In an industry such as mining where improving efficiency and productivity is crucial to profitability, even small improvements in yields, speed and efficiency can make an extraordinary impact. Mining companies basically produce interchangeable commodities. The mining industry employs a modest amount of individuals--just 670,000 Americans are employed in the quarrying, mining and extraction sector--but it indirectly impacts nearly every other industry since it provides the raw materials for virtually every other aspect of the economy. It's already been 10 years since the British/Australian mining company Rio Tinto began to use fully autonomous haul trucks, but they haven't stopped there. Here are just a few ways Rio Tinto and other mining companies are preparing for the 4th industrial revolutions by creating intelligent mining operations.
Artificial intelligence is one of a series of technologies that are on the radar for implementation in Chile's mining industry. AI, which, simply put, is the ability of a computer program or machine to think and learn from observing large quantities of data, to identify trends and make recommendations to improve decision making, all in a matter of milliseconds. The impending tsunami of data that will be collected from sensors and internet of things (IoT) devices will be too overwhelming for humans to compute. Businesses that are able to compute and extract value from huge volumes of data are expected to have a key advantage over their competitors by being able to improve efficiency, productivity and lower costs as well as identify new business opportunities. A recent study by consultancy Accenture, showed 82% of executives in the global mining industry expecting to increase investment in digital technology over the next three years.
Today the mining industry is under increasing pressure to supply more minerals to meet the needs and expectations of a rapidly rising world population. This often requires extracting from greater depths, which in turn can create challenges when equipment needs servicing or repair. "Identifying maintenance requirements before something breaks down enables us to make major direct savings in costs and time," says Patrick Murphy, President of the Rock Drills & Technologies division at Sandvik. That is why Sandvik is working with IBM to introduce advanced analytical cognitive data processing and modeling based on data generated by sensors on loaders and trucks. "OptiMine Analytics, partnered by IBM Watson IoT [Internet of Things] solutions, offers our customers a more complete view of their operations for smarter, safer and more productive working," Murphy says.
For scale, consider the Statue of Liberty, standing 305 feet tall. At 466 feet, the average wind turbine in the U.S. dwarfs Lady Liberty by more than half. And when GE's next-generation monster wind turbine, the Haliade-X, hits the market in 2021, it will nearly double that size to 877 feet, just shy of the Eiffel Tower. A single Haliade-X rotor blade will stretch 315 feet, longer than a football field. As a general rule of thumb, when it comes to energy and energy exploration, bigger is better: the larger the machinery, the deeper the dig, the greater the production yield.
Imagine a network of mine sites operated remotely--drilling, analysing core samples, collecting and interpreting data wirelessly from machine to machine, and transmitting real-time information into the cloud, absolutely without physical, human touch. In fact, it is fast becoming the reality in an industry that's increasingly powered by artificial intelligence a.k.a When we think of AI, we think of robots and machines capable of independent thought or autonomous movement. These are possibilities, and even realities, in today's world where practically anything can be automated. AI, however, goes beyond hardware, and its applications are farther-reaching than we can perhaps imagine.