In the mining arena, CCTV surveillance has just taken an leap forward, putting global leadership ‚”on site‚” at mining operations in real time, anytime, says MARK CHERKOW, MD of Graphic Image Technologies.
This has not just expanded the reach of security to regional, national and international mining management, its put a very valuable decision-making tool into the hands of mining operations personnel. The technological advance that has made this possible is compression technology that enables transmission of video at four frames per second (4fps) at data rates as low as 1 kilobyte per second (kB/s).
Mining operations are typically remote and mining companies may have numerous operations across multiple geographies. The infrastructure needed to facilitate communication between mining operations and management has been notoriously unreliable and expensive to implement. The eagerly awaited fast and inexpensive expansion of networks as demand has risen and networking and mobile technologies have improved, has been slow to arrive. This has made management and security at mines very much a hands-on, on-site affair.
At present, mining operations use various hybrid solutions, such as cabled and/or wireless (microwave, Wi-Fi, radio, etc.) networks for on-site communication, and satellite links for communication between the mining operation and offsite head office personnel. What this has meant for CCTV surveillance at mines – long an integral part of their security strategies -is that the high capacity bandwidth needed to view video footage remotely at a central head-office site simply was not available. Control rooms to monitor footage from these cameras have thus overwhelmingly had to be established on site. Video compression technology has, however, changed the rules of the game, making remote CCTV surveillance possible from a central location anywhere in the world ‚Ä¶ even via a mobile device.
Compression of a video stream to 4fps at 1 kB/s15kbps
With demand for low bandwidth video compression technology also growing for other security surveillance applications (e.g., safe city projects, secure transportation and large remote surveillance installations) the race to deliver a robust and reliable solution that can be used across multiple communication channels, will maximise existing CCTV infrastructure investments, and will leverage new technological advances, has been on. SerVision, an Israeli technology vendor, is currently leading this race with its compression technology and range of video gateways digital video recorders (DVRs) with onboard recording and live video streaming capabilities designed for use in different applications.
How much compression? In real terms, a standard CCTV camera may record at anything from 1 to 30 frames per second, requiring up to 1MegaByte per Second (MBps) to feed this video stream to a control room or other location. If you have multiple cameras at a site, this translates to implementation of GB-sized infrastructure to simultaneously stream and view footage at a remote control room. Compression of a video stream to 4fps at 1kB/s means you can stream surveillance from 100 CCTV cameras over a 1MB link relatively easily. And with the latest technology it can be a cabled, wireless, cellular or satellite link ‚Ä¶ and there is no loss of quality. The footage from the cameras is stored on the server and can, on demand, be played back at higher resolutions for viewing onsite or remotely on a PC, Smartphone, laptop or tablet PC.
This technology is currently being assessed by one major mining company and is being successfully piloted by another. Both are assessing the value of using this new capability for not just extending the reach of security but incorporating it into management decision-making.
Mobile packs and fast search capability add value
There are two other value-adds from SerVision: a mobile CCTV unit, complete with battery pack, miniature camera, microphone, GPS, built-in GSM modem and other communication capabilities for use on a moving vehicle or person as well as a search retrieval solution that makes it possible to find relevant footage fast.
The mobile unit is a compact and robust package. It operates under low power consumption which makes it an ideal platform for body-worn/foot patrol as well as for use on moving vehicles or other machinery. It adds another dimension to not just security, but to troubleshooting in remote locations. Consider, for example, the value of a specialist technician being able to view faulty equipment without going down a mine shaft, or being able to remotely make decisions regarding safety and operations based on voice and video input from a mobile unit.
This mobile unit supports up to two camera inputs and uses video compression technology to transmit and record high quality video (live and recorded) using a built-in 3G GSM module or Ethernet interfaces. A removable MicroSD card (4-32 GB) facilitates local recording and an integrated sensor and activator enables specific event detection and handling. There is also built-in GPS support for location tracking and bi-directional audio that enables communication between the viewer and carrier.
Video synopsis takes care of the other big challenge surveillance presents, namely the time it takes to search through hours of footage to isolate incidents. This video synopsis solution can compress eight hours of surveillance footage in just a few minutes, facilitating fast search retrieval. It will not only isolate and provide a synopsis of action in a particular area, but will allow the user to isolate an area of the viewable image, say a piece of equipment or other item of interest, and will identify all action around that item only.
Technology to drive forward thinking mining strategy
While there is no single technology that can deal with all the threats mines face, CCTV solutions are certainly a key element in any safety and security strategy. Video compression and the robust technology solutions that companies are making available are opening up new opportunities for mining leadership and management. These solutions are not only affordable, they leverage existing technology investments, exploit cutting edge advances in communication, and can enable forward thinking strategies.