Swedish mines try out 5G technology

5G technology from Ericsson could soon be used to improve communication and remote control operations in the mines of Sweden.

A project designed to improve productivity and safety in traditionally dangerous environments is being run by Ericsson, ABB, Boliden, SICS Swedish ICT and Volvo Construction Equipment.

In the pilot phase of the project, a 5G development system consisting of new and existing technologies will be used to remotely control a Volvo truck used for transporting ore within the mine. The actual location for the pilot is still to be chosen from a shortlist of mines operated by Boliden.

The successful implementation of such technology should lead to improved safety, according to Torbjrn Lundahl, programme manager for Ericsson’s 5G for Sweden programme.

“More connected machines and devices mean fewer people will be required to work underground. The seamless integration of overground and underground activities will help improve safety and productivity, as well as enabling better monitoring and remote control,” he said.

Boliden system technology manager Mikael Walter said he is keen to see the results of the pilot project.

“We are constantly seeking to refine and develop our work practices and processes, and we can clearly see the benefit of digital technology in the mining industry. I really look forward to seeing the results,” he said.

Improving safety and efficiency in mining has long been a top priority for Swedish government because the country aims to triple its mining production by 2025. Sweden mines more iron ore than any other EU country and is among the top EU producers for other metals such as copper, zinc and silver.

The project is part of 5G for Sweden, an Ericsson-led research programme involving five academic partners, Swedish ICT, and industrial partners including Scania and Volvo Construction Equipment. The programme aims to lead the digital transformation of traditional Swedish industry by piloting 5G-based technology systems.

The partnership approach is highlighted by the fact that SICS Swedish ICT, a leading research institute for applied information and communication technology in Sweden, lead this particular project. “This is not a pure telecom project, pure mining project or pure automation project. It’s a mix of all three,” said senior project manager Eilert Johansson.

“The reason for having an institute leading this kind of project is to both provide state-of-the-art knowledge from other industries, and to place a neutral partner in between the different industry voices who have different objectives.

“From a mining perspective, the concept needs to be proven and then scaled up, whereas from a telecoms perspective the focus is on successfully demonstrating how future 5G communication technologies can be used in a demanding industrial environment, which can then be applied to other industries,” he added.

Sweden’s innovation agency, Vinnova, is supporting research projects within the 5G for Sweden programme. “By co-funding concrete pilot projects we see major opportunities for industries to show real examples of the digital revolution that 5G offers, which has the potential to change everything from production processes to business opportunities,” said Vinnova director general Charlotte Brogren.

Future projects include co-operation between Ericsson and Scania to address future transport systems, which will take place at the Integrated Transport Research Lab at the KTH Royal Institute for Technology.


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