The days of pick, shovel and a map marked X are long gone; mining today is transforming into a high-tech business, leveraging computing, communications, sensors – even autonomous vehicles – in order to optimise operations and enhance productivity.
Analysing the post-mining boom environment Deloitte’s latest Innovation in Mining report notes; “The Australian mining industry is going through one of the most intense periods of change we have ever seen, and the ability to innovate – to evolve, adapt, and improve – is indispensable.” It also reveals that the local industry is well-placed to lead the world in mining innovation, recognising that innovation will drive the next wave of productivity gains and financial growth.
Snowden’s new cloud based mining solution, Neuroverse, is primed to spearhead that transformation with intelligent tools that provide up-to-the-minute insights to empower everyone in an organisation, no matter their role.
As a seasoned mining consultancy and specialist software developer, Snowden is keenly aware of the challenges that the sector faces, and Neuroverse captures the rich heritage capabilities of Snowden’s standalone solutions – but being cloud based, it also delivers the flexibility, agility and reach required by this fiercely competed sector.
Today’s mining companies rely on accurate real time data, collaborative platforms that allow geologists, miners and business leaders to share insights and intelligence gathered from across the mine facilities – and flexible computing platforms that can grow with the business.
Snowden’s technology general manager Jason Pearce says Neuroverse dramatically expands the digital possibilities for mining companies and underpins anywhere, anytime data analytics that support rapid and effective decision making based on near real time data. Instead of static reports, Pearce says Neuroverse offers; “Fully fledge interactive dashboards and access to advanced analytics that provide tools for statistical analysis, predictive modelling and optimisation routines. These all provide decision making power not easily available prior to now.
Offering the software via the cloud also meets the sector’s growing appetite for digital solutions delivered as a service. Pearce says clients increasingly want this sort of cost effective, flexible approach that frees them from the day to day challenges and expense of running large IT operations in house.
“The market is moving to a subscription and consumption based model. Azure allows us to provide that flexibility to customers,” he says. It also allows Snowden’s customers to enhance their existing investment by injecting additional cloud based functionality on a pay-as-you-go basis.
A Microsoft Gold partner for 15-plus years, Snowden was well aware of Azure and its potential. But before migrating its software to the cloud, it conducted comprehensive due diligence and compared Azure with IBM’s Softlayer and AWS.
Azure quickly emerged as the leader thanks to the .NET alignment, its Service Fabric that permits rapid scaling, and the availability of SDKs in Visual Studio which streamlined the transition of Snowden’s software to the cloud.
“One of the key advantages for us was the alignment with .NET and the range of platform services that Azure provides. It means that we don’t have to manage the virtual servers – but can subscribe to scalable services that are maintained by Microsoft – so we can focus on our solutions.” says Pearce.
The clincher however was the rich and ever-growing array of services available through Azure.
This is already allowing Snowden to venture into new areas. For example, mining is a heavily sensored industry – by harnessing Microsoft’s IoT Hub, machine learning and BI capability – Snowden can deliver solutions that integrate sensor data to serve up valuable insight directly to mine operators.
According to Pearce; “The platform takes all of the source data into one consolidated view and brings in other data to compare (for example) dust, weather and financial components in delivering a valuable solution to mining operations. Comparing traditional data sources with less obvious sources is very powerful.”
He says that the ability to mesh that with Microsoft’s BI tools and analytics, deploying self-service dashboards and machine learning – while having it all delivered via the cloud – represents a compelling proposition for forward looking mining companies.
The full functionality of Snowden’s on-premise solutions, which provide miners with comprehensive systems able to manage everything from geological statistical analysis through grade estimation, plant compliance and reconciliation across the mine value chain through to matching models against actuals, will be made available through Neuroverse.
The cloud platform will also allow Snowden to make available to customers, for the first time, some of the tools it has developed to support its consultants, allowing customers to craft what are essentially bespoke cloud solutions to meet both current and future requirements.
Additionally Neuroverse overcomes the problem of data being siloed as the cloud platform ensures universal access to all information which significantly improves decision support and reduces risk.
John Hearne, Snowden’s CEO says this overcomes the risk-plagued issue of different departments relying on different interpretations of the data and working to different KPIs.
“In today’s mining market, companies have invested heavily in software systems to manage data. Unfortunately, with a prevailing silo-mindset, this often leads to inconsistent reporting and poor ability to assess overall mine performance. This is where Neuroverse is set to make a big impact. Harnessing the value in that existing software investment, Neuroverse provides the platform to easily collate and report data from any system. This enables users and management alike, to effectively assess individual and operational level performance.”
Having a cloud based solution that spans the entire enterprise overcomes that challenge he says.
Snowden has embedded technology to address connectivity challenges that many mining companies face. Though many mines are remote, they will increasingly have access to higher speed communications capabilities which are critical for transformation, and also allow cloud connection. If that is ever interrupted however, Neuroverse has been designed to re-sync once the connection has been restored.
Critical to Neuroverse’s success is access to a secure, trusted and global cloud platform like Azure. According to Pearce; “It was critical. This is a new game for us and historically we were on premise – where the control of the data and infrastructure is in the client’s hands. Now we are providing software-as-a-service so we need to deal with a vendor that has an excellent stance in the market and has solid security polices and processes.
“We know that as a result any solution we build is going to be rock solid.”
At the same time Azure’s truly global footprint allows the Australian software company to scale and make Neuroverse available to their global clients.
Meanwhile the ability to use Azure’s multiple global data centres to host Neuroverse tackles issues of latency and data sovereignty for users around the world according to Hearne.
Snowden will sell the solution direct and through partners, both in Australia and internationally.
According to Hearne; “Our vision is to empower users,” and the company will work with clients, partners and Microsoft to promulgate the solution, hopeful of having all of its existing customers using at least some elements of Neuroverse by mid-2017.