Are Mobiles the 21st Century Canary in the mine?

This unmissable “Mobile Changes Everything” post by Tomi Ahonen discusses how in the last decade mobile has had a transformative impact on so many other industry sectors:

Music, gaming, TV and radio, newsmedia, telecoms, cameras, computers, the internet itself, travel, retail, farming, fishing, forestry, hotels, government, politics, restaurants, education, healthcare.. I mean, what is left? Mining? Ok. I will grant you, many inside deep mines do not have much use for cellular mobile technology, as the cellular signal does not penetrate deep under ground

Now this is no attempt to get one over on Tomi (no one has charted the adoption of mobile better than this best selling telecom author) but not so fast. Of all the industries you can include mining is definitely in the mix:

Major M2M market

Mining Machinery manufacturers have been some of the earliest and leading adopters of M2M. Some examples include John Deere’s JDLink™ (enabling remote online access to your excavators health, fuel consumption, geofencing, curfew alerts, etc), JCB’s GlobalTRACS equipment management system (numbers on this are sensitive as it plays an important role in deterring theft) and Caterpillars are screwed together by mobile connected wrenches (it’s this tech that let’s them ship a brand new 90 tonne excavator to a mine in the middle of nowhere BEFORE filling it up with hydraulic oil and running it up to 5000 PSI), etc.

Networked Mines

Increased demands for employee safety have led to increasingly networked mines. In many areas of the world mines now need to provide personnel with mobile devices (normally connected over WiFi mesh networks), and risks are minimised further through the use of high quality video monitoring and machinery that can be remotely controlled.

Satellite linked Mobile Network Deployments

The remote locations inhabited by mines and oil rigs have made them some of the first big customers of Satellite linked GSM stations. Adoption has been so strong that the mining industry now faces a new occupational hazard: machine operatives using their mobiles.

Mobile Money

Mining communities represent a huge mobile money market as the wages are all being sent home. I remember chairing an event in Dubai when a local telco sponsor started explaining to me their mobile money strategy that would be targeting the rich local population with NFC chips. Baffled by this I asked him why he was ignoring the opportunity in the long queues that formed outside the cities Western Union offices.

In one of those oddities of the mobile industry where big telcos try to invent rather than just add connectivity to what’s already happening here we have thousands of migrant workers lining up to send home millions of dollars and the telco’s are instead investing in competitive efforts targeting locals who already have wallets full of credit cards and are shopping in stores that already have POS terminals.

When nothing else will do

I thought the whole world read about what was sent down to the Chilean miners who were stuck underground for 69 days in some of the most hot and humid conditions imaginable. That’s right it was the Samsung Galaxy Beam projector phone so they could watch video messages from politicians, families and friends (oh and catch the football friendly with Ukraine). Oh and they even got their health monitored during the difficult ascent with the BioHarness bluetooth mHealth biosensors from Zephyr Technologies

Glimpses of the future of mHealth

The mining industry has historically been at the forefront of healthcare industry innovation from the creation of Kaiser Permanente (which recently became first major Healthcare brand to adopt a “mobile first” strategy) that started as a result of the need for industrial indemnity to meet worker compensation obligations in the Colorado River Aqueduct project, to the earliest mainstreaming of telemedicine expertise in North Sea oil fields (where video consulting is commonplace), to the creation of mining clinics that have been responsible for developing and extending world class healthcare expertise to some of the most remote communities in the world (eg. the Royal Flying Doctors).

I see no reason why this trend won’t continue and the mining industry will be a pioneer in mHealth as the challenges these workers face have lots of similarities to those faced by seniors eg. their remoteness and isolation gives rise to issues familiar to millions of independently living disabled and senior populations, and the dangerous nature of their work gives rise to interest and demand for the continual monitoring tech that modern societies are increasingly using to help seniors live independently in their own homes.

Can Tomi add Mining to his list?

I hope I’ve made the case that Mining is very much like every other industry and has already been transformed in the last decade by mobile… oh and of course it’s going to change much more in the next 10 years and it’s going to be a very exciting area to watch for mHealth innovation.

Make sure you’re on top of these trends by ordering the TomiAhonen Mobile Forecast 2012-2015 eBook today.

About David Doherty
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