The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by 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: Remote Tunnel Monitoring Systems.

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 safety optimisation, underground mining tracking systems, and mining process simulation are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Autonomous navigation, tunnel path modelling, and inertial guidance systems are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are mining vehicle path estimation and mine navigation simulation, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the mining industry 

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Remote tunnel monitoring systems is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence 

Underground tunnel monitoring systems deploy network of sensors over proprietary communication networks to provide critical information such as the structural and geotechnical behaviour of a tunnel and underground conditions; underground workers and assets, helping to maximise 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 20 companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of remote tunnel monitoring systems.

Key players in remote tunnel monitoring systems – 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’.

Leading companies include Strata Worldwide, whose solutions 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.

Orica ’s underground solutions include SHOTPlus Tunnel, which is a blast design software that, as well as supporting design, also enables the importing of tunnel survey scans to compare post-blast results with designs, and optimise future blasts.

To further understand how artificial intelligence is 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.