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Making Zero Harm in Mines Possible with IoT

September 3, 2015 by Arunima Kumar 31

Zero harm and injury is a goal that mining companies have long strived for. By using sensors, analytics, and wearable devices, a new solution enables faster detection and reaction to safety threats, making zero harm achievable.

Part of the IoT kickstarter program at the SAP Co-innovation Lab in Silicon Valley, this product is being developed jointly by SAP, wearable technology firm Vandrico, and SAP systems integration and management consultancy Illumiti.

In this interview, we learn about the new technology and its scope by speaking with representatives of the three co-innovators. The contributors include Ruediger Schroedter, global lead for mining at SAP; David Cruickshank, senior director at SAP Co-innovation Lab; Gonzalo Tudela, CEO of Vandrico; and Lorraine Howell, vice president of research and development at Illumiti.

Tell us about the IoT kickstarter program at the SAP Co-innovation Lab in Silicon Valley.

Cruickshank: The IoT kickstarter is about the cultivation and early validation of potential Industry 4.0/IoT solutions that SAP can build with its partners. The projects involve integrating IoT applications and sensor technologies developed by partners with SAP technology. The program provides complete enablement of a project environment, knowledge brokering, applied principles of design thinking, and project management and showcase.

What is the problem that this co-innovation seeks to address?

Cruickshank: Mining is an asset heavy industry and can be a dangerous work environment. Safety is a critical issue and the industry is progressing toward a goal of zero harm. The work environment needs solutions that enhance two-way communication between workers in a mine and those topside monitoring the operation, predict dangerous situations, and deliver real-time situation awareness.

Schroedter
: There are a lot of manual steps currently necessary to trigger safety alerts. A worker detects a safety issue, notifies a safety officer (often by phone), and the information is processed before an alert is issued, and the alert (usually stench gas) takes time to reach miners. This process can faster and more efficient with sensors and electronic transmission. This will greatly reduce reaction time to safety concerns and make mines safer.

What are the capabilities that each partner brought to the co-innovation?

Schroedter: The co-innovation approach allowed us to bring partners together with different solutions and expertise to provide an end-to-end solution. The solution involves the transmission of reports/sensor information to a central database. This data is then analyzed and any emerging safety concerns are transmitted as alerts to wearable devices. SAP HANA is the infrastructure on which the solution is built.

Tudela: Vandrico’s main contribution to the partnership is the Canary Platform. This is a real-time wearables and IoT communications platform designed specifically for enterprise. We also helped source the appropriate smartwatches for the solution. By leveraging SAP HANA, we can take real-time operational intelligence into new territory and tackle larger problems. This partnership enabled us to scale real-time wearable solutions in enterprise.

Howell: Illumiti’s primary role is to manage, design, and build SAP HANA applications to integrate with Vandrico’s Canary Platform. In addition, we are also working with Vandrico and SAP on the commercialization of the product, to develop a go-to-market strategy, and to find the leads and opportunities for the solution.

The solution receives real-time information from sensors in the mine and miners reports logged into smartwatches. These reports are analyzed and converted into alerts in SAP HANA when a safety hazard is detected. The Canary Platform is then used to send alert messages to the miners’ wearable devices. In addition, safety tips and triggers requesting safety status of the workers are sent on a schedule to the miners.

Tell us how a miner would use the smartwatch.

Tudela: Smartwatches will help workers do their job in a safer, faster and more effective way. For example, the watch will immediately send personalized evacuation notices during dangerous situations, such as rock instability or fire.

The watch also has safety checklists for miners that will prompt a worker as he/she begins to use a piece of machinery. The watch will send confirmation notices and ask if there are any issues to report to maintenance. The miner’s responses will feed into enterprise resource planning and get logged for any future audits.

How is Illumiti helping Vandrico integrate Canary with SAP HANA?

Howell: Illumiti developed a configurable solution for emergency evacuations and several other use-cases on SAP HANA. Using a RESTful API, Vandrico’s Canary Platform sends information from devices to SAP HANA. Canary’s API is then used to send messages to miners’ wearable devices. Illumiti works closely with Vandrico in the development of APIs that make the most of the capabilities offered by SAP HANA.

What is the possibility for taking this solution to other industries?

Tudela: The biggest benefit of smartwatches in enterprise is actually quite simple – contextual notifications. When compared to radios, tablets, and smartphones, the watch outperforms by a large degree. The device is always on the person and can provide valuable insight to enhance real time operational intelligence.

The key is to have an intimate understanding of situations where instant information adds value. For instance, Vandrico is also working with a ski resort to help front line workers overcome challenges of safety, pass fraud, and lift maintenance.

Vandrico is based in Vancouver. Why did you partner with the SAP Co-innovation Lab in Silicon Valley?

Tudela: We chose SAP for two reasons: credibility and learning. We are here to solve big problems for large organizations, and partnering with SAP enables us to do that. In addition, we are interested in improving our applications through design thinking. The best startups in the world are using design thinking practices to build solutions that truly address their clients’ needs. Working with the SAP Co-Innovation Lab in Silicon Valley provided the opportunity to learn from a market leader.

Where does the project stand currently?

Cruickshank: The project was designed to run approximately 90 days. It began with a design thinking workshop where the co-innovation partners brought in three mining companies to ratify the target problem statement and create a solution storyboard and multiple personas for key end users of the solution. The team is just past 60 days into the effort and final work is underway related to user experience on wearable devices and the integration of Canary and SAP HANA. We are also now focusing on defining the go-to-market strategy. A solution demonstration will take place at the end of summer in the Co-innovation Lab Silicon Valley.

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

Photo: Shutterstock

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