Active control unveils breakthrough “starfish™” feature for ActiveMine wireless communications system

TORONTO, May 6, 2008 – Active Control Technology Inc. (TSX-V:ACT) announced today a major enhancement of ActiveMineTM, the premier wireless communications and locating system for mines, that represents a breakthrough in underground mining communications.

The new feature, called “StarfishTM,” for the first time makes it possible for miners who become isolated due to an accident, explosion or other event to stay linked, even when they are distant from one another and cut off from the outside world.

“We know of no other communication system marketed to the mining community which has this capability,” said Steve Barrett, President and CEO, Active Control. “Starfish demonstrates our commitment to ensuring ActiveMine remains the benchmark for wireless mine communications and locating systems.”

Starfish technology has operated successfully for over a month in the underground coal mine in West Virginia referenced in ACT’s press release of May 1, 2008. This installation marked the first commercial sale of the ActiveMine system.

How Starfish Works
Starfish operates on top of ActiveMine’s 100 percent wireless Wi-Fi MESH network, which is formed by a series of nodes placed at strategic locations in the mine. The ActiveMine network has multiple wireless paths that will maintain communication links in the event any node fails or is damaged.

With Starfish, even if a node or series of nodes becomes isolated from the main network, voice communications will automatically be re-established within the isolated area. The analogy in nature is that of a starfish: If a starfish's arm is severed, a complete new starfish is naturally regenerated by the severed section.

This capability is currently not possible with analog walkie-talkie radios used in leaky feeder systems. When these radios lose their network connection (for example, because of a damaged leaky feeder cable), they provide line-of-sight communications to other radios within a few hundred feet. Consequently, miners located across a larger area or isolated behind pillars would likely be unable to communicate with one another should a leaky feeder network fail.

Additional Starfish Benefits
Starfish provides several benefits and added capabilities:

  • By making it possible for miners to find one another and provide mutual assistance, Starfish is particularly valuable for search and rescue operations.
  • As soon as an ActiveMine node in an isolated area “sees” signal from the main network, communications to the surface will automatically resume.
  • With the advent of Starfish, ActiveMine wireless mesh networks can now be set up for communications without a “Head End,” where communications system controls are typically located. All that is required are nodes. This is cost-effective for small mines that track underground personnel “by administration” only and do not require electronic tracking.
  • This capability also enables the deployment of temporary local networks that are ideal for shorter-term activities requiring high quality communication links.
  • Starfish-enabled local networks can be connected to satellite phones, making it possible for isolated locations such as prospecting camps to have a fully digital communications and data network linked to “the outside world.”