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Kentucky, West Virginia Mines Try RFID Combined With Telecommunications

To improve safety, the mines are adopting or testing systems that use Axcess International's active RFID tags and readers, integrated with communications technologies from Tunnel Radio or Foundation Telecommunications Inc.
By Claire Swedberg
Combining RFID with existing communication systems is a natural fit, says Allan Griebenow, Axcess' president and CEO. Because the wireless backbone is already in place, he adds, it is logical to employ that same backbone for RFID tracking.

According to Griebenow, the active RFID tag is small enough that a person can easily carry it into the mine, but has a transmission range of 150 feet to 1,000 feet in optimal conditions. UHF-based transmissions are the best in this environment, he says, because they are robust and do not interfere with any existing Wi-Fi systems.

Axcess is currently working on further features for the DOT tags and readers, including panic buttons for miners in emergency conditions, as well as sensor capabilities that would transmit a person's temperature or indicate whether that individual is moving.

The state of Kentucky has also been looking into RFID tracking systems that work in tandem with communications backbones. Last week, Foundation Telecommunications Inc. (FTI) completed a pilot for the state using its own satellite communications and tracking system, combined with Axcess RFID tags and communications hardware and integration services from Architron XRF.

The 30-day trial was completed on Sept. 19. In this case, the research team utilized a system of tunnels closely resembling the coal mines of Kentucky. FTI placed 12 wireless nodes every 250 feet throughout the tunnels, which are located in Missouri. Each node, provided by Architron, contained an Axcess interrogator, a telephone handset, a video camera and a computer keyboard that enabled voice, data and video communications.

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