Joaquín Patrón
Urbit Group
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Satellite Communication Provides Real-Time Solutions

By Andrea Villar | Wed, 05/06/2020 - 13:09

Q: Why did Ankla decide to change its name to Urbit Group?

A: Outside of just seeing Mexico as a market, we are seeing the rest of the world. Ankla remains our point of operations for sales and services. Urbit Group is becoming a company that will generate innovative solutions. We sell these solutions through subsidiaries such as Ankla or with other supplier partners. This is a commercial strategy that we are implementing to reach more companies. Although many of these companies have operations in Mexico, they are headquartered in the US, Canada or England. Ankla functions mainly as a billing company and making sure all legal and regulatory aspects are followed according to Mexican laws.

Q: What are the solutions you offer in communication for the mining industry?

A: We are continuing to work on the same satellite communication project we had last year, providing our clients with the innovative, efficient and safe technology. Our new products solve the issue of transferring increased data from the field to central offices.

We created the Urbit Gateway, a new product that collects information and sends it to the cloud. Under this premise, we created a device that is energy self-sufficient and has a solar panel and battery. It is basically a box that allows you to jump from the mine to your server without having to have visual infrastructure to get that information.

The Urbit Gateway is located in the mines next to the sensors that are collecting information and can measure temperatures, climate data, among other data points. Currently, many of these sensors communicate via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or LoRa (Long Range) and we can capture the data, send it via satellite or cellular, if available, to our customers wherever they are located. This box is positioned outside in an open non-intrusive signal location, such as on a post that already exists or on a platform.

Q: How can a mine benefit in terms of safety and productivity by collecting data?

A: Our device does not depend on the infrastructure of the mine. As a result, there is no need to charge it, connect it to an electricity outlet or to a telecommunications network. Our device is completely self-sufficient in all aspects. This is known as an Easy Deployment because it requires nothing more than installation like solar panels attached to a roof. The benefit is that it is quite economical compared to other systems, it is a completely contained and safe system. Likewise, the equipment is very difficult to break and meets all operational requirements of a mine.

Our equipment works best in the most remote places. Our device provides the information that the mines require. This information is useful especially when you have a team that is doing a survey in various conditions because the mines are extremely large and do not have good coverage of their entire area. For this reason, they are increasingly used to solve security problems. For example, there are sensors that send an alert if any perimeter network is cut off. All these safety issues can be efficiently handled because the mine has real-time sensors and with the installation of our equipment it does not require additional infrastructure.

Q: What is the value of the mine data you collect?

A: The value of the data is decided by the client, which in this case is the mining company. For the customer, data is extremely important, for example knowing the temperature at a certain time or the pressure of a specific pipe. Having said that, the value of the data is that it can be obtained in real-time, allowing the client to make a quick and informed decision. We can become a data transmission bridge. Information is power and we want to strengthen our clients, giving them enough information in real time to take decisive action when needed.

Q: Compared to other satellite communication devices in the market, what advantages does Urbit Group technology offer?

A: Urbit, in coordination with Iridium, which is the satellite provider, has control of the data transmission flow. Inside the mine, the information is transmitted from the client to our system and works its way up to the satellite. This communication flow is a private network we administer. This flow will never be transmitted through public networks. That is one of the great advantages we have. When you have to connect to the internet it is always done through secure channels according to the client's requirements.

New forms of wireless communication systems are being introduced into the market, especially LoRa. This system allows you to communicate up to 15 kilometers away with an antenna smaller than that of a cell phone. The system is perfect for industries like the mining sector because it covers great extensions of land. We are focusing on providing broad coverage through new technologies such as the Urbit Gateway.

Urbit Group, previously known as Ankla, is a Mexican company with 14 years of experience in satellite communication. It provides tailored solutions for the mining industry, including voice and data transmission systems that lower costs and improve safety.

Andrea Villar Andrea Villar Journalist and Industry Analyst