Microsoft Gains More Territory in Mining
Using Excel exclusively has limits. When data is locked up in an excel sheet it causes silos which interrupt the flow of enterprise data and reporting, an all too familiar problem for mining companies. However, there is a remedy for this issue. Through the use of tools such as Power Apps, data can be set free. But unleashing your data should be managed and analyzed for specific reasons so it is contextually relevant to your goals. Enter DataCloud’s MinePortal on Microsoft’s Azure! Leveraging the subject expertise from the only production resource evaluation platform and the leading cloud technology company, this team is committed to helping mining partners understand how their operations can be optimized to their geology.
From Pen and Paper to Excel
Microsoft has always been a leader in building software products that make analytics easy for the non-technical user. If you think of Excel, SQL, or any basic database access, you will recognize this chameleon-like design work: simplifying the analysis of data in a myriad of ways to apply to almost any need. It offers the perfect combination of a database to store information along with pivot tables to create the kind of cross plots needed to understand the correlation between various elements in the data. This methodology has been used to generate insights in many industry sectors for quite some time. In other words, for a generation of users who transitioned from pen and paper or older forms of computing in an era when data and storage were limited, Microsoft Excel allowed them to derive insights and draw conclusions more quickly, without having to fundamentally rethink the way such insights were being calculated.
Excel’s Limit: Quantity of Data Intake
The pressures of competition, cost cutting, and optimizing productivity and throughput are driving a need for more, better, and faster data analysis. The industry has already leveraged the benefit of improvements delivered through limited-data analytical methods, such as Excel, and now has to seek new areas in which to innovate and improve. With new and ever-better technologies exploding the amount of data available with which to derive insights, Excel can only be useful after a set of processing functions have shrunk the data size to a manageable set that can be accommodated in the application. However, those same new processing tools, applications, and systems that capture all that data could also be used to deliver analytical insights that one could not have extracted out of Excel.
In mining, and more specifically on the bench, there are so many new streams of data available. Traditionally measurement while drilling (MWD), a technology that has been around for more than two decades, collects data that is not analyzed to its fullest potential. Today, however, that data is driving insights about the orebody that empower mining companies to extract minerals more efficiently and cost-effectively at a time when mineral grades are getting poorer and processing pressures are rising. One of the fundamental challenges in the industry is understanding that orebody knowledge and using it to drive process improvement. With the recent advent of cloud computing, we can now apply advanced computational power to generate insights that include browser-based, near real-time 3D visualizations of complex orebody models.
Companies that provide this technology, such as DataCloud’s software MinePortal, help mining companies improve their bottom lines at a time when the industry has exhausted the capabilities of Excel to deliver further improvements and promises. And these advanced data analysis platforms are partnered with, and exists on, Microsoft’s Azure.
Azure and Their Partnerships
Today we are in a world of self-driving haul trucks, cameras at every turn, sensors on every machine, and IoT edge technology. To make the most of the data and information generated by these technologies, which include instruments like DataCloud’s drill sensor that runs on the edge (the RHINO), that delivers rock measurements at resolutions never imagined before, we need software and computing abilities that can keep up with both the volume and speed of this new information.
Microsoft’s Azure platform offers the capability to create such applications and platforms for the mining industry. Until recently, however, mining has not been an industry where many software developers have concentrated their efforts. When the worlds of high-tech software development and mining industry expertise come together in this area, as they have done at DataCloud, the industry really begins to reap the benefits of the power of Azure.
The Benefits of Data Digitization
One example of those benefits includes visionaries in the industry who would like to digitize their entire orebody and create a “digital twin” of their mine operations within DataCloud’s software program, MinePortal, to allow them to understand and test impacts of decisions. Decisions like where to drill and blast, which can be remotely monitored and help control asset extraction operations.
To enable such a vision, a complex infrastructure that includes high speed data ingestion, aggregation, visualization, analysis, and artificial intelligence (AI) is required. Azure forms the bedrock of such an infrastructure. MinePortal from DataCloud is such a system, built atop Azure, that allows mine operators to integrate all their orebody-related data on the cloud in near-real time to drive the “digital twin” that provides a platform for monitoring, analysis, and insights that inform their decisions.
IoT and the Future of Mining
Just as Microsoft was a leader decades ago with software like Excel, today they are on the cutting edge of the newest set of tools and capabilities that are required to extract insights and improve profitability in the digital age. While Excel has its place and can still be the primary tool for “ad-hoc” analysis, Microsoft Azure’s IoT and modern data platform and DataCloud’s MinePortal software and RHINO hardware are partnering up to produce a far more capable set of infrastructural improvements that can enable a revolution for mining companies in their understanding of orebody composition and characteristics.
Finally, mining seems to be getting the attention it deserves from developers, and the timing feels right for a leap forward in the benefits to mining companies of this stronger, more comprehensive computational power that will carry this industry into its promising future.
About the Authors
Krishna Srinivasan is an innovative data scientist with an impressive background in analytics, cloud architecture and artificial intelligence. He has designed and managed the implementation of numerous industrial company cloud platforms for which reliability, accuracy and scalability have been mandatory requirements. Krishna works very closely with DataCloud’s team of geoscience and drill and blast experts to convert their domain expertise into readily deployed technology that generates real-time answer products and solutions. He has a Masters Degree in Data Science and Industrial Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, in addition to an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley.
Scott Yaworski has over 20 years experience performing various senior management and strategic roles in fortune 1000 companies in Canada, the US, and Australia. He specializes in Microsoft Azure Cloud solutions, IOT/Big Data, predictive analytics, and custom engineered solutions. Currently Scott is managing the architecture and design of numerous IoT/big data projects across Australia in rail, mining, oil and gas, and healthcare. The projects use a variety of open source Apache products available in the Azure stack. The end result is the implementation of machine to machine predictive analytics solutions that to prevent unplanned production outages, extend asset life, and increase production output, and allow greater visibility into a company’s end-to-end processes.
Founded in 2016, DataCloud builds real-time geoscience technology solutions that help mining companies worldwide to master the subsurface so they can transform their economics and own the future. DataCloud’s proven products and solutions leverage advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, and the cloud to enable mine operators to make better, more profitable decisions – faster.