Man’s thirst for energy has remained unchanged since time immemorial. Beginning with the use of fire as a means to cook food and stay safe from predators at night, to the latest fad of electric vehicles, energy is undeniably the cornerstone of man’s evolution and mankind has travelled great lengths to sustain its energy sources. From drilling ocean beds to powering our everyday lives, to placing windmills in deserts and exploring dense rain forests for minerals, we have certainly not missed an opportunity to find new energy sources.

What all these places have in common, is the limited accessibility they offer. The cost of manpower and other resources to explore these areas cost a ton. This results in substantial spending on these activities and not to mention the obvious challenges in keeping the operations running.

So, how do we avoid all these excess expenses and achieve maximum efficiency? Well, if you browse through the technology section of any news magazine or site, you would see a lot of hype around the Internet of Things (IoT) or as it is often known in the European markets, Industrie 4.0. Amazon’s plans on implementing IoT to help deliver goods using drones or furthermore, smaller companies which plan to deliver pizza through them are testament to how far technology has progressed and how simple it is to tailor technology to your company’s needs. Well, if IoT is so easy to access, why is the adoption of this technology so slow in the Industrial sector?

Well, looks like the future is here. Inmarsat’s ‘The Future of IoT in Enterprise – 2017’ report, after having interviewed respondents from top mining companies, predicts that, despite the low current levels of IoT deployment in the mining industry, 40% of organisations have plans to deploy IoT solutions within the next 18 months.

With the drastic improvement in drone technology, companies can implement this technology in mining fields or oil and gas fields where there is limited access. This enables you to check underwater cables and pipelines for any breakages or leaks beforehand, preventing potentially huge losses for the companies involved.

RFID tags i.e.; Radio-Frequency Identification tags, also part of the IoT revolution in the mining industry could be used in implementing essential features. For example; features such as tracking of the miners and equipment by creating unique equipment IDs; will make the tracking of ores from the mining fields to the processing facility easier. This also establishes higher communication levels with the miners present on the field while allowing real-time health tracking of miners who may be under ground. This is done by tracking their health monitors through wearable technologies and reporting them in real-time through a SME HANA cloud platform in the event of an emergency. This ensures the safety of the workers.

Similarly, Oil and Gas companies are also looking into using UAV’s configured to monitor the oil pipelines for leaks, fissures and other defects using IR cameras, sensors and other specialised equipment, as opposed to the existing system of using military grade drones that are not only bulky and expensive, but also difficult to operate.

These UAV’s are capable of carrying sensors on-board which can then map out the geographical position of the oil pipelines and its surrounding areas, while also detecting leakage of pipelines or other hazards, if any.

There are several factors hindering the productivity in the industrial sector.  High cost / lack of R&D, the rising costs and declining quality of labour, the decline in the quality of ores, external factors like regulatory pressures from the local government or the low exploration levels pose challenges to the current working models. However, the introduction of such Internet integrated devices could be the desired solution that the companies are looking for. Even though the technology is still evolving, it is only bound to get cheaper and better. So, companies that adopt and tailor these technologies to suit their needs may find themselves ahead of their competition in the foreseeable future.

Author : Janardhan Baskar

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