Poor connectivity hampers IOT deployment in mining sector

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A new report says unreliable connectivity and lack of cyber security top the list of challenges facing the mining sector as the industry yearns for more investments in Internet of things (IOT)-enabled applications.

The Rise of IOT in mining report says despite the sector having been historically slow to adopt radical ideas and new technologies, “it is clear that new approaches are required to transform mining operations because the pressure on margins continues [as does] the need to extract raw materials more efficiently”.

As a result, it says, the mining sector has been cautiously investing in the development and deployment of IOT-based projects, with early benefits and return on investment being realised in some quarters.

The global report by mobile satellite communications firm Inmarsat explores the levels of IOT maturity among 130 organisations operating across the world.

It says the sector outlook for industry-wide adoption is bright as mining organisations are reporting successful deployments of IOT and the positive impact it has on their bottom line.

However, it cautions that “if the sector is to get the most out of its growing investment in IOT, there are significant challenges to overcome – connectivity is often unreliable, cyber security approaches are patchy”.

It adds there are too few employees with digital skills and data is not being collected and managed in a way that would best empower organisations.

Joe Carr, director of mining at Inmarsat, comments on the report: “Although our research has indicated that the global mining sector is undergoing an upswing in IOT adoption, reliable network connectivity is still clearly a sticking point.

“To gain value from IOT-enabled projects, the right data must be where it needs to be at the right time, otherwise insights and return on investment cannot be delivered.”

Additionally, he says: “The research points to a clear correlation between connectivity and those respondents who have fully deployed IOT projects.

“From our work in the industry, we see that poor connectivity can hamper getting a project fully deployed from a proof of concept into mainstream business operations.”

However, Carr notes: “We also see from the research that for many who have fully deployed IOT projects, connectivity continues to be a challenge.”

The report found that only 15% of mining organisations consistently have access to reliable connectivity for their IOT-enabled projects.

Some 45% of respondents struggled to access connectivity across mine sites, which the report says hinders their ability to gather data.

“A further 40% indicated they could access connectivity but that it was often unreliable, causing them to struggle to collect data sometimes. Just 15% reported they could access reliable connectivity wherever their data producers were.”

Furthermore, the report says although the mining sector has increased its adoption of IOT in recent years, with 65% of respondents fully deploying a project, “33% have still only trialled or are currently trialling a project and 2% not having trialled or deployed, it is apparent that connectivity is impeding miners’ abilities to harness the benefits of IOT”.

Of the 130 respondents that have fully deployed IOT-enabled projects across their mine sites, 78% reported they were able to access connectivity, with 24% of them being able to access reliable connectivity.

By contrast, the report says, out of the 70 respondents yet to fully deploy an IOT-based solution, only 11% were able to access connectivity, and this 11% was only able to access unreliable connectivity.

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