All of our industry leaders talk about innovation as one of the key mechanisms to step change in our business. The conversation is as applicable in any industry as it is in mining. As a result, we certainly have no shortage of research organisations, committees, in-house research and development teams all working diligently to drive greater value in our respective ecosystems.
While we discussed last week best practices around selection of a wireless network monitoring solution for your mine, we didn’t get a chance to look at the impact the wrong solution can have on your network.
Access to your data in real-time is becoming increasingly critical. The more data you push over our networks, the more you need to apply the lessons of Smart IoT. Allowing a network monitoring solution, asset health solution, or just some remote “thing” you are pulling data from in your IoT strategy to utilize a majority of the bandwidth just isn’t acceptable, particularly if there is a smarter way to access that data while limiting the possibility of network disruption.
By definition, the connected mine requires connection to all your mobile and fixed devices at any one time. Monitoring of your wireless network to ensure its reliability and connection to all your devices is therefore paramount.
However, the unique environment in which miners operate, only allowing for a limited network bandwidth, combined with the criticality of the mining fleet applications quickly differentiate network monitoring solutions.
While the large mining houses move rapidly towards automation of mobile operations, generally their whole operational environment is powered by a single OEM chosen by the customer. This strategy not only specifies the types of trucks a miner uses for example, but also dictates the technologies required to support the autonomous operations, from the wireless infrastructure to the machine access technology. All of which has to be approved by the machine autonomy vendor.
If a customer wishes to use alternate technologies, the costs and logistics associated to validate and test a customer preferred alternative are often prohibitive and so, in most cases, things stay the same and the advantage to the customer of implementing newer and better performing solutions is lost.
Deployment of an out-of-the-box fleet management or asset health solution is not always an option for smaller operators. Add the cost of the application to the cost of deploying a full scale wireless network and many are unable to justify the ROI on their project, and remain stuck in the manual collection of their data.
The applications traditionally have requirements for relatively high cost hardware and software, as well as a network requirement for full coverage throughout the site. That doesn’t make it the only solution.
Most mines now have the ability to access some of their data in some ways, whether be in real-time, near real-time or manually. However, what the industry now calls the ‘Digital Mine’, defined by the installation of a variety of applications on-board the heavy mobile equipment and real-time access to the data they generate, often remains an option only available to larger operators.
Even for those operations, reliable real-time access to the machines’ critical data can remain a challenge caused both by a limitation in availability of access to all the data and an excessive amount of data travelling through the mine’s wireless network at any one time.
Access to the mobile equipment’s data can be available to all. We will discuss here some of the main challenges faced with data access and ways to address them.
The thought of upgrading your in-pit wireless network can be a bit daunting and nerve-wracking. Are you going to have to suffer through a fork-lift upgrade? What kind of downtime will be associated? Will that downtime be network wide, or only on a few items at a time?
A little planning, and the right technology choices can take all the fear and concern out of this significant event.
Since the first broadband wireless network deployments in mining, there has been a strong use case for sending GPS corrections over these networks. GPS corrections are relatively small packets that are transmitted once per second from the GPS base station and must be received, with as little latency as possible, and in sequence, by the High Precision GPS (HPGPS) Receivers onsite. These relatively small packets should theoretically have little impact on the network, and since coverage is typically available, it seems a good fit.
Increase of safety, productivity and decrease of overall machine downtime have been key drivers for digitalization in mining. This process has however a cost that may have limited or slowed down some miners in deploying technologies at their site, due to a challenge in calculating and predicting ROI.
The fact is that without a proper long term plan of your data requirements, your technology expenditure can be significantly higher than expected over the course of several years. An open computing platform can create a bridge for deployment of multiple technologies over a period of time, supporting migration to a Digital Mine cost effectively.
Operational environments are no longer deployed in isolation and the attack surface continues to grow making it harder to secure the operational process. As organizations continue to digitize and look to differentiate within the market place, the traditional air-gapped operational environment no longer exists.
Therefore, more needs to done in order to ensure that proper controls are in place and greater overall visibility is achieved. Time to go beyond passive defenses and move towards active defense.