Tag Archives: connectivity

Inmarsat research notes COVID-19-inspired uptick in mining’s use of IoT

New research by Inmarsat, a leader in global mobile satellite communications, reveals a rapid increase in the maturity level of industrial Internet of Things (IoT) adoption across the mining sector since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respondents from the sector reported that COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of IoT to their businesses, with many accelerating IoT deployments in response to the pandemic.

According to the research, adoption has seen huge progress from 2020 to 2021. Some 82% of mining respondents have now fully deployed at least one IoT project, with 37% having achieved this in the 12-month period from the June quarter of 2020. Of the remaining 18% of mining respondents that have not yet adopted IoT in any form, all of them are either currently trialling it, or plan to deploy or trial at least one IoT project in the next two years, according to the research.

A further 81% of mining respondents indicated they have or they intend to accelerate the adoption of IoT in response to challenges related to COVID-19. This figure includes 40% who have already accelerated IoT adoption to respond to COVID-19, versus 21% who will accelerate over the next 12 months and 20% who will accelerate beyond the next 12 months.

The 40 per cent that have already accelerated IoT adoption are less likely to state that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their ability to operate, demonstrating a link between IoT and business continuity during the pandemic. Additionally, nearly half (47%) of respondents in the sector indicated that business and operational challenges related to COVID-19 have underlined the importance of IoT.

Commenting on this acceleration of IoT in the mining sector, Nicholas Prevost, Director of Mining Innovation at Inmarsat, said: “While the mining sector has, historically, lagged behind other industries in its adoption of radical ideas and new technologies, our latest research reveals that the sector has made considerable progress in terms of IoT adoption and development over the last few years and is very upbeat about its potential. The COVID-19 crisis has only served to accelerate the rate of IoT adoption in many mining businesses and we are now seeing evidence that those companies that are increasing the speed of adoption of IoT and associated technologies are gaining an advantage, through their ability to keep operations going autonomously and with greater insight.”

Mike Carter, President of Inmarsat Enterprise, added: “The rapid increase in IoT deployments over the last few years highlights the considerable progress global industry has made to overcome some of the world’s most challenging forces. It is particularly interesting, though logical, that COVID-19 has further catalysed businesses to increase their reliance on Industry 4.0 technologies, and particularly the industrial Internet of Things, in order to maintain business continuity. Those businesses implementing IoT technologies ahead of their competition and across their value chains are those who stand to win in the long-term.

“While our findings point to IoT driving significant uplifts in efficiency, sustainability and safety across global supply chains, there are areas where organisations can make improvements to draw the optimum benefits from the technology. Connectivity, data management, skills shortages, security threats and investment levels remain challenges as the world’s production and supply chains become increasingly digitalised and intertwined.

“Inmarsat’s global ELERA network is inspiring new possibilities and enabling organisations from all sectors to access IoT anywhere. Ideally suited to the rapidly evolving world of IoT, our industry-leading narrowband network provides global reach, extraordinary resilience, and the fastest speeds, along with the smallest, low cost terminals in their class.”

Aqura to take on Australia’s 5G LTE underground mining challenge

Aqura Technologies has been awarded a grant from the Australian Government under the 5G Innovation Initiative to, it says, augment the organisation’s own development work to address the challenge of delivering underground 5G LTE.

The grant is an important step to overcome the technical and commercial barriers associated with operating next-generation broadband wireless networks in sub-surface environments, according to Aqura.

Aqura Chief Executive Officer, Travis Young, said the project was founded on extensive customer and industry feedback as critical to enable mining operators to unlock the benefits that surface operators had been enjoying for a number of years.

“With over 50% of mining in Australia being conducted underground and increasing, the industry is still playing catch-up with technology that is being widely utilised to great benefit in surface operations,” he said.

“Our track record and development work, coupled with the 5G Innovation Grant, will enable our team to work to deliver technical architectures and a validated commercial model which will enable and accelerate adoption.”

The 5G Innovation Initiative grant will complement investment already made by Aqura to deliver technical architectures, commercial model development and installation of a live Private 5G LTE network in an operating mine. The project leverages a lot of learnings from a 2017 project where Aqura successfully delivered Private 4G LTE in an underground mine in the Kalgoorlie region of Western Australia, Aqura said.

The focus of the program is to fast-track the enablement of applications and processes that are being adopted in surface operations so underground operators can realise the benefits of enhanced environmental, safety and productivity outcomes that advanced wireless communications can deliver, it added.

Aqura’s Chief Operations Officer, Alan Seery, said underground operators are wanting a kick-start to advance their technology capabilities.

“Many underground mines use processes and technologies that are decades old and operators want to leverage the latest technology, but the technical challenges and the commercial model to acquire can be prohibitive,” he said.

“We’ve learnt a lot through our previous work in underground, and we believe our new LTEaaS (LTE as a service) platform optimised to deliver next-generation private industrial operations networks will support a new commercial approach that will better suit the business models utilised by mining operators.

“And with new advances in radio access, we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with some very motivated partners to develop and make available new architectures which will bridge the underground connectivity gap.”

Many of Aqura’s core team were behind the first Private 4G LTE network in Australian resources, delivered Private 4G LTE underground and supported delivery of one of the first above-ground Private 5G LTE networks in north Queensland earlier this year, it said.

The project has kicked off with Aqura working with a large gold operator to commence scoping. Various partners have indicated support to validate applications, devices and processes around autonomy, condition monitoring, safety systems, data access, PTT communications and IoT sensors.

Inmarsat, AST and Harvest team up to connect remote maintenance, service teams

A new agreement between Inmarsat, Harvest Technology Group and Inmarsat Partner, AST, will provide Harvest’s customers across the mining, energy and utilities sectors with the tools to remotely monitor assets, coordinate site surveys and conduct maintenance operations over real-time video and audio transmitted via ultra-low-bandwidth satellite communications, Inmarsat says.

These sectors are facing increasing pressure to maintain vital infrastructure and equipment while safeguarding workers, all in the most cost-effective way possible, the company says. With global travel restrictions and sustainability challenges now impacting many organisations, pressure is also mounting to allow personnel in remote locations to be connected live back to base, the office or home to enable simultaneous review and decision making worldwide.

“The alliance will bring greater functionality to Harvest’s ‘data-anywhere’ solutions, which can transmit high-quality synchronised video and audio across an extremely low bandwidth,” Inmarsat says. “Harvest’s popular Wearwolf™ wearable headset solution enables remote workers to communicate directly with technicians, engineers and site managers who may be located across different continents simultaneously in real time, from the comfort of their offices or homes, so removing the need to travel.”

From a connectivity standpoint, the Wearwolf solution allows high-data-rate streaming of video and audio over satellite by wirelessly connecting to Inmarsat’s Explorer 710 BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) terminal.

“Our global connectivity services are underpinned by the world’s most reliable satellite communications network, which is the backbone for maritime, aviation and land safety services throughout the world,” Inmarsat says. “This ensures that any type of survey, inspection or maintenance procedure can be experienced through the eyes and ears of the crews on the ground and directed by technicians and engineers as if they were on site, from anywhere in the world.”

Steven Tompkins, Director of Sector Development at Inmarsat, said: “The energy, utilities and mining sectors have all harnessed the benefits of global satellite communications to maintain safe and efficient operations for a number of years. However, these challenges have been exacerbated by global restrictions imposed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which means that there has never been a greater need for affordable solutions that help organisations collaborate, work together and improve operations, no matter where they are located.

“By developing a wearable solution that supports our High Data Rate streaming capabilities across a low-bandwidth connection, Harvest is facilitating highly efficient, safe, cost-effective and sustainable site surveys of pipelines and valuable assets across industrial sites in remote areas around the world. We are excited about the huge potential of this agreement and how it will change the way industrial professionals communicate and collaborate, no matter where they are located.”

Gregory Darling, Managing Director of AST, added: “AST is delighted to partner with Harvest and Inmarsat to provide real-time video and audio solutions cost effectively through our secure global INTEGRA network from anywhere in the world. The alliance supports our vision to continuously empower our customers with dependable solutions that improve their operational efficiency, reduce their health and safety risk and minimise their carbon footprint.”

Harvest’s Managing Director, Paul Guilfoyle, said the alliance will not only allow for the implementation of existing technology, but will further “fuel the innovation for future cutting-edge communication initiatives”.

Epiroc and Ericsson connect on 5G and LTE technologies for mining

Epiroc has signed a cooperation agreement with leading communications technology provider Ericsson to jointly help mining companies achieve optimal wireless connectivity in their operations through Long Term Evolution (LTE) and 5G technologies.

Key advantages of LTE and 5G solutions compared with other wireless solutions include better coverage, higher reliability and stronger security, especially when machines are in the same area and share information, according to Epiroc.

The technology, which is for both underground and open-pit mines, has already been tested on Epiroc’s machines at the company’s test mine in Kvarntorp, Sweden, with further testing scheduled before providing solutions to customers.

Epiroc said: “Mining companies are increasingly seeking to digitalise and automate their operations to increase productivity, enhance operator safety and lower cost. This includes, for example, remotely operating machines from a control room, and collecting machine performance data to optimise use of the equipment.”

All of this creates a need for reliable, high-performance wireless connectivity at the mines, it said.

Helena Hedblom, Epiroc’s Senior Executive Vice President Mining and Infrastructure, said the mining OEM is happy to team up with Ericsson so that its mining customers can get the most reliable and high-performing wireless connectivity possible.

“This is a crucial step in our ongoing work to ensure mining customers reap all the benefits, including higher productivity and better safety, made possible by digitalisation and automation,” she said.

Åsa Tamsons, Ericsson’s Senior Vice President and Head of Business Area Technologies & New Businesses, said cellular technology and the introduction of 5G is critical to realising the full value of digitalisation and automation “for smart industries”.

“By combining our expertise in connectivity and Epiroc’s cutting-edge technology in mining equipment, we will be able to ensure stable and secure mining operations, leading to increased utilisation, improved productivity and reduced costs.”

This connectivity tie-up follows a recently-signed agreement between Sandvik and Nokia to further develop solutions for private LTE and 5G technology.

Mobile Mark connects up with the mining industry

Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS antennas play a vital role in bringing wireless coverage to the remote areas of mines both above and below ground.

With operations taking place in difficult and remote environments, a reliable and effective communication system is an essential requirement to ensure safety and allow uninterrupted communication during routine mining processes.

Why is wireless required in mines?

Safety
Mining work can often take place hundreds of metres below surface so, when disasters occur, the ability to communicate with trapped miners is crucial. For this and other reasons, a rugged communication system that can operate through multiple layers of rock and earth is required.

Durable dependability
Wireless communication involves transmission of various types of data. A wireless system of communication is indispensable in mines as wired systems are often unable to withstand disasters. Wired systems fail when connectivity is a must: for instance, in case of a roof fall, fire outbreak, explosion, power or battery failure.

The modern wireless technology provides the perfect solution to this problem because wireless solutions:

  • Are reliable;
  • Reach inaccessible areas;
  • Work during crisis situations;
  • Work over long distances;
  • Increase productivity;
  • Reduce operational costs, and;
  • Can be installed at a low cost.

From exploration to extraction delivery, wireless technology has become an integral part of the process to improve productivity, reduce costs and enhance safety.

Applications range from voice and data communications to fleet management and remote video surveillance. Wireless system designers serving the mining sector are called upon to build networks that offer continuous and balanced coverage.

Mobile Mark is a leader in the innovation of Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS antennas in the mining industry, according to the company.

Its specialised product lines include:
– Exploration;
– Infrastructure;
– Underground wireless and asset tracking;
– Vehicle control and fleet tracking, and;
– Remote monitoring and video surveillance.