Theme innovation landscape

IoT innovation: leaders in tunnel safety monitoring for the mining industry

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The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by improved computing power and connected sensors to control and monitor the mining environment. Mining companies can increase efficiency, improve productivity and safety, and reduce costs on the mine site by adding internet connectivity and sensors to vehicles, machinery, and people.

Examples of this include autonomous drilling, driverless haul trucks, and predictive maintenance. In addition, it is imperative to provide workers with clean, non-toxic air and sufficient oxygen in underground mines, and IoT sensors can monitor potential dangers, such as convergence or toxicity, in real-time.

In the last three years alone, there have been over 62,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in mining: tunnel safety monitoring.

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 70,000 patents to analyse innovation intensity for the mining industry, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Tunnel safety monitoring is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Tunnel safety monitoring helps to rescue people inside a tunnel and to maintain air quality and control spread of smoke in case of fire or a disaster. As mines become deeper, more remote, and technically more difficult, the ability to source tunnel safety devices becomes more important than ever. Global corporations are witnessing a technological revolution in the underground mining sector. Automation enables the safe and remote operation of equipment, while smart technology enables real-time performance monitoring to drive cost and productivity improvements. Devices such as drones, wearables, proximity detection sensors on moving machinery and vehicles, and scanners to identify different ore grades and feed this information through the mining value chain can all yield small but cumulative gains in productivity.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 270+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of tunnel safety monitoring.

Key players in tunnel safety monitoring – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to tunnel safety monitoring

Sandvik, Epiroc, Caterpillar and Orica are some of the leading patent filers in tunnel safety monitoring. Sandvik’s OptiMine Mining Data Platform (MDP) service allows for real-time monitoring of machines, workers, equipment, and material underground in order to improve mine safety and productivity. Furthermore, the company offers the OptiMine Evacuation Assistant, which provides a visualisation of an evacuation, searches for the nearest safe place underground and indicates the location of personnel who are guided to the nearest rescue chamber, based on the location and capacity of those chambers.

Meanwhile, Epiroc's Mobilaris Mining Intelligence platform improves safety by better and faster managing emergencies from a centralised location. The mobile-safety solution project is a collaboration between LKAB and Epiroc, and incorporates both existing Epiroc products and new development.

In terms of application diversity, Schlumberger leads the pack, while Orica and Komatsu stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, eChina General Nuclear Power held the top position, followed by Orica and Epiroc.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Mining.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis;used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Thematic Intelligence uses proprietary data, research, and analysis to provide a forward-looking perspective on the key themes that will shape the future of the world’s largest industries and the organisations within them.   

The Thematic Scorecard uses authoritative data and expert analyst judgement to rank companies based on their overall leadership in specific themes, generating a leading indicator of their future earnings and relative strategic position.