Talent without borders: global hardware hack delivers impressive mine safety prototypes

Hannah Frankish Competitions News, Hackathon Results, News, Success Stories, Unearthed News

Friday 5th May 2017 marked the end of a week of intense hardware prototyping for global participants in the Unearthed Shield-X challenge.

Shield-X is a unique challenge that brought together major international miners, equipment manufacturers, government and innovators to drive the adoption of a personal safety hardware solution industry-wide.

The goal was to develop a personal safety stop device for use by people working near potentially dangerous autonomous equipment at a mine site. The device had to provide an emergency stop, allowing a user to stop nearby equipment if they feel unsafe, for example if a collision is imminent. The device had to be able to communicate with any brand of equipment.

At the Shield-X launch event on Friday 28th April, Carl Hendricks, Mining Solutions Region Manager at Caterpillar Global Mining said that the company was focused on providing a solution that everyone can use.

Graeme Mitchell, BHP Billiton Principal Innovation, Technology Strategy & Innovation said that “we recognise that people with no mining or resources experience can bring valuable insights to solving challenges the industry faces. We’re excited to partner with Unearthed to tap into the international innovation community in pursuit of more efficient, effective and safer ways to work.”

At the end of the week-long hackathon, 19 teams submitted insightful solutions to the challenge, with participants spanning 6 continents and 9 countries (Australia, China, Sweden, Estonia, Zambia, Canada, the US, Chile, and Germany). Support was provided to the teams in the form of 12 industry mentors from Shield-X partners Barrick, BHP Billiton, and Caterpillar, along with additional guidance from Geographe Enterprises and Atlas Copco Australia. Participating innovators came from a diverse range of backgrounds, including Internet of Things (IoT) specialists, mining engineers, software developers, professors, mechatronics specialists, ergonomists, radio and communications professionals, physicists, cyber security and geo location experts, and safety professionals.

Winners of the challenge were announced on Friday 12th May at CORE Innovation Hub and live-streamed for international participants.

Euan de Kock of Stop-Gap – First Prize

First place was taken out by Stop-Gap, who created a multi-path safe stop device that uses radio and infrared to provide targeted and broad range control of autonomous assets in an emergency situation.

“Our design is a small unit worn on a shirt as a standard component of the PPE setup. The unit will allow both controlled and urgent emergency shutdown methods. The device uses Infrared, 433Mhz ISM Radio and NFC communications. The Infrared and Radio are used to communicate with the receiver modules on the autonomous and other plant equipment, while the NFC forms part of the management of the devices, allowing the status to be managed as well as assignment of devices to personnel. The device is designed as a modular system to allow the functionality to be extended as needed. All source code and protocols will be maintained as open standards,” said Euan de Kock of Stop-Gap.

Second place winners Soter Analytics – Matthew Hart and Alexey Pavlenko

Soter Analytics won second place for their Soter Autonomous Safety Stop Device; an ergonomic, reliable, and robust personal safety stop device to better integrate manned and autonomous workforces.

“Our autonomous stop device communicates via UHF radio network, the most reliable and available network on sites. When an emergency stop is activated, the message (device ID, user ID authorised to the device, and the current GPS location) is communicated to all autonomous equipment/receivers within 5km (10km range line of sight). The receiver calculates if the autonomous equipment is within the range to be required to stop. The message is also immediately relayed back to the command centre (if the equipment has a connection) and a second message is broadcast to all equipment within the range. With its ergonomic design and 36-hour battery life, the device is designed to be continually worn by workers in autonomous areas. This is the next step in better integrating manned and autonomous workforce,” said Matthew Hart of Soter Analytics.

Third place winners Blue Pelicans – David Shaw and Jonathon Waterhouse

Third place went to Blue Pelicans, who developed Titan, a single platform for autonomous equipment collaboration, designed specifically for the mining environment.

“Titan is simple and scalable, with multiple layers of redundancy. It comprises several core components: Open Communication Protocol; an open source platform for interoperability and communication between all autonomous equipment onsite, Titan Console; a browser based admin console, Titan Mobility; a smart device app allowing end users access to critical Titan data, as well as providing an additional communication channel back to Titan Console and all autonomous systems on the network, and Last Stop; a wearable designed as the last safety barrier between mine site personnel and autonomous vehicles,” said Blue Pelicans team member David Shaw.

Local Innovator Award Winner Chad Williams

The Local Innovator Award was given to Aptron for IronShirt and OpenHalt.

“IronShirt is a reliable, dependable PPE device and OpenHalt is an open standard protocol for the future of autonomous systems”, said Chad Williams of Aptron.

Unearthed’s Industry Lead – Crowdsourcing, Holly Bridgwater said that it was absolutely astounding to see how participants pulled together working prototypes in one week.

“The level of development and quality was impressive, as was the range of approaches used to tackle this problem. I would like to congratulate all the teams on what they’ve achieved. It will be exciting to keep working with the teams developing these ideas in the next phase of the challenge,” she said.

Top teams from Shield-X have the opportunity to fast-track their application into the Unearthed Accelerator Program:

“The Shield-X Challenge has really shown the power of international talent. The solutions provided were from teams with diverse skill sets, which provided a variety of approaches to the challenge. Supported by the commitment of industry mentors to share their time and knowledge and the many hours spent by participants prototyping their solutions, the community will create a great pipeline for the Unearthed Accelerator that kicks off in July,” said Kathy Bunce, Accelerator Program Director, Unearthed.

Unearthed would like to thank our challenge partners BHP Billiton, BarrickMETS Ignited, Caterpillar, MRIWA, CORE Innovation Hub and SOLDER for their support in delivering Shield-X.