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Peruvian Mine Gases Up With RFID

Gold mining company Minera Yanacocha is using radio frequency identification to automate the refueling of its trucks.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 17, 2005After a 2005 trial of the EasyFuel RFID payment system, On Track Innovations (OTI), an Israeli developer of smart card applications, and Peruvian company Automation Service S.A.C. (ASSAC), which provides station and fleet fueling solutions, have begun deployment of the system for gold mining company Minera Yanacocha in Peru. EasyFuel allows the mining company to automate the refueling of its truck fleet.

Developed by OTI, the EasyFuel system is in use around the world—most recently in Guatemala, with a similar application. The system, according to OTI's chief marketing director, Ohad Bashan, has three purposes: prevent paperwork, increase accuracy and eliminate fraud.

OTI's Ohad Bashan
Mining trucks are equipped with a passive RFID tag mounted near the vehicle's gas tank and connected to its odometer, as well as the gas tank's filler neck, to allow wireless communication between the vehicle and the nozzle of the gas pump at the fueling station. The tag carries such data as the vehicle's identification number and odometer reading, the minimum distance the vehicle must be driven before refueling, the fuel grade the vehicle accepts and an account number for payment.

When multiple drivers are assigned the same vehicle, each driver also carries a key fob or badge containing an RFID tag encoded with his name and identification number. Both the vehicle and driver's RFID tags use ISO 14443 standard chips, which operate at 13.5.6 MHz.

Fueling sites that Minera Yanacocha operates at its mines are equipped with antennas wired to RFID interrogators known as site controllers. The interrogators, mounted on a wall inside the fueling station, read data on both the vehicle and driver tags.

When a vehicle arrives at a station, the site controller captures its identification information and that of the driver, as well as fuel type and any restrictions such as minimum distance, which the company's existing POS system compares with data in its data network. If the vehicle, driver and fuel data on the tag match that on the network, the system grants permission to refuel the truck.

The date, time and odometer reading at refueling are then written onto the vehicle tag. Because the odometer is wired to the vehicle RFID tag, the tag collects the odometer readings electronically.

In addition, each nozzle on the service station's gas pumps includes an ID unit that slips around the nozzle and is protected by a plastic cover. The nozzle ID unit is a wireless device that identifies the nozzle to the system. Only when the vehicle's RFID tag fuel information matches the fuel type indicated by the fuel nozzle inserted in the vehicle's tank filler neck does the POS system authorize the dispensing of fuel through that nozzle and into the vehicle.

The site controller receives payment information from the vehicle and driver tags, then transmits that data to the POS system. The POS authorizes the refueling and activates the gas pump. The site controller also has the ability to write additional data to the vehicle and driver tags, including system updates and new applications such as new fuel restrictions for specific vehicles.

"EasyFuel is working around the globe today," says Bashan. Not only does it save companies time and money, he says, "it prevents paperwork entirely." The drivers no longer need to collect paper receipts or turn them in for processing. Bashan was unwilling to say how large the Yanacocha deployment was, or how many vehicles or stations are using it.
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