The next industrial revolution is here. New technology and automation solutions are catalysts for evolving your mining operations – helping make you more connected, efficient and productive.
In order to optimize mine performance, miners must first be willing to embrace change. Embrace the Internet of Things (IoT).
What is the IoT?
Traditionally, IoT was used to encompass anything connected to the internet. Today, however, it is increasingly used to define any array of connected “things” that can collect, exchange and transfer data among them. This can include smart sensors, intelligent devices and full, integrated systems and equipment controlling your mining operations.
Industrial IoT (IIoT), a subcategory of the IoT, more narrowly focuses on the requirements of industrial applications like mining.
I am a Miner, How Does the IIoT Benefit Me?
Before jumping into the adoption of specific technology, mining companies must first focus on their business strategy – what challenges are you looking to solve? What processes are you looking to improve? Your challenges, expected outcomes and business goals will help you identify the correct IIoT platform or technologies suited for you.
Let’s take three hypothetical examples of challenges in a mining operation and corresponding “quick win” projects to help address these issues.
1. Diesel was identified as major operation expense in your mine, but your operations team didn’t have a full picture of tank levels and consumption by each equipment asset. Consequently, the team couldn’t identify potential savings opportunities. The solution: an information-based reporting solution for better visibility and traceability of diesel and lubricant consumption.
2. You also didn’t have real-time information, alerts and historical trending regarding weather, dust, noise, etc. So, you determine an environmental monitoring system is a valid solution.
3. Additionally, your primary crusher failed three times during the same year. So, you look to implement a basic condition monitoring solution for your crusher to help anticipate failures before they occur.
Theoretically, this mining company could turn to smart sensors to solve these challenges and implement the solutions outlined above.
But, it’s not that easy:
- You will need some type of software or application to be able to collect and use data from the sensors.
- Modern IIoT sensors talk many languages or protocols, so the application you choose needs to be able to collect and analyze data from many protocols. You don’t want to be limited to just one.
- Although the three projects seem unrelated, implementing different sensors for each could derail to three dissimilar systems, creating isolated systems versus your plans to have integrated and unified visibility into your mine operations.
- In the end, each system would be so customized or proprietary that any add-on or improvement would be impossible.
But, what if you could use the same approach – a single platform – for all three of your different projects? You should consider an IIoT platform!
What is an IIoT Platform?
We can summarize an IIoT platform in two basic concepts:
- It is integrated software that can collect and manage the information from various sensors, devices, networks and other software across your mine. And it makes the information available to be used for fit-for-purpose applications, through visualization and analytics tools.
- It is a platform with some off-the-shelf applications, but most importantly, allows for the quick development of applications by the user or third-party companies. For example: augmented-reality applications, mash-up dashboards that aggregate information from several sources or machine learning applications.
What is NOT an IIoT Platform?
- Proprietary software used to integrate specific supplier’s devices and hardware, hence not allowing connections with other sensors or development of applications by other third-party companies.
- An architecture: a solution stack with some products and software from the same supplier talking to each other.
- Software with some capability to gather and use the data from intelligent devices.
It’s clear IIoT platforms have benefits for miners – from mine-wide connectivity to better data visibility. But, before implementation, mining companies should be diligent when choosing an IIoT partner.
German research company, IoT Analytics, released its list of current global IoT platform providers. The full list now includes more than 450 companies that identify themselves as providers of IoT platforms.
Be diligent and selective when choosing an IoT provider to best fit your mining operations, as many of these platforms are likely not adequate for your specific application and some, though they identify as an IoT provider, may not have IoT or IIoT capabilities at all.