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Mining Project: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Applications in Underground Coal Mines

Principal Investigator
  • Chenming (Jim) Zhou, NIOSH, 412-386-6563
Start Date10/1/2015

To investigate the feasibility potential to develop and implement IIoT concepts into the mining industry.

Research Summary

This pilot project has one research aim: to answer the question of what existing and emerging technologies are available for mine-wide monitoring and control systems in underground mining environments and the inherent benefits and limitations of those technologies.

The nation’s approach to health and safety has historically been reactive in the sense that health and safety regulations and mandates have traditionally been passed as a result of tragic mining accidents. An example of this is the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) of 2006, passed as a result of several mining accidents where tracking of and communications with underground personnel were severely limited. While this reactive approach has led to the development and implementation of highly impactful safety interventions and safety practices, there currently exists a technological revolution that can shift the paradigm towards a proactive approach based on preventative methods.

Several industries have started exploring the concept of monitoring and controlling virtually limitless, critical environmental parameters through a centralized network system that consists of a large number of connected objects embedded with “smart sensors.” Advanced connectivity of devices, sensors, equipment, and systems is the core of the IIoT concept, which refers to a number of technologies and research disciplines that enable the Internet to, in effect, reach out into the real world of physical objects. Technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), wireless communications, real-time localization, and wireless sensor networks now find more and more applications in daily life.

While the IIoT concept has been explored in several industry sectors to provide intelligent networks for advanced monitoring and controlling, introducing this emerging technology into the mining industry may be challenging due to the uniqueness of the mine environment. The proposed project work is aimed to explore new concepts and technologies to determine the feasibility of adopting IoT technology into the underground mine environment. The knowledge gaps for adopting IoT into underground mining will be identified and potential challenges along with possible solutions will be investigated in a project report.