Mining industry undergoing IoT revolution new research finds

A range of mining technology experts are now beginning to assess the impact of Covid-19 on mining operations particularly with the adoption of autonomous technologies.

Given the necessity for remote working and stringent distancing policies in place, the pandemic may be accelerating the use of Internet of Things (IoT) at many global mining houses.

In a recent research study conducted by Inmarsat, the global, mobile satellite communications organisation, findings suggest that the global mining sector is undergoing an IoT revolution with respondents reporting significant increases in adoption of connected technologies.

Specialist market research company Vanson Bourne was employed by Inmarsat to interview 200 respondents with either decision-making or influencing responsibilities for IoT-related initiatives at organisations numbering over 500 personnel. Mining organisations reported successes in implementing projects to safeguard workers via remote tracking, monitor drilling and observe acid mine drainage remotely. However, despite this progress, a range of challenges are hindering the sector’s ability to reap the rewards that IoT has to offer.

Inmarsat has released the data and conclusions in its third IoT-focused research project, ‘The Rise of IoT in Mining’ which focuses on the use of, attitude to and predictions for IoT across the global mining sector. 
According to the research, most organisations (65%) have fully deployed at least one IoT project, while 33% are trialling or have trialled a project, with only 2% of respondents not having begun an IoT project. These findings echo the predictions reported in Inmarsat’s 2018 mining research, where only 2% had fully deployed an IoT solution, 29% were trialling one and 69% were planning on beginning IoT projects within the next two years. Noticeably, there is a considerable geographical variance in IoT adoption and maturity across different regions, with 98% of North American respondents having successfully deployed IoT-enabled projects, compared with only 50% in Africa and 38% in South America.

While this increase in full deployments represents progress, the use cases and data management are on the simple side and there are many challenges to overcome if the mining industry is to fully realise the potential of IoT, particularly in regard to using it as driver for organisational change. A lack of skills, investment and cultural challenges, as well as unreliable connectivity, patchy cybersecurity processes and under-developed data management processes were also highlighted in the report.

Commenting on the study, Joe Carr, Global Mining Director at Inmarsat said: “Two years on from our last research Inmarsat wanted to get a measure of what had changed in the mining industry. IoT has begun to take a foothold in the sector with increased rates of adoption across the board. What we discovered was an industry that, historically, has been slow to adopt radical ideas now beginning to embrace the use of IoT, but still working out how to make the most of it.”

The mining industry faces significant challenges around skills, security, connectivity, investment and data management and these will need to be addressed for the industry to progress past a point of using IoT in a simple, siloed capacity. Despite the challenges being faced, mining organisations are looking to increase their investment in IoT and are overwhelmingly positive about the value of that the IoT can bring to their operations.

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