A recent press release by BHP caught our attention. They report on how wearable technology is making a difference to teams dealing with the fallout of Covid-19. Here are some inputs about wearable technology and its application in the mining sector.
Cutting edge wearable technology is enabling BHP’s teams in Perth to remotely assist Auto Electricians’ and Mechanical Fitters on site 1,300 km (803 miles) away.
Alex Bertram, Manager Digital Transformation at BHP’s Western Australia Iron Ore, says distance will soon no longer a boundary thanks to wearable mixed reality devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens.
“When COVID-19 struck, our teams couldn’t travel from Perth to our sites in Western Australia. So we improvised. In mining, people FIFO (fly-in, fly-out). Some DIDO (drive-in, drive-out). Soon our teams will be able to RiRo – which stands for Remote-In Remote-Out. RiRo is essentially our teams providing remote assistance via live point of view video calls to our personnel on site.”
The teams are reportedly using cloud services and a mixed reality headset device. Technicians on the frontline can call for help and technical support when they need it most – during critical breakdowns and when undertaking new or complex tasks.
But, wait. What is wearable tech exactly and what applications does it have in mining?
A report by Deloitte and Norcat defines it as, “Wearables are clothing and accessories that incorporate computer and advanced electronic technologies. Both of the following technology classifications are already helping mining companies to benefit workers and operations:
Passive tracking: Where data for the worker and/or the environment is collected and stored periodically or at certain points within the asset.
Active tracking: Worker and/or environment data is collected continuously to generate insights and
readily access the insights remotely.”
The report digs deeper and discusses interesting case studies from the mining sector.
Some specific uses of wearable technology have been outlined by the UK-based Eleksen. “Mining work often involves using heavy equipment and strenuous body postures in a confined environment, with miners being exposed to excessive noise, dust, humidity and vibration. The resulting long-term illnesses, injuries and disabilities associated with mining and quarrying is also significant, often involving years of pain, suffering and discomfort for those affected.”
Their solutions are smart and that’s not just a nice way to refer to their technology. It stands for Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology. “Our Tap & Go Smart Worker solution allows sensor devices from many of the world’s leading device manufacturers to be paired with our smart garments for additional safety, enabling device and SOS alerts to be displayed LOCALLY on your workers’ PPE – making them more visible and audible. This warns your workers locally on your site – but does not store or transmit data to your site office or control room for real-time safety monitoring.”
US-based Guardhat offers a unique solution too – with what you wear on your head – a hard hat. “Guardhat’s unique breakthrough wearables, sensors and monitors increase safety, compliance and productivity through reliable ‘last mile connectivity'”