Digital technologies are transforming resource exploration and exploitation

Digital technologies are transforming resource exploration and exploitation

/ Technology & Smart Cities / Tuesday, 06 August 2019 07:55

“Network-enabled digitalization and automation will help create safer, more efficient and productive mines and oil & gas rigs.”

The fourth industrial revolution is spurring the digital transformation of industrial processes and operations practices of almost all industrial sectors. It will bring physical, asset-intensive industries such as mining, and oil and gas companies into the digital world where operations can be dynamically observed, controlled, and optimized to achieve unprecedented improvements in safety, efficiency, and productivity.

Embracing the fourth industrial revolution

The resources sector is facing unprecedented challenges. Operating in a volatile market, revenues and EBITDA are extremely sensitive to commodity prices. As resources in some areas become scarce or depleted, operators are forced to push new frontiers of exploration and exploitation. To remain competitive, mining site and O&G rig operators must reduce cost, optimize production, and increase efficiency. And, often working in remote and challenging environments, they also have to work hard to meet stringent sustainability requirements, while complying with worker safety regulations.

Digital technologies related to information (IT), operation (OT) and communication (CT) will play a key role in addressing these challenges and transforming the industry.  This transformation, also known as the fourth industrial revolution, is enabled by the interconnection and interdependence of new systems and technologies. Advances in private LTE and fifth generation (5G) cellular technology and the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented/virtual reality will help companies to optimize decision making, automate manual processes, and eventually replace all operations with fully autonomous systems. They are enabling mining companies to achieve just-in-time delivery, predictable asset lifecycles, no more unplanned shutdowns, and zero workplace injuries or environmental incidents.

Empowering automation and autonomy

Innovators at the heart of our connected world understand that smart, dynamic and unified communications networks will lay the foundation for the digital transformation of society, including the resources sector. For mining and oil & gas industries, building a state-of-the-art network is the best starting point for achieving more agile and automated facilities which assist in better managing safety, sustainability, performance and decision making. 

A state-of-the-art, digital architecture should consist of four layers:

  1. At the deepest level lies a mission-critical network that supports robust and secure wireless, multi-service coverage and capacity in remote, harsh environments -- in-pit and underground, onshore and offshore. Built with a dynamic mesh fabric around a high-performing IP/optical core, this architecture uses private LTE today (and 5G tomorrow) to connect with mobile and static sensors, heavy equipment, self-driving vehicles and connected workers. LTE is currently the only standards-based technology that supports mobile broadband (such as PTT/PTV, CCTV and future AR/VR applications), machine-to-machine communication (e.g. telemetry) and narrowband Internet of Things sensors/actuators on a single, future-proof communication infrastructure, with an evolutionary path to 5G.
  2. Cloud technology is essential to this new wave of architecture to ensure the flexibility, scalability and universal availability of both data and intelligence. Cloud-native, software-defined networks dynamically allocate capacity wherever it’s needed — whether to support massive digital twin files, augmented reality, drone control or site video surveillance. Additionally, a multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform will support ultra-low (<5ms) latencies required for automated response times, real-time motion control or virtual reality.
  3. Data processing capabilities and analytics platforms, including machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) systems, are just as important as the communication infrastructure itself. Built in as a set of common enablers, the digital value platform ensures that resource companies can turn the masses of data collected from a vast multitude of sensors, cameras and systems – below and above the ground, onshore and offshore, inside and outside, from pit/rig to port – into actionable insights.
  4. Building the top layer of an advanced network architecture is all about innovation and value creation, hosting business-centric applications and empowering cross-domain collaboration with ecosystem partners along the full value chain. Sensors, cameras and drones provide 360-degree situational awareness, as well as support field force optimization and work flow automation. Reliable, low-latency broadband communications also power remote control and real-time collaboration. Digital personal protective equipment (PPE), ultra-precise geo-positioning and geo-fencing will enhance worker safety. Dynamic tracking of machine health and diagnostics will enable predictive maintenance. AI and machine learning will augment decision making by providing predictive alerts, isolating causes and suggesting possible courses of action.

The sector must address these digital opportunities and work with leading industry players to design, develop and deploy a new networking architecture, and take industry to the next level.

Introducing Nokia’s Future X architecture

Recently, Nokia Bell Labs unveiled its ‘Future X for industries’ architecture to catalyze productivity and economic growth in the Industry 4.0 era. Based upon the four-layer model described above, it harnesses technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things, edge computing, cloud, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, and high-performance networking – including 5G – to drive digital transformation across a wide range of industrial sectors. And to create an intelligent, dynamic and secure network that increases safety, productivity and efficiency of mining and oil & gas operations.

For more information about Nokia solutions for energy and resources, please visit


By Marc Jadoul,

Strategic Marketing Director, Nokia

 Nokia Graph

Figure 1: Nokia Bell Labs Future X for industries architecture

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