New research from Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, has found that mining businesses expect to invest a considerable portion of their IT budgets into the Internet of Things (IoT) in the next three years, while the sector’s leading investors are already seeing tangible benefits, such as improved health and safety and staff productivity.

Mining industry expected to speed up investment in IoT in the next three years

This level of planned spend on IoT marks it out as a critical next generation technology as mining companies continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, giving them the tools to become more resilient, more flexible and quicker to adapt and react to change.

These findings are taken from the latest edition of Inmarsat’s research programme into IoT trends, The Rise of IoT in Mining. Focusing on investment levels across Industry 4.0 technologies, the research found that, in the past three years, cloud computing, cybersecurity and IoT have seen the highest percentage of budgetary investment, totalling 5,7%, 4,2% and 3,9% respectively. These three technologies are set to retain the highest percentage of investment in the next three years rising to 9,8%, 8,4% and 7,6% respectively. This reflects the wider increases across the other technologies surveyed, including machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Encouragingly, mining companies also reported that their IoT deployments are continuing to make a positive impact on their bottom line. Currently, cost savings amounting to an average of 5,1% are being reported. Hopes of a future impact on cost savings are more pronounced, rising steadily from 7,7% in 12 months, 13,8% in three years’ and a significant 18,9% in five years’ time. This is a significant increase on previous research, where in 2018 mining organisations reported average current cost savings of an average of 1,76%, expected to rise to 16,02% by 2023. This not only illustrates the immediate return on investment (ROI) that IoT has brought to the sector over the past few years, but also the continued confidence the sector has in IoT to bring long-term cost savings.

Commenting on the findings, Nicholas Prevost, director of Mining, Inmarsat, says: “Mining companies are starting to place more faith in IoT technologies, and with increased adoption they are starting to see an increase in cost savings amongst other tangible benefits. In the next five years this return on investment is set to grow further, ensuring that those companies investing in IoT are those that will lead the pack. From an investor community perspective, investment in IoT is a good indicator of a mining organisation’s resilience, efficiency and commitment to safety and sustainability. These are the sorts of markers that will ensure mining companies can thrive in the present and in the future, particularly in light of the challenges that Covid-19 has thrown at the industry.”

Prevost further states: “However, accessing the benefits of IoT is dependent on a number of factors that contribute to successful deployments: the right skills and leadership, a commitment to cyber-security, the right use of data and perhaps most importantly the right connectivity. IoT relies on a number of interconnected connectivity technologies to work optimally. Inmarsat’s L-band satellite connectivity is particularly ideal for deployments in remote areas, where the bulk of mining happens, because of its superior reliability and coverage. Inmarsat is proud to be working with our mining partners to ensure their deployments are successful and they can achieve ROI wherever they are.”

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