Research by mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat reveals that, despite the accelerating speed of Internet of Things (IoT) adoption over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, poor or unreliable connectivity is a key barrier limiting the success of IoT projects for most organisations in the mining sector.
According to the research, compiled in a report titled ‘Industrial IoT in the Time of Covid-19’, 92% of all mining businesses experience connectivity challenges when trialling IoT projects and 72% do not feel public terrestrial networks are completely suitable for their IoT needs.
For most mining businesses, the success of IoT projects hinges on connectivity being reliable, available and responsive enough to deliver actionable data at the right time and at the right cost to deliver a strong return on investment.
However, Inmarsat advises that IoT is “a network of networks”, and highlights that reliable connectivity is therefore essential for enabling business-critical IoT projects, particularly in some of the world’s remotest locations, where terrestrial connectivity, such as cellular or fibre, is either limited or non-existent.
Where this is the case, mining respondents prioritise reliability (51%), latency (41%) and bandwidth or speed (40%). This focus on reliability of IoT connectivity is even more pronounced in mining businesses in Canada (60%) and Australia (57%), as both countries have extensive remote territories with limited terrestrial connectivity.
Additionally, only 10% of mining respondents in Canada said public terrestrial networks were completely suitable for their IoT needs.
Overall, the company found that there was still a considerable amount of work to be done to improve IoT connectivity strategies, with only 39% of all mining organisations using some form of backup connectivity to continue collecting IoT data in remote areas away from terrestrial communications.
“Again, there is a notable geographical variance here, with only 21% of mining businesses in Latin America electing to use some form of backup connectivity when they cannot access their chosen connectivity type,” the statement on November 23 read.
Encouragingly, more than four in five (83%) of mining respondents agreed that, since solving their IoT connectivity challenges, they have enjoyed much more success with their IoT projects. The vast majority (97%) agreed that satellite connectivity provides critical support to their organisation’s IoT communication networks.
Commenting on IoT connectivity challenges in the mining sector, Inmarsat mining director Nicholas Prevost noted that “with mining sites often located in remote locations with varied topology, the sector faces its own very specific connectivity challenges”.
For these reasons, he said, accessing the right kinds of connectivity technologies continues to be a major barrier to IoT adoption in the mining sector, as mining sites are often based in areas where terrestrial connectivity is either unreliable or non-existent, there are often instances where communications outages occur, and satellite is proving to be a vital backup, ensuring mining companies avoid losing mission-critical IoT data.
Inmarsat Enterprise president Mike Carter, however, notes that, as the majority of the research correspondents had experienced connectivity issues when trialling IoT projects, “it is clear many businesses need to overcome these challenges to maximise their return on investment”.
“The fact that they also cite the limitations of public terrestrial networks as a barrier to the success of their IoT projects highlights the importance of reliable, secure and responsive connectivity for delivering the actionable, timely data they need to achieve their IoT ambitions,” he says, highlighting that dependable, flexible satellite communications play a key role in enabling IoT for businesses, allowing data to be collected, stored and analysed from anywhere on the planet, including far-flung sites well out of reach of terrestrial connectivity.