July 09, 2018

“Laptops do weird things at -60°F”

Sumitomo Metal Mining use Perle IOLAN Device Servers to create a networked virtual serial port for remote download of transaction logs to keep the fuel dispensing system running

NASHVILLE, TN — July 9th, 2018 — If I ever find myself in the remote Alaskan interior, I would like to meet Mike Spooner, Telecom and Infrastructure Technician at the Sumitomo Pogo Mine. Why? This man is a story teller. A good story teller. So good, that he can make a story about setting up a networked virtual serial port extremely entertaining.

Pogo Mine Logo

Okay, I sense your doubt, and I don’t blame you. There can’t possibly be anything more boring than a story about setting up a virtual serial port to download data remotely but, I challenge you to give this one a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

People employed in the mining industry are accustomed to working in remote locations. Because mines tend to operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day, employees stay at the mining camp for multi-day shifts before returning home. In the case of Pogo Mine, these people also find themselves dealing with below freezing temperatures for 7 months out of the year. We are talking -60F in treacherous surroundings with a real chance of frostbite.

At Pogo mine, diesel is the major fuel source. It runs everything, including trucks, generators, mining equipment and the heating system. The diesel fuel is dispensed at the on-site fuel island where dispensed quantities are logged using a “Computrol Fuelboy” Proximity Card system. However, Fuelboy can only hold 150 transactions in its finite memory. At that point it shuts down and no more fuel can be dispensed until the transaction log has been downloaded and cleared.

Spooner tells his story, The cure? I get to go down there in the cold, plug a laptop into its RS232 Serial port and download the transaction log, then it starts working again. I spent 2 months doing this every 2-3 days. The poor old laptop and I were not enjoying the -60 temps, at all. There were lots of frustrations and bad words. Laptops do weird things at -60°F. I needed a way to stay out of the cold but the Fuelboy software would not support any kind of networked connection and required a null-modem serial link for download.

The situation that Mike Spooner found himself in is quite common. A lot of equipment that is used in industrial environments run software applications that have been written to communicate with devices that are directly connected to a computer’s serial COM port.

Spooner continues, So, I decided to find out if it was possible set up a networked virtual serial port. That’s when I learned about the IOLAN SDG and TruePort.

Pogo Fuelboy

Since the original transaction log application was designed to talk directly to a specific COM port on the Fuelboy, a solution, which is seamless to both the application and device, must be implemented to enable communication across an IP network infrastructure. In other words, a solution that makes the application think it is talking directly to the COM port is required. People often refer to this as creating a "virtual serial port" or creating a "virtual COM port". TruePort software, used with an IOLAN SDG Serial Device Server provides the ideal solution. It makes remote serial ports appear as if they are directly connected COM or TTY ports to the application.

Mike Spooner continues, I ordered an IOLAN SDG1, started playing with it, and realized it just might fit the bill. So, I set up a 900mhz data-radio shot between the Fuel Island and a base-station, located across a parking lot, with the installed IOLAN. BAM! It worked! First attempt!

I head back to my office, a mile away, to test it from there, and BAM! It worked again!!! For the next week, every morning I’d come in and do a download whether it needed it or not, just for the thrill of it.

Mike concludes, Well, the old laptop got turned into a Virtual Machine where we can login and download fuel logs in a matter of moments, without getting cold. The new system has had thousands of days of uptime by now. After seeing how well the solution works, and how incredibly stable it has been, Perle has forever won a place in my heart as the go-to solution for all things ‘conversion’. So, needless to say, you have a happy customer here!

Read the original Case Study here.

About Sumitomo Metals Mining POGO LLC: http://pogominealaska.com

Pogo is owned and operated by Sumitomo Metal Mining Pogo LLC, a joint venture between Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., Ltd (SMM) and Sumitomo Corporation. SMM’s corporate mission is to support shareholders, clients, local communities, employees and everyone else around the world in their endeavours to achieve economic and spiritual prosperity and realize their dreams through our sound business activities. SMM owns 85% of Pogo Mine while Sumitomo Corporation owns 15%.



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