How “hackathon’s” are solving challenges in the Resources Industry

Zane Prickett, Speaker at The Resources Investment Symposium 2015The theme of  this year’s Resources Investment Symposium being held in Broken Hill, 24-27th of May is “looking in new directions”.

The Resources Industry is facing many challenges, and are increasingly turning to disruptive thinking and technology to meet those challenges.

Zane Prickett, keynote speaker at The Resources Investment Symposium and Founding Director of Resource Innovation through Information Technology (RIIT) group has engineered a new way to meet many of the problems Resources companies currently face. Symposium interviewed Zane about his innovative approach in the lead up to the Broken Hill event this May.

SYMPOSIUM: “What do you see as the biggest challenges in The Australian Resources Sector right now?”

ZANE: “How to continue to stay productive and innovative with declining commodities prices.  Right now most resources companies are focusing on their balance sheet.  This means they can potentially lose focus on upcoming innovating and new technology coming that can sort out the productivity challenges they currently face.”

SYMPOSIUM: “How do you see resources companies using innovation to deal with some of those challenges?”

ZANE: “There is a ton of new technology coming from the consumer space that is making its way into the resources sector particularly around data, cloud, and connectable devices.”

“We talk about 12 disruptive technologies some of which include:

  • – 3D printing
  • – Mobile technology
  • – Cloud
  • – Internet of things
  • – Advance Robotics

These will massively affect the resource industry and we estimate around 100 billion dollars’ worth of disruption will come by 2025.

An example is cloud.  Both BHP and RioTinto are making a major moves into the cloud and software as a service model and expect major savings from it.”

SYMPOSIUM: “How are you working with Resources companies to innovate?”

ZANE: “We run a program called Unearthed.  We take challenges from the resources industry and open those up to outside innovators in a  weekend hackathon.”

“For example:

At our 2014 event – Gold Fields to submitted 2 years’ worth of production data and Rio Tinto – gave us 3 challenges.

One of those was large boulder issues on site.  Their challenge was how to detect, manage, and monitor large boulders which create problems like blocking up the crusher.  Rio Tinto submitted video data.  There were 70 innovators at the event and a quite a few teams worked on that challenge.  The winning team instead of looking at video they looked at how trucks were loaded.  They could see how large boulders hit the back of the truck.  They used the accelerometer in the iphone and developed an app that monitored vibrations. When a big rock hits the back of the truck.   Alarm goes off in the truck.  Now know they have a large boulder and reroute it and put it in another stock pile.

The winning team has since formed a company and now have industrial grade accelerometers and are conducting site trials.”

SYMPOSIUM:”What’s different about your approach?”

ZANE: “We’re very open. When we get the challenges, the IP that comes out of the event stays with the innovator.  Out of the 70 or 80 developers who attend our event most don’t work in the resources sector.  They confirm from diverse backgrounds and disciplines and include mobile developers, data scientists, web developer and other engineers working outside the sector.  They bring a different way of thinking to address resource challenges.

For example at our 2015 event Iluka resources submitted a challenge around  how they could better detect potential reservoirs and deposits.  4 teams of web developers data scientists and electrical engineers worked on the challenge and each team took a different approach to the challenge.  They all came up with very different solutions using different technology such as:

  • – Image processing
  • – Machine learning
  • – Signal processing

Iluka got to see 4 different technical approaches to the challenges they submitted.”

SYMPOSIUM: “What are you hoping to get out of coming to Broken Hill for the Resources Investment Symposium in Broken Hill.”

ZANE: “Our vision is to see Australia as a global resource innovation hub.  We want Australia to be the place to develop test and build out resource focused innovation.  We want to see companies around the world looking for new innovation and want them to think “how can I go to Australia”.  We want them to see us as the best in the world.

I’d love for people to understand how we work here at Unearthed.  How we get interesting prototypes and lots of outside the box innovation.  We want them to think, how can we support Unearthed vision in a way that is successful and sustainable?”

Zane is presenting at The Resources Investment Symposium, on “Using Disruptive Innovation To Solve Problems In The Mining Industry” in Broken Hill on the 26th of May.  Register to attend