A polar fitness watch. Image: Pixabay
Equipment Opinion

Why aren’t wearables more widely used in mining?

Deloitte and NORCAT have published an interesting report on wearable technologies for miners. Carly Leonida reflects on the key findings

Deloitte Canada and Sudbury-based innovation group NORCAT have published an insightful report on wearable technologies for miners.

The companies have been working together for some time and have formed a strategic alliance to help the global mining industry better understand technology and innovation trends.

“This unique collaboration will combine the on-the-ground insight from companies with emerging technologies installed at the NORCAT Underground Centre and the market knowledge of Deloitte’s global mining industry team,” Deloitte stated on its website.

As part of this, Deloitte and NORCAT are developing thought leadership briefings that highlight and discuss emerging technologies; wearables being one.

“Wearables—clothing, gear and other accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic equipment—are one set of emerging solutions driving productivity, but are also critical in ensuring mining executives are equipped to address Health, Safety and Environmental (HS&E) challenges,” the companies said in the report.

Wearables offer benefits in many different areas, including: tracking of personnel, environmental and biometric monitoring, operator aids, and training aids. Some examples, like exoskeletons, were recently covered in The Intelligent Miner Broadcast, our monthly newsletter.

While devices such as smart hats, goggles, and virtual reality headsets have been available on the market for some time, uptake and utilisation is still relatively limited.

Deloitte and NORCAT attribute this to several things; concerns around data privacy are key, as are usability – designing HMIs to be miner-friendly – and developing the appropriate workplace cultures.

They also mentioned the importance of proper integration of wearable devices with mine systems and infrastructure, and buy-in at leadership level. Like all new technologies, for implementations to be successful, leaders need to understand the potential benefits to their business and the impact on stakeholders, along with associated challenges so they can plan accordingly.

Vendors such as Jannatec Technologies, M3SH Technology and K4 Integration have been working with NORCAT to address these issues, and you can read more about their efforts in the report.

“The potential of wearable technologies is clear, and the mining industry is making significant positive strides in their adoption. But mining companies also need a clear methodology to overcome the complexities of wearable technology implementation,” the report concludes.

“This requires approaches that are both systematic in nature and ultimately flexible in how they respond to the rapid evolution in the technology environment. What mining companies need is a robust framework for thinking through their wearable implementations such that the needs of multiple stakeholders— including mining executives, unions and frontline workers—are taken into account and addressed.”

The companies have also developed a programme to support mining companies on this journey. However, I suspect that, like so many digital technologies, it will be the use of analogues in miner’s and executive’s day-to-day lives that will be the greatest help in speeding the adoption of wearables (Google Glass anyone?).

What are your thoughts on wearables for mining? Any concerns? And how do you think the industry can speed up adoption?

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