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Advancing autonomous mining with 5G and edge intelligence
Mon, 9th Oct 2023

VTT, Nokia, Sandvik, and other Finnish companies are advancing the deployment of 5G private wireless networks and edge intelligence to enable autonomous mining.

The mission of the Next Generation Mining project was to research, demonstrate and evaluate the feasibility and potential of industrial 5G, digital twin, and edge computing enabling safe digitalisation of underground mines. The aim is to provide highly automated and remotely controlled mining operations.

Sauli Eloranta, Vice President of Safe and Connected Society, VTT, says: "In this project, VTT has applied and further strengthened research competencies related to 5G performance, situational awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing and artificial intelligence on new mining applications assessed in not only local laboratory environments but also in the real operational test mine environment."

The project's key results include various novel solutions based on 5G and edge intelligence. 

These technologies enable virtual and dynamic safety zone algorithms and concepts, situational awareness and adaptive autonomous control solutions for autonomous moving mining machines, 360° real-time video streaming for underground vehicles, and digital twin of underground mining sites connecting the site systems, devices and vehicles for near real-time communications. 

Also, radio signal measurements were made to improve the wireless network design capabilities and performance in underground environments. These solutions can improve safety, productivity and environmental sustainability in underground mining.

Jarkko Pellikka, Ecosystem and Innovation Manager at Nokia, says: "This is a great joint-initiative among multiple ecosystem partners, creating new and unique capabilities torevolutionisee the mining industry by enabling real-time video streaming and safe remote operations." 

"These capabilities will play a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of industrial 5G for the future mining industry and developing further the Nokia Connected Digital Mine capabilities with Nokia Private Wireless and MX Industrial edge as platforms for edge applications."

This project developed and applied a new R&D process, where the expected long-term goals, experimental system architectures, iterative development of the prototype systems, and evaluation trials were done in collaboration among the consortia. 

The R&D process included multiple prototyping and evaluation trial rounds, enabling evaluation and improvement of the technology from the laboratory to integrated prototype systems in the Sandvik underground test mine. 

In addition, a workshop series was held on Mine Information Modeling, engaging relevant actors outside the consortia in Finland and abroad.

Miika Kaski, Commercialization and Networks Lead at Sandvik, says: "Underground mining environment is unique and complex. To further understand what affects safety, reliability and performance of the prototype systems developed in the project, Sandvik offered its state-of-the-art Test Mine facilities in Tampere to be used as test bed for NGMining technology trials and demonstrations." 

"We provided real-life mining use cases where the prototype could be deployed and tested. On top of solving technical aspects set forth in NG Mining, it was also great to develop and learn new ways of working with project partners!"

Johan Korin, Business Development Director at Satel, says: "It has been extremely useful for Satel, as a specialist supplier of mission-critical connectivity for demanding industrial applications, to contribute and collect the learnings enabled by the great co-operation between the ecosystem partners."

"The NGMining project effectively addressed intricate connectivity requirements in underground mining environments by deploying secure and robust 5G technology, enhancing it with smartly integrated WiFi Mesh connectivity for added reliability."

"Satel has leveraged these findings to develop innovative multiband vehicle router solutions that effectively address connectivity challenges in underground mining and other Off-Highway Vehicle applications," says Korin.