The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for safety and productivity, and the growing importance of technologies that support the monitoring and management of operations, utilizing sensors, communication systems and artificial intelligence (AI). In the last three years alone, there have been over 62,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in mining: remote tunnel monitoring. Buy the report here.

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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 stabilizing 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.

40+ 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 70,000 patents, there are 40+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, tunnel ventilation systems, mine drainage systems, and tunnel lining construction are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Battery metal recycling, precision milling and virtual industrial monitoring are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are high performance drill bits and hybrid industrial vehicles, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the mining industry

Remote tunnel monitoring is a key innovation area in mining

Underground tunnel monitoring systems deploy network of sensors over proprietary communication networks to provide critical information such as the structural and geotechnical behavior of a tunnel and underground conditions, underground workers and assets, helping to maximize worker safety as well as identify areas for maintenance, if any.

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 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of remote tunnel monitoring.

Key players in remote tunnel monitoring – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

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

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

Patent volumes related to remote tunnel monitoring

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Sandvik 9 Unlock Company Profile
Strata Products Worldwide 9 Unlock Company Profile
Schlumberger 4 Unlock Company Profile
Cniguard 4 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President Enterprises 4 Unlock Company Profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shenzhen Guangqi Intelligent Photonics Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Shandong Hi-Speed Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
China Coal Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Sichuan Lexi Expressway 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Eighteenth Bureau Group Third Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
Changzhou Lianli Automation Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Avic Intelligent Measurement 1 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President China 1 Unlock Company Profile
Bgrimm Technology Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Anhui Printing Mechanical & Electrical 1 Unlock Company Profile
The No. 1 Engineering Of China Railway Beijing Engineering Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Sincode Science & Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Ping An Kaicheng Intelligent Safety Equipment 1 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Chuangli Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 1 Unlock Company Profile
Datang Telecom Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
Hakim Information Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
China National Petroleum 1 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 1 Unlock Company Profile
Huaibei Mining Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Petrochemical 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Railway Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Zhengzhou Coal Mining Machinery Group 1 Unlock Company Profile
Oracle 1 Unlock Company Profile
China United Network Communications 1 Unlock Company Profile
Fu Qiang 1 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Zhongkuanghuawo Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Sandvik and Strata Products Worldwide are among the leading innovators in remote tunnel monitoring.  In June 2023, Byrnecut, a contract miner, signed an agreement with Sandvik to use Sandvik’s remote monitoring service solution at its Australian mine sites, following the completion of a successful trial of the technology.

Strata Products Worldwide (Strata) offers solutions that assist with underground communications, tracking, monitoring, and control. These include two-way voice, text and data communications, personnel and asset tracking, atmospheric condition monitoring and gas detection, and control of fans, belt drives and pumps. In June 2023, Strata partnered with tunneling software developer Binni to launch TunnelLINK, a cloud-based software platform for tunnel contractors. The tool is expected to manage data from various sources and combine it into customizable dashboards.

In terms of application diversity, Cniguard leads the pack, while Schlumberger and Shandong Hi-Speed Group stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Strata Products Worldwide held the top position, followed by Sandvik and Cniguard.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Mining.

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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.