A connected future

Reliable connectivity is key to achieving business benefits of the big data revolution. Jani Vilenius, Sandvik Director Research & Technology, shares his thoughts on the necessity of increased connectivity.

Why is connectivity so important to Sandvik and its customers?

Data already drives many industries today, but it will drive all industries in the future. But collecting data is one thing, it’s what you do with it that counts. If our customers are to succeed, they need intelligent equipment that is able to interface with their systems and add true business intelligence.

Whatever technology our customers demand—artificial intelligence, image or voice recognition, augmented or virtual reality—it will be underpinned by fast, low-latency connectivity.

At home, we’ve come a long way from the dial-up internet of the recent past. We wouldn’t accept anything other than instant video streaming at home these days. Such a low-latency demand will happen in industry too.

Which communication technologies does Sandvik work with?

We are working with Wi-Fi networks, 4G and 5G LTEs. While 5G is a promising solution, it’s 4G LTE that customers are asking for today. It’s not hard to understand why, as there are speed, reliability and safety benefits. It is likely that WiFi and 4G LTE technologies will co-exist in future as well as they can complement each other and can be used (interchangeably) depending on the need.

However, it is true that 5G will be up to 100 times faster than 4G. It consumes less power, so it is greener and more cost-effective for real-time data transfer, video links and so on. We are certainly not ignoring 5G, as the 4G LTE hardware is upgradable to 5G. It’s important to get the processes in place using the 4G LTE hardware now, as that’s what our customers want.

Who is Sandvik partnering with on these solutions?

Sandvik should focus on what it does best, and partner with companies that know connectivity inside out. At present, we work with Cisco for our WiFi solutions and Nokia for our 4G LTE solutions. Both these companies are industry leaders in what they do.

What is happening at the Sandvik Tampere test mine?

Hundreds of customers visit our test mine in Tampere, Finland, every year to see the latest developments in mining machines. This means it’s the perfect place to test and demonstrate our digital and connectivity solutions too.

In the mine today we have installed a private 4G LTE network, which is a technology some of our customers are requesting to provide the basis for our AutoMine® automation and teleoperation solutions. The network is easily upgradeable to 5G when the customer demand is there.

Where does the future lie?

There are some very interesting technologies out there, but it is the market that will drive what we offer so we need to be smart and flexible. Personally, I believe edge computing is an efficient way forward. This means there is more processing power, intelligence and decision-making capabilities in a device, so less data needs to be sent to and from the cloud.

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