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The Next Generation of IoT Trailblazers

When the opportunity came for MineRP to enter the MTN IoT Awards, we showcased a leading edge demonstration using our Integrated Spatial Platform and recently developed Virtual Reality capabilities. We partnered with FlowCentric and Sperosens to show live, spatially orientated IoT data within the context of a 3D virtual mine. As overall winners of the 2018 MTN IoT awards, MineRP and our partners will be presenting our innovations on a global stage during the IoT Tech Expo in North America at the end of November.

More detail about the award winning Digtal Twin Mine Management Solution

MineRP, in conjunction with FlowCentric Technologies have developed a real-time mine monitoring solution. The solution uses IoT sensors, provided by Sperosens, to monitor the mine environment and deliver data about airflow, temperature, gas, and smoke levels. The solution makes use of virtual reality (VR) technology to provide users with a fully mapped digital twin of the mine terrain. Users can navigate through the virtual tunnels to check on the available sensor data. If any actionable data is detected the appropriate business process can be initiated automatically or by the user through the VR environment. Once initiated the FlowCentric Processware engine will route tasks to the appropriate personnel and divisions to coordinate and complete.

The collaboration delivers a cross-platform solution that turns IoT sensor data, and the corresponding digital twin, into proactive company assets capable of alerting personnel to real-time changes in the mine environment and allowing users to initiate the appropriate workflows in both VR and desktop environments.

The solution’s VR component is a powerful tool used to provide specialists with improved spatial understanding of the environment without the need to physically be on site. This enables experts to perform the same tasks that would traditionally have taken hours, in mere minutes. They can affect changes in the physical world through interaction in the mine’s digital twin.

The Solution

With the rise of Virtual Reality as a viable technology it has been a challenge for companies across the software and hardware development spectrum to determine the best way to leverage this technology in their field. It has been difficult to find practical applications of this abstraction of the real world, with the novelty factor quickly wearing off. A sustainable solution for mining will not only give the user a novel view of their environment but also make critical data available in an interactive manner. With the amalgamation of all the various mining spatial data into a single database, the information now becomes easily accessible for the development of Augmented Reality solutions, mixing or blending virtual reality and real life. This allows a user to interact with the design in a way never before possible. In the same way mobile applications operate on many different mobile devices, Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions need to become platform agnostic. Spatially amalgamated mining information can now be exported natively into a development engine allowing for the seamless and quick creation of Virtual and Augmented Content. By focusing on the information at hand, and letting the users select what they need to see, we can leave the question on how they wish to see it up to them, regardless of the device they choose to use.

Technical Overview of the solution

Description of the solution

The solution consisted of the following:

  • 4 Sperosens Industrial IoT Sensors connected on a 24V data and power carrying network connected to a PLC which then provides the data to a server on the main network. The network is fully double redundant and a sensor can be added at any point without disrupting the network. The sensors are:

  • Smoke sensor

  • Carbon Monoxide Sensor

  • Airflow Sensor

  • Temperature Sensor

  • A central server which collected the IoT data in a SQL database with an application which monitors the values from the various applications and triggers alarms should a measurement be outside of the set bounds for longer that a defined period

  • FlowCentric provided a full Business Process Engine with processes to monitor for alarms raised by the application on the server and initiate processes to allow the correct people to be informed of the alarm. A maintenance process was also developed to allow the VR user to send an instruction from inside the digital twin to a person underground

  • A Virtual Recreation of a mine with the various sensors placed in inside as with the live values as received from the physical sensors displayed next to the sensor. This virtual recreation can be accessed using an appropriate Virtual Reality Headset or via other 2D and 3D visualization tools such as SpatialDash and SpatialVisualiser.

How it functions

The information from the 4 sensors were written to the SQL database and an alarm status was carried with the record, should there be an abnormal reading for longer than 60 seconds, the alarm status was changed to In Alarm. When the alarm was triggered, MineForms automatically launched a process to notify the relevant user that there is an abnormal reading at a certain location.

This process contained live information from the sensor with the alarm as well as what the acceptable limits were for the sensor as well where the sensor is located. Once the user has received the notification, the user then does not have to physically go underground, but rather visits the location by putting on the VR headset which then automatically takes the user to the location where there is an abnormal reading.

In the simulation we recreated an occurrence where there was an abnormally high temperature at a development end and soon after the smoke sensor as well as the carbon monoxide sensor notified the user that the respective levels were above the acceptable threshold.

The user can walk through the development end and view the data from each of the sensors. In the demonstration, the user then saw that the Air Velocity sensor was showing that there was no airflow. The user then opens MineForms inside of the VR simulation and sends a Maintenance Request to the Maintenance Control Centre. The Maintenance Control Centre then receives the task and allocate the task to a Maintenance Worker who will receive the instruction notification on a tablet via the underground network.

The Maintenance worker will then physically go to the development end and repair the ventilation fan that was broke. As soon as the work is done the Maintenance worker then informs the user who requested the repair that the task has been performed, all of the process was controlled and managed via MineForms.

The user can then enter the VR world once again and see that the live sensor data has now returned to normal levels after the ventilation fan was repaired.

The interaction reduces the time that the original user would have to spend to physically travel to the location underground, is real-time and can also be interacted with using a mobile device, laptop or another device that the user can view SpatialDash on to view data and send instructions.

MineRP, FlowCentric & Sperosens. 2018 Winner for "Best Industry 4.0 Solution" and "Overall Winner” MTN Business IoT Award 2018.

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