Efficient earthquake warning systems
Issue: 
Accurately respond to seismic hazard alerts with instant access to earthquake magnitude, location and time related data.
Solution: 

Establish automatic data transfers between remote seismographs and the observatory over 3G networks using a wireless M2M device.

Benefits:

  • Real time observation and control
  • Two-way communications
  • Reduced response time
  • No fixed line restrictions
  • Constant connection
  • Cost-effective and far-reaching 3G connectivity
  • Battery and solar power connectivity options
  • Easy installation and simple setup
  • Industrial strength and temperature resistant

Environmental Systems & Services (ES&S) is Australia's largest provider of advanced technological systems for allied fields such as seismic, meteorological, oceanographic, environmental and geotechnical engineering. The ES&S Seismology Research Centre (SRC) was established in 1976 to monitor earthquakes in eastern Australia and has since developed an innovative range of seismic and blast recorders, sensors and data analysis software.

The SRC currently operates a network of over one hundred seismographs throughout eastern Australia, and over half of these send field data relating to earthquake parameters (magnitude, time and location) to the observatory using Internet protocol data connections. These connections are achieved using a diverse combination of technologies including: VSAT satellite telemetry, 3G modems, ADSL, and even dial-up modems.

The ability to effectively monitor and respond to seismic activity warnings in real time can dramatically reduce the impact of an earthquake by enabling emergency shutdowns and other early warning protection processes. To ensure undisrupted data communications in environmentally extreme conditions, the SRC required a robust wireless M2M device capable of building secure wide-area-networks over 3G.

Adam Pascale, Head of Seismology, ES&S Seismology Research Centre, selected the NetComm Wireless M2M Router to support the real time observation and control of remote seismographs.

"Every minute a packet of data is sent from our remote seismograph sites into our observatory so that we have a continuous record of earth movements from around the country. Most importantly, when an earthquake occurs, our seismographs immediately send the data to the observatory where a computer associates these detections and declares an "event". Rapid data telemetry is critical to reduce response time. The computer determines a preliminary earthquake location and magnitude and sends it to our Duty Seismologists, who quickly log in to the observatory and check if further action is required," said Adam Pascale.

As well as keeping a constant watch over seismic activity, the SRC required a device with the capacity to send data from the observatory back to seismograph sites to support the remote maintenance and calibration of equipment.

"NetComm’s M2M Router fits the main selection criteria which included Ethernet connectivity and the advantage of inbuilt support of DynDNS (Dynamic Network Services)so that we can communicate back to the remote equipment. The optional Connect Direct service also allows us to keep our data on a private network and allows us to have two-way communications with fixed IP addresses."

To reduce the devastating impact of an earthquake it is vital that communication lines stay up and open in any circumstances. Large scale earthquakes can cause extensive damage to fixed line infrastructure so it is essential that any M2M device operating on a wired network has the capacity to automatically switch to 3G.

"We have a modem at our observatory that is on the Connect Direct system and dozens more at remote locations that are either using Connect Direct to send data to the observatory modem or DynDNS to send data to our ADSL modem. This way we have redundancy so that if the Connect Direct services is offline we still get data over ADSL, and if our ADSL service goes down we still get data over 3G."

The SRC also faced the challenge of maintaining reliable, efficient and cost-effective communications in geographically isolated and often hard to reach areas that lie beyond the reach of fixed line infrastructure.

"Finding communications in remote areas is always difficult, particularly as we place our sites away from populated areas to avoid cultural noise. Being able to easily include a modem that can operate from solar/battery power gives us more flexibility when selecting new remote sites.

Using 3G data telemetry eliminates the need to have telephone lines or fibre cables installed in remote locations, which is often very expensive in remote areas. It also saves time as an enormous amount of time is required to coordinate and meet with civil works contractors in remote areas. It is also becoming cost-effective to telemeter our data over 3G due to the ever-reducing cost of data plans. This also allows us to telemeter more data, improving the quality of the historical record of seismicity in Australia," said Adam.

The easy to install NetComm Wireless M2M Router builds wide-area-networks utilising the extended coverage and superior speeds of 3G networks. The compact and robust device provides a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint communications link in harsh environmental conditions and supports a large number of interfaces and protocols to meet the demands of today's telemetry and WAN applications. The M2M Router includes a software development kit (SDK) for the ability to install custom firmware; and the device supports multi-level system monitoring ensures that communication lines will remain up and open in all circumstances.

"The NetComm Wireless device is simple to configure, easy to deploy with our equipment and offers time and money savings. The M2M Router is easy to maintain and when we detect a problem with the service we are able to resolve it ourselves within hours, not days," said Adam.