Nokia, Sandvik lead Finnish mining project to take industrial 5G deep underground
The state-owned Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) is coordinating a joint research and development project with Finnish network vendor Nokia and Swedish mining company Sandvik around industrial private 5G networks, edge computing, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to enable digital transformation in the underground mining sector. The business arm of Swedish mobile operator Telia is also engaged.
The Next Generation Mining (NGMining) project, funded by Business Finland, will seek to build a series of “experimental systems”, as proofs-of-concept, to test integrated connectivity solutions in harsh underground mining environments. The Finnish industrial innovation group, Sustainable Industries X (SIX), will collaborate to export the work on autonomous machines to other industries.
The objective for VTT, Nokia, and Sandvik, each with vested interests in the digitalisation of the global mining sector, is to achieve improved productivity, safety, and environmental sustainability. The proposed underground connectivity and compute systems will give reign to autonomous connected machinery, digital automation, and real-time analytics for situational awareness and control, said VTT in a statement.
The remit covers spectrum usage in underground mining environments, the integration of 5G modems into mining equipment, and various edge computing architectures. It will also look at network signal behaviour, design requirements, and hardware specifications for harsh underground environments, with consideration for aspects of bandwidth, frequency range, latency, reliability, and scalability.
A statement said: “The target is to develop a mine-compliant connectivity infrastructure with integrated solutions that incorporates safety and tracking technologies and AI enablers… Project phases include use-case definition for autonomous machinery, solution evaluation via testing platforms with 4G/5G wireless, [application] selection… for development and commercialization, and pilot implementations in operational customer mines.”
The project, which kicked off in May 2021, is scheduled to last two years. Other participants in the project include the University of Oulu as a research partner, as well as Epec, SATEL, Huld, Terrasolid, Outsight, Etteplan, Noptel, Unikie, Iiwari, Millisecond, Wizense ja Indagon as company partners. Telia is on the project advisory board.
Sauli Eloranta, vice president for ‘safe and connected society’ at VTT, said: ”VTT [is] support[ing] all project partners by coordinating the project… [and] strengthen[ing] the competences related to telecoms technology, situational awareness, sensor technologies, edge computing, and AI on new application areas in mining context.”
Jarkko Pellikka, director of Nokia’s ‘unlocking industrial 5G program’, said: “Collaboration across the ecosystem is essential for developing winning technology solutions that will meet productivity and sustainability targets and capture global market share in the growing mining business.”
Miika Kaski, commercialization and networks lead at Sandvik, said: “Sandvik is conducting research on 5G connectivity use cases in the mining environment and this NG Mining consortium helps facilitate this with our network partners.”
Nokia has an ongoing relationship with Swedish tool manufacturer Sandvik. It signed a contract with the company’s mining division last year for deployment of a standalone private 5G network at its test mine in Tampere, in Finland. It also has a deal with Sandvik in Finland for LTE-based private networking and digital cloud services, via Finnish private networking provider Edzcom, which owns spectrum at 2.6 GHz and 450 MHz in Finland, and has been a key partner for Nokia in its pursuit of industrial networking contracts.