Internet of Things (IoT) is a 4th industrial revolution technology. IoT is the link between the physical world and the digital world. IoT is vital to help businesses better manage their businesses and take advantage of the additional data generated by IoT technology.

The mining industry unsurprisingly can benefit hugely by implementing IoT technology. Key issues like safety and asset management can be enhanced significantly. Optimisation and better mine management will also take huge leaps forward.

Understanding the technology. IoT devices are essentially sensors that measure, monitor and track ordinary objects and are able to report via the internet to a server in the cloud. The real strength of the technology comes in the ability to analyse the data from each sensor and make either automated decisions through AI or manual decisions using trained staff who understand what the data means to the business.

Long Range IoT networks have been key in developing practical use cases for industries. One of the major drawbacks to existing technologies like GSM (the cellular network) is that it consumed a tremendous amount of battery power. IoT required fully autonomous devices which with existing GSM technologies was impossible without a large power supply. Sigfox and LoRa are networks designed specifically for IoT applications. Devices with a small battery can last months as opposed to hours due to the light network conditions.

Asset tracking applications are amongst the first to be implemented – GPS technology is well known and mature. Small devices equipped with a light weight network and a GPS will allow mining operations to keep better track of all surface-level assets.

It is the underground applications where IoT can really shine. Bluetooth technologies allow long-range networks to be built inside the mining tunnels connecting literally thousands of objects. These objects can broadcast their location but can also broadcast vital information like the current mining conditions. This could give mines an early warning into dangerous activities or potentially risky areas of the mine.

The other major advantage of these technologies is the ability to do indoor positioning (GPS signal is impossible when underground). Bluetooth angle of arrival is a new technology which allows highly accurate indoor positioning on an instantaneous basis. Mines can now operate with absolute knowledge of where 100% of their employees are at any point in time. If an object is getting dangerously close or a mine shaft collapses the mine will have insight into the exact locations of employees.

The broad nature of the application of IoT technology in mines is extremely positive for the adoption of the technology. IoT allows mines to deploy long-range networks, cheaply, across their entire operations. They can deploy a multitude of sensors (of which there are over 50 different types ranging from GPS to temperature to vibration to carbon dioxide). Those sensors can be installed on any object within the mine where the mine operators want information.

IoT can turn a mine operation into something resembling the cockpit of a commercial airliner, information about every pertinent event is being measured and monitored closely. If anything goes wrong the sensors pick it up before it becomes a problem.

TechThrive is an IoT solutions implementer. Contact us on 010 007 1717 or www.techthrive.co.za and we will help you understand IoT technology and implement it into your business.