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Apr 11 2019

Creating safer, more efficient and productive mines

Mining companies operate in an uncertain and changeable world. Small shifts in the global economy can cause sudden, dramatic changes that make some minerals essential and others nearly worthless. And price fluctuations can turn profitable extraction to dust in hours or days. Mining companies also have to work hard to comply with stringent environmental regulations and keep workers safe in remote and challenging environments. Today, 90 percent of mining accidents are caused by human error or worker fatigue.

Digital technologies related to information (IT), operation (OT) and communication (CT) will play a key role in helping mining companies address these challenges and opportunities. They will enable continuous improvement in safety, productivity and operational efficiency from pit to port by replacing manual mining operations — including exploration, drilling, blasting, digging, loading, hauling, crushing, transportation and shiploading — with fully autonomous, automated and connected systems.

Nokia understands that smart, dynamic and unified communications networks will provide the foundation for the digital transformation of the mining sector. We believe that building a state-of-the-art network is the best starting point for better decision making, and bringing greater agility and automation to open pit and underground mining facilities.

In 2015, Nokia Bell Labs published “The Future X Network: A Bell Labs Perspective,” a well-received book that provided a vision of the digital future for public service provider networks and services. A sequel, “Future X for Industries: A Nokia Bell Labs Perspective,” will be released soon. The new book includes a chapter about the Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture for mining — a connected, digital platform that supports and fosters new applications and services to support safer, highly automated mines.  

Figure 1: Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture for mining

Nokia Bell Labs Future X architecture for mining image

The Future X architecture consists of four layers:

  1. High-performance networking: The architecture’s foundation is a mission-critical network that provides robust and secure wireless, multi-service coverage and capacity for surface, pit and underground environments. Built with a dynamic mesh fabric around a high-performing IP/optical core, this network uses private LTE (and soon 5G) to connect with mobile and static sensors, heavy equipment, self-driving vehicles and mobile workers. LTE is currently the only standards-based technology that supports mobile broadband applications (e.g. PTT/PTV, CCTV and AR/VR), machine-to-machine communication (e.g. telemetry), and narrowband Internet of Things sensors and actuators on a single, future-proof infrastructure.  
  2. Multi-cloud: Cloud technology is essential to the industry because it ensures the flexibility, scalability and universal availability of data and intelligence. Our cloud-native, software-defined networks dynamically allocate capacity when and where it’s needed to support applications such as digital twinning, augmented reality and mine site video transmission. And our multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform supports the ultra-low latencies (<5 ms) required for automated response times, real-time motion control and virtual reality applications.  
  3. Digital value platforms: Data processing capabilities and analytics platforms, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, are as important as the communication infrastructure. Built into the Future X architecture as a set of common enablers, the digital value platform helps mining companies turn data from a multitude of sensors, cameras and systems — below and above the ground, inside and outside, from pit to port — into actionable insights.  
  4. Business applications: The top layer of the Future X architecture hosts business-centric applications that fuel innovation and value creation and empower mining companies to collaborate with ecosystem partners along the full value chain. Sensors, cameras and drones provide 360-degree situational awareness and support field force optimization and workflow automation. Reliable, low-latency broadband communications power remote control and real-time collaboration. Digital personal protective equipment (PPE) and ultra-precise geopositioning and geofencing enhance worker safety. Dynamic tracking of machine health and diagnostics enables predictive maintenance. AI and machine learning augment decision making by providing predictive alerts, isolating causes and suggesting possible courses of action.

We are ready to help our customers address the digital opportunity and work with partners to take mining to the next level. We recently made history by collaborating with leading industry players to validate and demonstrate the suitability of our Future X architecture for automating mining operations:

Visit our webpage to discover our solutions for the mining industry and download an exclusive preview of the mining chapter of the Future X for Industries e-book.

Share your thoughts on this topic by joining the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks or @nokia using #GoAllwhere #DigitalTransformation #mining

About Marc Jadoul

Marc Jadoul is Strategic Marketing Director at Nokia. A computer scientist by education, and technology evangelist, storyteller, speaker, and blogger by vocation.

Author/co-author of 200+ papers, magazine articles and conference presentations, and a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events, Marc is an advocate of Albert Einstein’s dictum “if you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

Tweet me at @mjadoul