For years, the concept of an autonomous jobsite has been forecasted, with the advent of autonomous construction equipment and driverless vehicles driving the discussion even further. Now—especially on mining sites—that concept is starting to become a reality.
For instance, Hitachi Construction Machinery recently unveiled its vision for autonomous mining. It is doing this through an open, interoperable ecosystem of partners that integrate their systems alongside existing mine infrastructure. It is developing an open-autonomy approach under the Solution Linkage initiative, which is a standards-based platform grounded on three principles: open innovation, interoperability, and partner ecosystem. It is being made available to mining customers in its subsidiary Wenco Intl. Mining Systems.
By designing solutions in compliance with ANSI/ISA-95 and ISO standards for autonomous interoperability, this gives users the ability to choose technologies from preferred vendors independent of their fleet-management system. The interoperability component creates connectivity between systems to reduce operational silos and heighten visibility. Finally, its partner ecosystem means both customers and third parties can access the open platform to provide additional autonomous functionality.
Partnerships are key for delivering this type of automated jobsite to the construction industry—and today many equipment companies are forming alliances to provide autonomous equipment to workers.
Consider the example of Built Robotics, which is a developer of autonomous equipment, and Sunstate Equipment Co., which provides construction rental equipment and tools. Together the companies have formed a partnership to rent out autonomous construction equipment, which is supported by Sumitomo Corp. of Americas.
Here’s how this partnership works: Built designs and manufactures and autonomous kit to upgrade off-the-shelf equipment, which allows remote equipment operators to upload job files, at which point the equipment can complete the work on its own. Sunstate will then select equipment from its fleet to upgrade, and then make it available for customers. The upgraded equipment can then be run using Built’s autonomous software.
Together, the companies will also run training on the equipment and each piece of equipment uses a three-layer safety system, with sensors, geofence, and hardwired and wireless stop buttons. Sunstate will begin offering the autonomous equipment to select customers in late 2019 or early 2020.
This trend toward autonomous mining is also being realized on a global scale, with some providers focusing on specific regions of the world. One recent example is looking to create autonomous mining in Latin America.
In this area of the world, sensemetrics, which offers a plug-and-play solution that captures sensors data, and i-IoT Solutions, a provider of technology for mining, oil and gas, and manufacturing in Latin America, are taking steps to work together to offer sensemetrics end-to-end solution in industries such as mining and construction, specifically in Brazil, Mexico, and Peru.
The future is bright for the autonomous jobsite, as technology providers and equipment manufacturers continue to take the steps needed to move the construction industry one step further.
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