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IoT & Smart Cities

Orange and DeBeers team to mine IoT marine diamonds

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Mining is a hazardous occupation. Mining at sea, in cramped conditions, multiplies that.

All at sea: The MV Mafuta is the world's largest offshore diamond mining vessel. (Source: Orange)
All at sea: The MV Mafuta is the world’s largest offshore diamond mining vessel.
(Source: Orange)

To that end, Orange Business Services, network-native digital services subsidiary of telecoms giant Orange Group, has helped De Beers Marine South Africa build an Internet of things (IoT) platform to make sure crew maintain a safe distance from heavy machinery.

A pilot has run successfully on board the MV Mafuta, currently the world's largest offshore diamond mining vessel, owned and operated by Debmarine Namibia, around 150km off the coast of Namibia. The Orange IoT platform uses geofencing technology, bluetooth low-energy locators and wearable sensors – all of which work with onboard antennas.

Testing times
In the pilot, Orange Business Services imported the Mafuta's AutoCAD files and undertook an onboard site survey to map antenna locations to geofence a predetermined area on the vessel.

Ten crew members were equipped with wrist sensors. If one of the crew breached the geofenced area onboard the vessel, the ship's bridge was alerted immediately.

Marine diamond mining means miners are working in close proximity to heavy machinery. (Source: Orange)
Marine diamond mining means miners are working in close proximity to heavy machinery.
(Source: Orange)

De Beers Group Technology SA, an R&D arm of De Beers Group, is now looking at other potential applications for the technology. One possibility is a breach alert function to link the sensors directly to the mining machinery to create a failsafe cut-off in the event of a breach in the geofence.

"The geofencing pilot has already proved successful in one of the most challenging heavy industrial environments – a floating diamond mine at sea, with prolonged exposure to strong vibration and corrosive saltwater," said Gerhardus Theron, vessel manager of the MV Mafuta.

The next phase of development will focus on interface and data collection capabilities, and include testing a trigger function to deactivate machinery in the event of a breach of the geofence by a crew member.

Fiona Graham, Editorial Director, Light Reading

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