Maximising performance from existing networks

Sepura’s AutoMate application uses enhanced features to keep workers in constant contact and improve on-site safety and operations in the workplace.

A mission-critical organisation will have a requirement for “always on” communications, permanently connecting key users on a highly resilient network. 

The radios used on site and in the field will be tough, proven devices, capable of providing clear, loud audio to users. This is crucial to staff safety, no matter what their working environment – whether they are the driver of a large vehicle, an explosives specialist, or desk-based staff in a busy control room.

Such organisations will already actively manage their on-site communications; however, it is possible to add more advanced features dynamically to their existing radios.

Sepura business development manager Doug Bowden has extensive experience developing solutions for mining companies. He outlines one of the key advantages of using a TETRA system over a standard cellular solution: “Because single site networks are owned and controlled by user organisations, additional functions can be added to the platform based around operational requirements. 

“These can encompass more data services and applications than are usually considered part of the critical communications capability.”

Sepura’s AutoMate application is one example of an intelligent app that can improve both safety and operations. 

Developed by the Australian team led by Bowden and designed specifically for Sepura’s customers in mining, the solution improves both operational performance and staff safety by enabling radio automation through geofencing and situational triggers.

Sepura’s technical lead on the app, Ash Hunter, explains that “once a user-defined automation is triggered, the app executes routine and safety critical tasks to deliver fast results, reducing the risk of user error and safeguarding front-line teams who are able to focus on their critical tasks.”

The Sepura team highlights that customers asked them for solutions to enhance their situational awareness across sites. 

“It is vital for control rooms to understand the location and status of their operational teams,” Bowden says. 

“By utilising automated alerts from within the application and sent over an existing TETRA network, situational awareness across the site is massively improved, without the need to invest in further communication infrastructure.”

Alerts and notifications are fully configurable to match and enhance an organisation’s workflows. A flexible set of triggers and radio actions can support operations, and automations can be linked and combined according to logic or priority.

Further, radios can be readily updated with new configurations to match changes in workflows or operational environment and automations can be overridden or suspended by radio users in exceptional circumstances, such as an emergency situation. 

Hunter outlines how this could support a mining operation as it evolves: “Blast zones move, large vehicles are on site some days and not others, specific activity may be undertaken at set times; AutoMate can be configured to work around these changing environmental conditions, and this is absolutely key to its efficiency – it can be quickly and easily updated to support these changes.”

The radio in the vehicle can measure the vehicle’s speed by monitoring GPS co-ordinates.

The benefits of AutoMate for a mining organisation can be shown in the following user cases:

Secure zone entrance

An explosives expert enters a ring-fenced blast zone. As they enter, they pass a pre-defined geofence. The radio is automatically triggered to switch to a specific talkgroup for the explosive team and confirmation of the worker’s presence is sent to the control team and team leader on site.

Benefit: Improved staff safety and situational awareness.
Loss of network signal in underground location

A maintenance team enters an underground store with no network TETRA coverage to perform some routine checks. The loss of the TETRA radio signal triggers a change to direct mode,  ensuring communications are maintained via the mobile gateway radio in the team’s vehicle. A return to TMO mode will be triggered when the radio next passes a Bluetooth beacon or other trigger.
Improved operational efficiency.

Vehicle moving at unsafe speed on site

A delivery vehicle is driving above the site speed limit near to where staff are moving between operational areas. The radio in the vehicle can measure the vehicle’s speed by monitoring GPS co-ordinates. When a pre-set limit has been reached, the app sends an automated audible warning to the driver to slow down. An alert can also be sent to the control team so that the incident can be logged and/or addressed.
Benefit: Improved staff safety.

The Sepura solution improves communications across mine sites.


Response to an emergency situation

A cyclone is heading towards the operational site and poses a threat to all present. The control room sends a remote control SDS message to all radio users in a single action. The message is received by each radio, which plays a loud repeating alert tone and displays a pre-defined on-screen notification.  

Upon receiving the alert, all radios will also automatically switch to a specific talkgroup, allowing safety measures to be communicated to everyone and evacuation of open areas to commence.
Improved staff safety; improved operational efficiency.

AutoMate is available to users of Sepura SC Series TETRA radios as a software upgrade to their existing solutions. 

This story also appears in the July issue of Safe To Work.

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