The mining industry is going through significant transformations. Driving these transformations is the requirement for improved efficiencies, safety, competition, and of course profitability. Regardless of the resources mined, its operations are being transformed at a faster rate than ever before. The digital transformation of mining companies and their operations has become imperative and it cannot be delayed any longer. Any mining CEO knows that his competitors are doing it, so his company must accelerate its transformation to maintain operational, safety, competitive position and profitability.
Of course, these transformations mean more data and information, faster and in real-time. Regardless of the country of operation allows autonomous driving (driverless equipment) or not, there is a huge need for more data, faster and in real-time. The need for transformation is there with or without autonomous driving. Autonomous driving is clearly increasing the need for real-time communications, however, it is only adding to all the other real-time Big Data requirements resulting from new real-time operations.
Some new key applications have already been implemented by many mining companies, others are in the implementation phase, and many new applications are just entering the R&D stage now. Some key applications categories are:
- Visualization & Alerts
- Dynamic Scheduling
- Integrated Automation
- Cognitive Applications & Networks
The Connected Mine – is the absolute foundation to enablement for all the above. Very much like we have seen in the Digital Oilfield, the Digital Mine is all about better information, at the right time, anywhere and to every person and machine, so faster end more accurate decisions can be made by people or machines.
Visualization and Augmented Reality – enables new procedure simulation and the study of its impact. It also greatly improves efficiency, process, and safety through virtual use case simulation. The military has been doing this for some time now, but now it’s the mining industry’s turn.
The Analytics – cognitive intelligence allows us to unravel the intelligence of raw data.
Cognitive Applications & Networks – are being developed, tested and implemented in new Digital Mines.
The Digital Mine and these transformations require a new wireless network foundation. In fact, in many cases, it requires two or more new main networks. One that enables full connectivity to all fixed, nomadic and mobile assets, and their large quantities of sensors, at all times and with full mobility. The other network is the high-capacity offload network guaranteeing that the mobile network does not get taxed with temporary or permanently fixed users of all types.
Very much like what we are witnessing in our everyday life: we are all using a mobile network such as 3G and 4G, however once in the office, home, hotel, coffee shop, or airport, we, without even noticing, are offloading some of our mobile network communications via Wi-Fi, which is in turn transported by a high- capacity fixed network such as Fiber/Cable or high-capacity PMP wireless network.
In the Digital Mine, just like in the Digital Oilfield, to enable such fast evolving and real-time process and actionable items, one must rely on the high-performance and reliability of private wireless networks that are fit-for-purpose and engineered to meet and exceed requirements. No single technology can do it all, even a plumber needs more than one tool in their bag.
In the Digital Mine, there are three to four wireless networks:
- The High-Capacity Fixed/Nomadic Transport Network — to backhaul the next two networks on this list, this network must be bigger than ever.
- The High-Capacity Mobility Network — the industry is converging towards private LTE for all the obvious reasons, capacity, full mobility and standards-based user equipment.
- The High-Capacity Site Wi-Fi — where people and machine traffic can be routed to ensure the LTE network is not overtaxed. This network has existed in many mines but was in MESH implementation. Now that the standards-based private LTE networks are achievable, MESH is no longer as relevant.
- The old LMR/Dispatch system — that eventually will be migrated to the LTE network, if not already.
The transformation happening in mining is just fascinating and very exciting. It is a privilege to be here now, to be able to be a significant part of it, right at the foundation; with new, smarter and faster Fixed/Nomadic and Mobile network fit-for-purpose.
There is much going on with the Digital Mine and I will have more posts in this category.
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