The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for greater safety and productivity, and the growing importance of technologies that support the monitoring and management of operations, utilising sensors, communication systems and artificial intelligence. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence in Mining: Tunnel Rescue/Safety Devices.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the mining industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the mining industry using innovation intensity models built on over 350,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, tunnel rescue/safety devices, CAD for moulding, and mining process simulation are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Autonomous navigation, defect detection techniques, and inertial guidance systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are autopilot mine shuttle and LiDAR-assisted CAD, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the mining industry

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Tunnel rescue/safety devices is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence

Tunnel rescue and safety systems help to rescue people inside a tunnel and to maintain air quality and control spread of smoke in case of fire or a disaster. As mines become deeper, more remote, and technically more difficult, the ability to source tunnel safety devices becomes more important than ever. Global corporations are witnessing a technological revolution in the underground mining sector. Automation enables the safe and remote operation of equipment, while smart technology enables real-time performance monitoring to drive cost and productivity improvements.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of tunnel rescue/safety devices.

Key players in tunnel rescue/safety devices – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Leaders in tunnel rescue/safety devices include Sandvik and Epiroc . Through Sandvik ’s OptiMine service, the company offers the OptiMine Evacuation Assistant, which provides a visualisation of an evacuation, searches for the nearest safe place underground and indicates the location of personnel who are guided to the nearest rescue chamber, based on the location and capacity of those chambers. Similarly, Epiroc ’s Mobilaris system helps those underground to navigate to the closest rescue chamber in the case of an emergency.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Mining.

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article. 

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.