Mines are increasingly experiencing illegal mining activity, as well as an increased likelihood of protest and labour action. This, combined with mines’ ever present priority of protecting employees by creating a safe working environment, means that they should explore surveillance solutions that assist in safeguarding employees and assets, as well as minimising downtime and maximising production.
Watcher Surveillance Solutions’ Head of Sales, Derick Neethling, explains that, unlike other players within the space, Watcher is able to provide a “comprehensive, all-inclusive” surveillance solution.
“Traditionally, mines have tried to secure their working environment by managing elements of surveillance in isolation. For example, it’s not uncommon for a mine to have one company providing the camera infrastructure, another the surveillance software and analytics, and a third maintaining the system.
“Watcher provides the entire surveillance offering as a service. As a result, the mine gets the solution it requires, and we take care of all the moving parts.”
Neethling explains that most mines have legacy camera systems, and as operations expand additional but different, makes and models are added. “ All of these feed into the mine’s control room, each type using its own video management system. This means that mines often have to train operators to use multiple software platforms.”
Further, having different suppliers provide and maintain infrastructure and software can be particularly challenging. He stresses that using a single service provider eliminates most of the integration pitfalls that can arise. Watcher’s ability to integrate hardware and software platforms into a single user-interface with centralised management ensures that the companies need not embark on capital-intensive upgrades or replacements
“Typically, we conduct an assessment of the mine’s current infrastructure, and highlight any areas for improvement. Watcher then align best of breed video management and analytic systems that integrate with the security operation.
Neethling explains that with live-monitoring solutions, mines are limited in terms of maintaining a “healthy” ratio of operators per camera.
“In a conventional environment, a control room operator monitors live footage. A typical operator can only successfully monitor 16 to 20 camera views. Neethling notes that for such a system to be as effective as ‘humanly possible’, operators would have to monitor 100% of available footage, without their attention drifting, and in-between lunch and bathroom breaks.
“An AI-assisted system on the other hand, learns a scene and is able to object classify people, vehicles and/or other objects of interest. Should a person or vehicle enter an area that is off limits, or if the system detects suspicious activity, an alert pops up, and is then reviewed by the operator who will escalate it when required.”
Neethling adds that the operator’s actions are recorded in a database, along with a timestamp of when the alert was issued, and the time it took for the operator to action the alert. Further, whereas conventional live-monitoring systems have a ratio of 1:20, AI-assisted monitoring systems have a ratio of 1:200.
“Our solution allows companies to move from a reactive, staring-at-screens, approach to a proactive engagement by operators.”
Watcher has recently engaged with several companies within the coal, chrome, diamond, gold, and platinum mining space. The solution is adaptable to both underground and surface operations.
“Our goal is simple: We would like for our mining customers to get the best service out of their surveillance solution. We have the expertise in all aspects of the surveillance ecosystem to progress clients to a stage where they get maximum efficiency from their surveillance solutions.”
In addition to its surveillance offering, Watcher is able to use footage as a means of providing evidence for prosecution purposes. Frequency reports on all incidents and threats are provided for review by customers.
Further, in light of Covid-19, Watcher is able to circumvent manual screenings – which is time consuming – by automating fever screening using thermal technology. The automated solution scans everyone in the field of view simultaneously.
Watcher also offers licence plate recognition solutions, where it records the license plate of the vehicles entering/ exiting an area. Vehicles of Interest (VoI) are checked against the South African Police Service Unicode database. The mine can also set up their own VoI-list, so that mine management and/or security personnel are notified on arrival or departure of those vehicles.
Watcher’s approach is to understand the customer’s environment; the existing infrastructure and operating challenges and will customise a solution to the customer’s requirements.