Internet of Things to hone mine craft

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An ‘Internet of Things’ cluster designed specifically for the mining and energy resources sector is set to boost productivity, efficiency and safety in the industry.

The Australian Information Industry Association will partner with the South Australian Government to facilitate cluster members to make investments and provide access to advisers and multinationals with relevant supply chains.

The cluster – believed to be the first of its kind in the world – also aims to encourage industry collaboration, streamline the flow of information and allow real-time decisions.

AIIA is Australia’s peak industry association for organisations in the digital economy and has more than 20,000 members across all industries.

CEO Suzanne Campbell said combining data gathering devices such as sensors with internet capability and applying analytical tools would provide “wisdom, truth and insights” to be drawn from the data that’s collected and shared across the cluster.

Campbell said areas of Internet of Things application in the industry included real-time machine and sensor integration, fleet operations monitoring, plant dashboards and trend analysis, ore-grade sensing and sales and supply chain management.

“There’s expansive use of sensor technologies in the mining, resources and energy sector and that includes things as simple as sensors on drill bits to make sure the maximum utilisation of the tool is achieved in the extraction of ore,” she said.

“There’s a vast amount of opportunities with regard to the devices but the device is only the beginning of the story, it’s the collection of the data and the analysis and manipulation of the data to create those insights to allow businesses to make decisions in new and different ways – that’s where the real power sits with the Internet of Things.”

Campbell said the primarily virtual cluster would begin with members of AIIA’s Mining & Energy Resources special interest group and branch out to include universities, technology firms and supply chain operators in the mining and energy resources sector.

“But we have a commitment to the state government to go to the market to establish a much broader collective of industry participants to join the cluster so we’re looking forward to a very energetic start to the year,” she said.

“It is in anticipation of benefits for South Australia directly and also for Australia and globally. The investment that’s being made is an investment to promote, motivate and inspire new business opportunities within South Australia and further afield.”

Interim Cluster Facilitator Martin Woodcock said the concept of a regional cluster was not new – in Europe alone there are about 10,000 of them – but the combination of the Internet of Things and Mining, Energy Resources in one cluster was unique.

“We don’t believe there is another one around the world,” he said.

“The supply chain of the mining and the resource companies extend right around the world so what we’re trying to create are technologies that will be sold into those supply chains.”

“The concept behind the cluster is how to get companies to collaborate in more effective ways than they do at the moment so what we’re looking to do is not only get complementary companies to come together but to get competitive companies together to generate new things through the collaboration that the cluster offers.”

South Australia is a globally significant producer of copper, uranium and zircon. It also produces iron ore, zinc, lead, silver, industrial minerals (including salt, silica sand and gypsum) and extractive materials (including dimension stone and opal). Mineral production from the state's commodities reached a record $5.6 billion in 2013–14, increasing by $700 million (16%) from $4.9 billion in 2012–13.

The South Australian Government, which is contributing $750,000 over three years to the Internet of Things project, has helped establish several clusters in recent years including in aerospace, specialized vehicles, aquifer recharge, medical devices.

Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Kyam Maher said the cluster was critical to the competitive future of mining and energy resources in the state.

“The Internet of Things will open new opportunities in the mining and energy resources sector, with the power to make our local industry more productive and better able to maintain competitiveness in highly volatile global markets,” Maher said.

“Innovation is crucial to the future productivity and efficiency of this country’s resources sector.”