Safety Support Functions for Underground Network Communications
Christoph Müller, Andreas Noack
35th APCOM Symposium - Application of Computers and Operations Research in the Mineral Industry, Australia, September 2011 (to be published)
Underground infrastructures, like tunnels and especially wide spread underground mines, today are often equipped with Ethernet based communication systems. These networks are used for the unified communication of data, voice and video. As these networks stretch along the major tunnels and in increasing scale also into the production areas, a high degree of coverage can be reached. For wireless coverage, standard IEEE 802.11 WLAN access points are being used. In order to provide a maximum availability and reliability, the active components are equipped with battery backup power supplies and the network infrastructure is set up in a redundant way using ring or meshed topologies. This provides a much higher availability and redundancy compared to traditional phone systems or dedicated data links using a conventional star topology. Distributed computing intelligence that is installed on active network nodes throughout the whole network, additionally supported by a central server system, creates the basis for new mine safety functions introduced in this paper. These new safety functions cover the detection of potential emergencies, using the status of the network as a "sensor", as well as dynamically guiding people to safe exits or rescue shelters in case of an emergency. Furthermore, these functions are of important benefit for improving the efficiency of search and rescue operations following a major incident or accident under ground.