How mobility, big data, and social media impact the mining and metals industry

I’ve always liked to write articles about trends and their applications in the heavy / process industries. Most of the time, I’ve focused on trends related to automation, process control, energy, technical software, and related subjects. This time, my approach will cover three hot key words: mobility, big data, and social media and how these may or may not impact our process and operations.

I see this post as an area for discussion since, like you, I’m a consumer of these technologies and I’m only throwing potential ideas about how to use them in our operations.


This may be the easiest one to translate to the operations world: smart phones, tablets, and other mobile gadgets. What I personally see missing here are more industrial grade applications (apps) for our daily plant operations. On the other hand, one of the easiest ways to use this technology is to take the benefits of the web servers embedded inside some of the industrial products and devices and having tablets and smart phones browsing and getting information from those internal web pages.

I see a huge mobility potential from the recently announced Google glass – with the right apps, this device can address many operations and maintenance challenges. For example, in a power control system, having a single line diagram in hand while doing an electrical intervention, getting collision avoidance alarm for a mine truck driver, or process control information when the operator is far away from the control room. With the right applications, the potential of this technology is limitless.mobility_3

 [Figure1 : Mobile technologies have already changed the world as we know it]

Big Data:

This is a challenging one because data may have different meanings and sizes for different industries. The problem with big data it is the difficulty of gathering and analyzing so much information and, from the results, potentially come to no conclusion. In a certain way, mining operations already produce lots of real time and historical data that can be used to determine patterns and drive decisions. The secret here is the data aggregation strategy, deliver the right information to the right people that allows actionable results. One of the major mistakes about dashboards is to have a KPI without a “person” behind it with the ability to act on that indicator.

In a certain way, I see video analytics software (video security systems) as a big data concept: Since it analyses a huge amount of real time data (images and pixels) to help operator decisions.

Of course, the increase use of big data will also increase the role of the IT management, infrastructure, and security.

IT Role[Figure 2 – The use of big data will increase considerably the role of the IT and infrastructure}

 Social Media:

For users, it is clear how we can leverage some of these tools in our personal lives, friends, and networking among professionals. What is still lacking is the effective use of social media for technical / experience exchange. One answer is to use customized versions of the mainstream social media tools and limit them for internal company or collaborative portals among suppliers and users.


[Figure 3 – Internal social media tools will be able to foster relevant technology information among company personnel]


What is your opinion? Is your company using the full potential of these technologies? Please, leave your feedback.


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