IP based cameras are continuously proving to be the perfect fit for securing valuable assets in severe conditions in the mines above and below ground in Africa. Axis’ Business Development Manager, Roy Alves, explains to African Mining Brief how they work.
“Despite a downward spiral across South Africa’s mining community, efficient and effective security remains key,” says Roy Alves, Business Development Manager, MEA, Axis Communications, market leader in network video, that enjoys a long track record in the mining industry with its range of robust and tamper proof cameras and technology.
“Whilst it might seem logical to scale back, the reality is very different. Commodity prices will rise and mines will again begin functioning at its optimum. “This requires secure operations,” stresses Alves.” Added to that, the increase in illegal mining and resulting theft further heightening this need.
“Mines are probably one of the most difficult places to install a camera,” says Alves, with extreme heat, UV radiation, humidity, dust and access to reliable power only a few of the critical factors needing to be taken into account.
But, as important as the correct security solution is, cost does remain a key consideration. “One needn’t compromise on quality or the latest technology,” stresses Alves. “It’s important to analyse the complete Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of any proposed solution. The real cost is often not the actual procurement, in this case the cost of the camera, but rather factors such as installation, compression of data, product longevity and long term maintenance.”
Features and benefits
Alves shares with African Mining Brief some features and benefits of the latest in network video technology for daily operations across Africa’s mining industry.
Explosion Protected Cameras
Applicable to high hazard areas, including mining, explosion-protected cameras and accessories are encased in stainless steel housings, whilst still providing superior HDTV resolution image quality. “There are only certain unique areas that would have this requirement,” says Alves. “They are typically suited to hazardous areas where, for example, flammable liquids, vapours, gasses or combustible dusts will occur in sufficient quantities to cause a fire or explosion.” “Producing explosion-protected cameras and accessories is a highly specialised process.” Axis works together with Oxalis, world leaders in explosion proof housing, to provide a complete solution capable of meeting this particular need.
Increased Data Retention
Whereas previously the requirement was for footage going back a mere seven days, requests are now to supply video history as far back as six months. However, the cost of this can be staggering. Axis’ zipstream technology allows for the lowering of bandwidth and storage requirements by, on average, 50% without sacrificing resolution, frame rate or forensic details. “If you can economically store and compress data for longer periods, at a higher resolution, it starts to make financial sense,” says Alves. “Zipstream technology allows us to dynamically change the way we view fields of interest. We focus on areas that have activity whilst compressing areas with no activity.” Axis is also able to record and back up directly onto its cameras. “This removes the risk of anyone breaking into the facility and switching off the recorder which would ordinarily have resulted in lost footage.”
Electronic Image Stabilisation
The mounting of cameras on high surfaces, such as a pole, brings with it certain challenges. “Wind causes the camera to move, changing its field of focus,” says Alves. Electronic Image Stabilisation technology stabilises the image, keeps the intended reference point and provides a static image.
Operator vs. Intelligent Technology
“We have a number of applications, developed by Axis or our application development partners,” says Alves. These applications are ready to be embedded directly into Axis’ products to perform analysis of live or recorded video. “With more and more cameras being installed, it has become virtually impossible for anyone looking at multiple screens to monitor everything efficiently,” stresses Alves. “Analytics – the ability for technology to monitor and analyse data, automatically notifying the relevant party of any change or cause for concern, is vital.”
Light Finder Technology
Enabling more life-like colours in low-light conditions it allows for superior image quality with automatic adaption from sunlight to darkness, providing detail across both dark and bright areas simultaneously. “When it comes to forensic analysis, a black and white or shades of grey image, captured at night, will not stand up in court. You need to be able to see the exact detail of, for example, a red shirt and blue hat.”
Wide Dynamic Range
Able to be used in conjunction with Light Finder Technology, Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) manages a wide range of different lighting conditions within a single scene. Typical examples include an object or person standing in front of a bright window. Whereas a standard camera would produce an image with objects in dark areas barely visible, WDR solves this by applying various techniques to enable objects in both bright and dark areas to stand out. “We have a lot of sunlight in South Africa,” explains Alves. “Whilst we know to take photographs with the light source behind us, this is problematic in security situations due to the sun always moving.” WDR enables the scene to be analysed, lighting dark areas or darkening light ones. “An image of someone walking into an entrance, wearing a hat and jacket and with a lot of sunlight and glass behind them will ordinarily result in nothing more than a shadow being captured,” continues Alves. “WDR negates this risk, allowing for forensic capture.”
Alves goes onto mention some additional examples of where technology is playing an ever increasing role in both the quality and maintenance of network video surveillance across the mining industry.
A simple ‘shake off water’ function, known as Speed Dry, helps to provide sharp images in rainy weather. “It also simplifies the cleaning process of cameras installed at extreme heights, allowing for high pressure cleaning, thereby reducing costs,” says Alves. Another recent technology, developed for cases of extreme heat, causes the freezing of any current flowing through material. “There is so much fine powder and dust on mining sites that needs to be cooled. We also make use of Nano-technology on the actual glass housing the optics, which repels dust and liquid, further aiding easy maintenance and cleaning.”
“Technology continues to evolve,” concludes Alves. “The move from analogue to IP technology, which started a number of years ago, has continued with far reaching consequences and benefits for today’s mining sector.”