Saturday, 5 December 2020
Mining and the Internet of Things (IoT)

Mining and the Internet of Things (IoT)

This article was written by Wayne Panther, CEO of Auxilium Systems

The biggest mistake a company can make is not getting started

I. WHAT IS THE IoT?

The hype is finally settling around this whole Internet of Things (IoT) buzz, and it’s becoming easier to peer through the marketing fog and see what’s really there. While I’m not going to try to explain the whole thing, one conclusion, is the IoT is key to the connected machine journey. We’ve been on this trip for a while, but it’s picking up a lot of momentum. If your company offers a product, you need information—information about every dimension of where your spend goes and information on how your product is created. The mining companies we have been working with lately are all on this journey. Each one fits into three simple phases: 

1. Getting Connected

2. Optimization

3. Innovation

Like any journey, the hardest part is often getting started. Getting connected if you don’t know how is hard, and if it’s not carefully managed it can be amazingly expensive. Even worse, if it’s not carefully managed you’ll never even get to Phase 2. Worse yet is when you do finally arrive at Phase 2 and find you have to replace a big chunk of what you did in Phase 1 because you didn’t know what you didn’t know' and as a result, made some mistakes. While you’re fighting through that one with your finance team, your strongest known competitor (or even worse, maybe one you’ve never heard of) will likely fly by you in the passing lane into Phase 3.

At Auxilium Systems we are enjoying working with companies who are on that connected journey, helping them avoid the perils of crashing headfirst into Phase 2. Or, worse yet, being too paralysed with fear and confusion to leave the starting line.

II. CONNECTED EVERYTHING

I just read a short article from deep-thinking futurists who describe an era where “everything electrified” evolves into an intelligent, connected device. There are some bits and pieces that I’m not quite buying yet, but I’m pretty close to all-in with this theory.

I also have a first-hand understanding of the implications. So let’s toss out the connected coffee pot in the office for now and think more about mobile & fixed assets used in mining, “business critical” machines capable of adding, or erasing, dollars from the bottom line. To connect those machines in a meaningful way requires both the machines and the ecosystems that surround them to learn important new skills.

First, each machine needs to become a network device. Networking in its many forms has implications. Networks need to be designed, monitored and managed. Secondly, they have to be smart. They have to be smart enough to know what data is important to the mining business, and what data is just noise—because data isn’t cheap. (IoT Tip of the Day: this is a lesson many companies on the connected journey learn the hard way while in Phase 1).

III. THE DIGITAL ERA

Around the world in developed countries, most every person that’s entered the workforce in the last five years has been using the Internet as part of their daily life. They’ve had a smartphone and social media accounts for 100% of their adult lives, and often most of their formative teenage years. Connected things aren’t a new concept to them. It’s not a stretch of their vision—it’s a social norm.

This generation doesn’t see anything amazing or even unusual in the fact that the world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own a taxi, or that the largest movie house doesn’t own a single theatre, or the world’s most valued retailer has no inventory.

Three interesting stories, even when pondered individually. But, and maybe this is just me, put the three together and we’re in for a fun ride. We’ve been accelerating down a digital highway and someone just hit the nitrous button.

Don’t just hang on for the ride. Drag yourself up the to the driver’s seat and take your business down the connected machine journey. The biggest mistake you can make is not getting started.

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