The changes that are taking place or about to happen in Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data solutions are equivalent to the revolution that took place in automation technology for the automotive industry, where production is now performed by robots. For example, Tesla is using an innovative plant to build its new automobiles with sensors everywhere that monitor the entire manufacturing process. The intensive use of IoT enabled the company to increase automobile production from 15 per week with 1,000 employees in 2012, to over 400 per week with 3,000 employees in 2013. The company is planning to produce over 1,000 automobiles each week in 2015.
Mining is similar in many respects to an automobile factory in the 1970’s, even the 1980’s or 1990’s for mining companies that use the latest technology. However, for most of the time data is not produced or structured in a manner that interconnects with other sources, and therefore requires special systems to achieve this.
The intensive use of sensors in IoT systems, combined with the computational capabilities of Big Data systems, generate the exponential increases in efficiency and productivity that the mining industry seeks to remain competitive in this globalized world, where metals and other commodities are subject to the volatile dynamics of an increasingly internationalized market.
A small example that illustrates the simple but critical issue of energy efficiency is the operation of a backhoe in an underground mine. If a weight sensor is installed in the seat and another sensor in the engine, these can detect whether someone is sitting on the seat and whether the engine is running. The system can then remotely turn off the engine, if the operator goes to the bathroom or for a coffee break whilst leaving the engine running. This can be extrapolated to a myriad of situations and machinery, and bring a host of other benefits in terms of safety, productivity and cost savings. These are all key aspects to efficiently managing resources, which are imperative when the price of commodities is highly volatile and international markets are unstable.