FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, February 10, 2006

Real-Time Location Systems for Miners and Tunnel Workers

The recent West Virginia mining tragedies have focused national attention on mine safety. One class of technologies that can aid in this is real-time location systems (RTLS).

Using an RTLS, workers in a mine or tunnel carry radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and can be tracked precisely and continually through a standard wi-fi network. The tags also serve as two-way communicators; workers can be notified of impending danger by central operators, and can also press "panic buttons" on their tags to signal trouble.

RTLS is hardly a bleeding-edge technology that can be applied to a variety of industries. Ekahau, a leader in real-time location systems, has deployed systems in mines throughout Europe, Africa and South America. RTLS is also poised for explosive growth; owing to the combined drivers of falling costs, proven return on investment and the safety imperative (saved lives is the ultimate ROI), the Yankee Group predicts that the RTLS market will expand from $20 million in 2005 to $1.6 billion in 2010.

Source: RFID Update