A key mining internet of things (IoT) partnership between technology giant IBM and leading equipment manufacturer Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology is seeing IBM Watson IoT tackling mining safety.

IBM Watson IoT is IBM’s cloud-based IoT platform, which is built on its infamous artificial intelligence (AI) computer system IBM Watson.

The partnership will see IoT technology embedded into mining equipment in order to improve equipment management and maintenance, under the name OptiMine Analytics. This will include technology to continuously monitor equipment located across an operation in real-time, providing predictions about when maintenance is required and reporting details about spikes in use or wear.

This is particularly important in deep mining operations, where communication can be challenging making rapid response to failing equipment difficult to achieve.

“Proactively identifying maintenance needs before something breaks is leading to huge cost and time savings,” said Patrick Murphy, president of Rock Drills & Technologies at Sandvik.

“Our award-winning OptiMine Analytics with IBM Watson IoT solutions offer our customers a more complete view of their operations for smarter, safer and more productive work.”

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How mining IoT technology is transforming the industry

Mining IoT technology is proving particularly effective in the sector in part due to the need for stringent safety protocols.

“Our top priority is the safety of our employees and if a machine fails underground, we need immediate insight into what is happening in that tunnel,” explained Luctor Roode, executive operations at Petra Diamonds.

“With the solution from Sandvik and IBM, we have real-time data that allows us to immediately identify the root cause of the problem and act accordingly.”

It also provides key data insights that can not only assist with equipment maintenance, but also provide information that can reduce wider costs for mining companies.

“Leveraging data is become increasingly valuable across the mining sector. Through analytics, machine learning and AI, we are seeing new possibilities for increased operational efficiency,” said Paul Muller, chief executive officer, Barminco.

However, with the technology in its relative infancy, it is likely that further developments will bring greater operational gains.

“Sensors and tracking systems for asset management is only the beginning when it comes to how artificial intelligence will disrupt the mining industry,” said Jay Bellissimo, General Manager of Cognitive Process Transformation at IBM Global Business Services.

“Creating a solution that turns the data into actionable insights is a delicate matter. It requires an interdisciplinary effort spanning across mining technology, software engineering and data science.”

Read more: Volvo and Skanska begin tests at prototype all-electric mining site