Innovation and industry-changing technologies were on show at the 2015 Year In Infrastructure event.
Bringing together hundreds of professionals from the engineering and construction space across a number of different sectors, the event mixed high level forums on new trends and technological developments in the infrastructure space, new software releases by Bentley Systems, and culminated in an awards evening recognising innovative usage of their technology.
The first day of this four day conference saw Bentley CEO Greg Bentley outline the company's current direction, where he used the opportunity to pour cold water over the business' plans to go public, stating that while Bentley is still planning an IPO – which was first broached at last year's YII event – the group will wait until the market is more receptive.
The following days consisted of forums held by industry professionals focused on industry trends, new developments, case studies, and asset management for a swathe of industries including oil and gas, construction, roads, rail, and water infrastructure.
Regarding technology, the group released a number of new programs for the civil infrastructure space, looking heavily at the integration of the Cloud, the IT/OT convergence, and work packaging programs that made the link between design and eventual construction.
Bentley COO Bhupinder Singh explained: "Work Packages are part of the secret sauce in bridging the gap between engineering and construction."
He went on to outline the importance of improving business' ability to communicate across multiple programs, saying: "Innovation is happening due to the IT/OT convergence and the unlimited capability of the cloud," and that these "digital engineering models are at the heart of improving performance".
The most significant aspect for mining is the capability of the new releases, in particular the Navigator Connect Edition, to enable greater, real time communication between workers in the field and the office.
"It creates a better office to site to field workflow," Bentley said.
It now creates a more intuitive way of handling issues on site by creating a single issue register; punch lists; allowing for the synchronisation to all devices; and provides total access to all users on the cloud, giving greater scope for multi-site operators to access and use the data.
However while greater access to data and analytics is a boon for operators, there is now the problem of data overflow, namely how do you get the right data out to aid your operations.
This issue of dealing with data was a constant theme through the event, as Bentley demonstrated how its Projectwise program was designed to enable users to gain more control over the large levels of data being created by greater analytics structures, and how to extract useful data from it.
It again came back to the potential of the cloud, as operators are able to do all their work offline or in the field, and the data automatically uploads to the cloud once they are again in range.
It also allows users to operate on multiple devices, bringing to the fore the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
The security issues related to BYOD were only lightly touched upon.
However it was not just technology on show, the future of mining was also discussed, with Anglo American Platinum's head of technology and innovation Jeannette McGill presenting a case study of sorts on the latest automation and remote control developments at Anglo American's South African operations.
According to McGill, as mining moves into a new age and focuses once again on productivity the growing capabilities for connectivity will be crucial in driving innovation.
She explained that new technologies are having a major impact on not only the site, but the very workforce itself.
"When you deploy new technology in one part of the mining cycle you are faced with the issue of the knock-on effect for the rest of the cycle," she explained.
This means that in moving towards automated and remote controlled machinery an upskilling needs to occur across the labour market.
In other words, "to work in the mine of the future, it is about being X-Box compliant."
Following this Bentley presented the latest developments and case studies in its UAV and digital photogrammy programs, showing how one UAV was able to capture thousands of high resolution photos to create a fully interactive, extremely realistic 3D model of a mine, and how these models can be updated daily as the UAV takes more images.
They explained how surveyors then used this model to examine the mine and its changes to improve operations, and increase safety as the workers no longer had to walk along the pit of the mine or near the berms.
The awards were the main drawcard, and after the entrants were whittled down to three finalists, the judges for the Innovation in Mining awards were hard pressed to narrow it down to one winner.
It was down to the wire between an Australian firm providing unique engineering capabilities in Greenland; a Chinese mine – operating at the highest altitudes for the entire industry – that is leading the way in technological advancements in the country; and a Chinese engineering firm that is making leaps and bounds in the field of coal processing. However after much deliberation Australian firm Tetra Tech Proteus (TTP) won the award. Working with fellow Australian company Greenland Minerals and Energy (GME), TTP created a number of alternative scenarios for the design of the site's facility, including innovative approaches in providing optioneering when it came to civil works.
By using a different approach to the site's layout through 3D designs, it was able to save more than US$100 million in earthworks costs.
It also provided a unique layout for the facility in order to fulfil one of GME's concerns, that the site not be visible from the nearby village.
By using 3D modelling, combined with Google Earth, TTP was able to create a realistic model of the GME facility, show-ing how it would appear from the village, as part of GME's personal social licence to operate.
Bentley rounded out the event with a showcase on its new 'wow' technologies relating to automation and digital mapping and surveying.
Australian Mining editor Cole Latimer attended the event as a guest of Bentley, and as a juror in the Be Inspired awards.