01/10/2008 - 22:00

Fastwave monitoring its market niche

01/10/2008 - 22:00

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A WORLD-FIRST monitoring system developed by Perth satellite communications company, Fastwave, is giving mining giant Woodside an advantage in meeting the strict environmental conditions attached to its Pluto project.

Fastwave monitoring its market niche

A WORLD-FIRST monitoring system developed by Perth satellite communications company, Fastwave, is giving mining giant Woodside an advantage in meeting the strict environmental conditions attached to its Pluto project.

Fastwave has developed a real-time monitoring system to measure the amount of sediment in the ocean around the pipeline corridors being dredged in the ocean floor off the Burrup Peninsula in the state's north-west.

Development of the Pluto project will involve the removal of more than 14 million cubic metres of material for the shore crossing, trunkline, berth pocket and shipping channel to accommodate the LNG ships.

"In order to obtain environmental approval for the dredging associated with this work, Woodside had to be able to demonstrate it would not damage the health of the coral reefs around the peninsular," Fastwave marketing director Nick Daws told WA Business News.

According to Mr Daws, one of the biggest risks to coral from dredging is higher levels of turbidity, or sediment, in the water.

When sediment drops onto coral it can stress the coral as well as cut out light, which is critical to its function and survival.

"We developed an underwater sensor package, where there are 12 monitoring sites on the seafloor around the peninsular," Mr Daws said.

"Each of these sites has turbidity sensors, satellite communications equipment and a battery pack that are connected to a surface buoy which transmits data about the conditions on the sea floor every 30 minutes for 24 hours a day.

"If the turbidity level gets up to certain level it triggers an alarm and dredging can be stopped until the levels return to normal.

"For companies that have these environmental compliance issues, the traditional way of doing this monitoring would be to send out a dive crew every day and manually take water samples at each of the 10 different sites."

Mr Daws said the Woodside system was one of a suite of real-time monitoring systems developed by Fastwave since the company revised its business model in 2006. When we started out seven years ago, our focus was satellite voice communications; and while that's still an important part of our business because it gives us a day-to-day cash flow, we recognised fairly quickly that the barriers to entry for that type of business were fairly low and we needed to look for an area where we could make a niche for ourselves," he said.

"Our business model now is to really focus on remote monitoring and tracking solutions for companies that work in areas where no other systems will work.

"We also made a conscious decision that we would not just sell off-the-shelf solutions that can be easily replicated; we focus on customised solutions for businesses that want a single supplier with an end-to-end solution.

"This means that we also generate money not only from selling the equipment but also from the ongoing transmission of data for the monitoring."Mr Daws said the change in direction was beginning to pay dividends for the company now that it had some proven solutions in place, both in Australia and overseas.

A Fastwave-developed vehicle safety and speed monitoring system installed on the 1,600 kilometre Dampier to Perth pipeline project won the Industry Choice Award in the Chamber of Mineral and Energy's 2008 Innovation Awards. Rio Tinto this month also rolled-out a similar system at its Yandi mine site in the north-west.

"We recently developed a flight tracking system to track aircraft in real time for a company that flies air freight into Afghanistan and Iraq, where knowing where your aircraft are at every minute is very important," Mr Daws said.

"We have also accepted a contract with a company that provides global security services to blue-chip companies like Shell and BP."

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