Part of my rationale for spending money on space programmes is the number of spin-off technologies that have been created by/for the space industry… technologies that benefit all of us every single day. In fact, to a certain extent, M2M machine-to-machine communications) got a big boost from NASA’s spending given that monitoring the biometrics of the astronauts, as well as the condition of the machinery, was one of the first true M2M-health based applications. It turns out that space travel has spawned another new invention/venture for us ‘non-astronaut’ types. According to a recent article in the Financial Post (http://business.financialpost.com/2014/05/20/2-5-kilometers-beneath-the-earths-surface-is-the-next-frontier-for-space-suited-miners/?__lsa=68d3-89ac), the next “frontier” for mining will be 2.5 km (1.5 miles) below the earth’s surface. While underground mining is nothing new, it has always been a very risky venture, and going this far down does nothing but increase the risk factor. One of the ways these deep mining dives will be made safer is by using a much more advanced mining suit. Derived from years of great advancements in space, this high-tech suit allows for much better adaptation to the environment. From regulating the worker’s temperature (heating or cooling) to air purification capabilities, this suit enables the worker to focus exclusively on the task of mining and it’s all done through a very advanced M2M mechanism. In the past, any on-board monitoring for biometrics had to be done through the use of on-person straps / connectors. These connectors could be displaced, either intentionally or by accident, and were not always accurate. The sensors used in these new spacesuits are not only built into the suits (to make it more comfortable) but are also much more proactive (meaning that it can detect trends/issues even before the worker actually suffers any symptoms). As well, the use of on-board video is particularly interesting to me. Engineers often need accurate information from “down in the hole”, but to date, they usually had to rely either on rudimentary sensors or the description from a non-engineer (the mine worker). By the use of on-board video on the suits, better information can be retrieved for the engineering team which will increase productivity and worker safety.
Bottom line Mining is and will always be a very dangerous profession because no system can totally eliminate the risk involved, especially when we are now going down that far into the earth. However, it is encouraging to see cutting edge materials / systems being used to make it as safe as possible. Read Larry’s blog at www.novotech.com/blog and follow him on Twitter: @LBNovotechM2M