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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Previous projects > Industrial Processes > Tracking thieves with spin-off technology
Graphic element Tracking thieves with spin-off technology
     
 
Six partners from around Europe joined together in a Brite-Euram project and successfully developed a prototype vehicle tracking system for use in the mining industry. The system employed global positioning satellite data and was one of the first industrial applications of such technology. Subsequently, the software developed during the project has been used in a number of spin-off applications, such as tracking stolen cars in Greece.
 

When the Greek open-cast mine operator Bauxite Parnasse Mining wanted to optimise its operations by using global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to locate and control its transportation vehicles, it discovered the only available system was an American one that offered poor functionality. While considering this system, the idea of developing a European system was suggested by OMAS, a software development company also based in Greece. Having decided the American system represented poor value for money, Bauxite welcomed the proposal, heralding the beginning of a six-partner Brite-Euram project that combined the expertise of two equipment manufacturers, three research institutes and an end-user in the successful development of a prototype system.

The right mix of partners is crucial to a technical project of this nature. Being geographically close, OMAS and Bauxite Parnasse already had a relationship, and it was simple enough to contact appropriate researchers at the National Technical University of Athens; however, other essential partners proved less easy to find. Fortunately, Yiannis Charalambous, OMAS' General Manager, regularly attended workshops organised through the Brite-Euram programme, which brought him into contact with Far Systems, an Italian company with expertise in communication systems, and AITEMIN, a Spanish research institute with invaluable knowledge of both radio systems and GPS. The third academic partner, Lulea University of Technology, Sweden, learnt about the project when it was placed on the EU's CORDIS database, and contacted OMAS to offer their assistance in the area of maintenance and diagnostic systems.

Mobile vehicle location

When the project began in 1992, commercial applications using global positioning systems were relatively few and far between, and nobody had used them to locate moving vehicles. In this project the aim was to use the system to locate mobile mining equipment such as trucks and loaders at an open-cast mine, and to communicate with the equipment using a local radio network. So a prototype system was developed that included vehicle-mounted sensors and mobile control units to transmit data to a central control room. In the control room the GPS showed the locations of the equipment as an x-y co-ordinate. This was then input in a Geographical Information System (GIS), essentially a computerised database which showed the position of the equipment in relation to a map of the mine site. Other information obtained from the sensors would show whether the trucks were moving, queuing, loading or unloading - representing the full production and transportation cycle - realised through a pattern analysis sub-system. The project partners also developed sensors to monitor 'vehicle health', for example pressures, temperatures and revolutions per minute of specific components.
A Management Information System (MIS) was developed to report the number of cycles each truck made and a Decision Support System (DSS) was designed to flag up warnings that would enable preventive maintenance to be carried out before equipment failed. The MIS software could also be used to monitor production, prepare forecasts and to simulate different production schemes in order to optimise working practices.
Finally, a software dispatch system was created to maximise the output of a specific combination of mine equipment. For example, if a site had more than one loader the system could direct empty trucks to the most appropriate loader to reduce queuing times.

Saving operating costs

By the end of the project, the partners had developed a working prototype. This was then used for several months at one of Bauxite Parnasse's sites and demonstrated savings of 3-4% of total operating costs for the mineral extraction operation. Subsequent problems with sensor failure due to high humidity has, however, limited the commercial development of the system.
In terms of economic benefits, therefore, the biggest success of the project has come through spin-off products in which OMAS has been able to exploit the software know-how it gained during the project, particularly with regard to the Management Information System. Because the software was developed on a modular basis, the company has been able to adapt it readily to other applications including its use to track vehicles either from a security viewpoint or for fleet management. In co-operation with the Greek subsidiary of German company SKEYE (experts in GSM/GPS based telematics systems), OMAS subsequently implemented localization software in the Greek mobile telephone company, Panafon. They use the software to offer their customers a vehicle-tracking service known as Panafon Protect, which helps to recover stolen cars. A major Greek tourist organisation has also purchased related software applications, and OMAS is close to clinching a deal with a company looking for fleet management software.

Cordis RCN: 6613
More information (Cordis database)
   
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