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Iron Mine Uses RFID to Locate and Control Equipment

Precyse Technologies' Smart Agent active tags enable the mining company to know where its generators, welding equipment and mobile lighting are located, as well as switch the lighting on and off.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 17, 2014

Equipment used at a West Australian open-pit iron mine is being managed across a 40-square-mile area via active radio frequency identification tags to identify where certain equipment is located, as well as control its operation. The solution, provided by IT and professional services company CSC, using Precyse Technologies's Smart Agent battery-powered RFID tags, enables the mining company to control the power within more than 40 mobile light towers used to illuminate the mine during nighttime work hours.

"Improving 'time-on-tools' for maintenance crews was the primary driver for the project," says Jarrod Bassan, a CSC senior consultant. The amount of time workers spend with tools is a measure of productivity, he explains, and the mining company sought to reduce time-wasting activities, such as searching for assets or discovering that critical equipment was out of fuel.

Precyse's Babak Aghevli
"It's not unusual for maintenance crews to report that they spent two hours searching for tools and another two hours dealing with equipment that is damaged or out of fuel," Bassan says, describing a typical 12-hour shift.

Ultimately, Bassan notes, "by improving time-on-tools, we are helping them to increase the availability of their production assets, and to reduce their maintenance costs."

Precyse Technologies offers its Smart Agent tags for tracking personnel, assets and vehicles. The tags come with built-in GPS technology, so Precyse's location-tracking software can use data not only transmitted by the overhead network of global positioning satellites, but also data collected by RFID readers installed on the ground, in order to provide precise location data when satellite signal conditions are poor. (The solution implemented for CSC, however, relies solely on global positioning satellites.) The Smart Agent tags, which can communicate with a reader known as a Bridge Port from as far away as 1 kilometer (0.6 mile), come with several other features. For example, a tag can be wired to a machine's circuitry, thereby enabling a user to control the operation of that equipment by means of instructions relayed wirelessly via RFID. The user can upgrade the tag's firmware wirelessly or change its configuration—such as how often it beacons.

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