BHP Billiton has invested $6.5 million into a Shanghai-based “hub” that will create mobile apps to improve workers’ productivity and ability to communicate at sites worldwide.
The hub will initially be staffed by 50 technology application designers, and will physically be an “incubator workshop" located with BHP Billiton’s offices.
It is one of three hub-type operations to be set up by BHP Billiton.
All three aim “to foster technology innovation that can then be trialled and tested before potentially being more widely deployed across the company".
BHP Billiton chief technology officer Diane Jurgens was coy on the exact projects the Shanghai hub would work on.
She said mobile apps for smartphones and tablets broadly could help everyone from operators in underground mines to administrative staff at head office “access and respond to real-time information as and when they need it, no matter where they are".
“The team working in Shanghai will develop a range of mobile applications that could include the capability for operators to re-plan crew work in the field, check equipment maintenance requirements and location, immediately report potential safety problems or even check where and when people are travelling,” Jurgens said in a statement.
As miners such as BHP Billiton continue to bring automation to their operations, they are equipping sites with increasingly strong wireless networking, either through mesh or 4G technologies.