-efficient geolocation system for one of their clients in the mining industry. They needed a solution that would allow for locating and tracking people in underground mines.
Because traditional technologies such as GPS and WiFi tracking do not work well underground, the company required a solution for tracking beacons that could overcome the limitations of common location tracking devices.
To implement this solution, the client was looking for a partner with firmware and hardware development expertise and the ability to work on specific microcontrollers from different manufacturers.
Our team at Integra Sources created a special gateway device that is attached to the miner's belt. It captures wireless signals broadcasted by Bluetooth beacons that are installed around the area being monitored. Each signal has a different power depending on the distance of the beacon to the gateway device.
When the gateway device captures a signal, it transfers its identifier via WiFi, so we know where exactly under the ground the gateway device is located at any given moment. On the surface, the gateway device uses GPS, WiFi, and 3G to locate signals.
We designed PCB using nRF52 (as MCU) and SIM5360 (as 3G+GPS) modules and wrote firmware for a gateway device. We also collaborated with a manufacturer on building a waterproof case: the gateway device can work properly in extreme working conditions such as low temperature, high probability of physical damage, poor GPS connection, and the absence of 3G signal. The device's capabilities include:
- Scans beacon
- Connects to WiFi access points
- Transmits data over 3G in case the WiFi connection is lost
- Connects to GPS if there are no beacons in the area
- Has accelerometer to track the speed of objects as they move
- Works in extreme working conditions
- Works for 7 days without charging
Scope of work
- Schematics design
- Files for the manufacturer
- Case design
- Prototyping assembly
- PCB design
- Ordering the components and PCB manufacturing
- Firmware development
- Hardware testing
- We used nRF52832 with BLE 5.0 support and Cortex-M4F core as MCU in this project.
- FreeRTOS was used for firmware development.
- Microsoft Visual Studio with Visual GDB plugin was used for firmware implementation.
- The device can connect to the cloud (server) using WiFi or 3G connection.
- To measure human activity, we added an accelerometer to the device.
- For 3G and GPS we used SIM5360 module.
- For WiFi, we implemented the ESP8266 design on the main PCB.
- Altium Designer IDE was used for Schematics and PCB design.
- The firmware was implemented using C/C++.
Location accuracy for GPS signals
Location accuracy for beacon signals
Integra Sources' extensive preparation beforehand helped give confidence to the client that they chose the right partner. Despite the time difference, they are able to stay in constant communication. Integra's dedication to the project has led the client to develop an ongoing relationship.
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