BHP casts net for IoT hardware hackers

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BHP casts net for IoT hardware hackers

Unveils challenge to find and test up to 50 candidates.

BHP will run an internet of things challenge over the first fortnight of July with the aim of finding people to join an internal hardware innovation team.

The miner has joined forces with hackathon convenor and accelerator Unearthed to run the challenge, which is available to both in-person and online participants.

Applications to participate close at the end of this week, at which point a shortlist of 50 candidates will be put in teams and set to work on two specific IoT use cases at BHP mine sites.

The first use case is to improve operational awareness for civil equipment – such as graders, track dozers and wheel loaders – operating at BHP’s open pit mines.

While some solutions already exist in this area, namely systems that used GPS or wireless telemetry, Angus Jones – an iteration manager in BHP’s so-called 'technology revolution' – told an event in Perth yesterday that the miner wanted to “kit out and enable gear for next gen decision making".

“How do we get smarter measuring these equipment types?” Jones said.

He speculated that could involve things like enabling online and offline modes of operation, or finding better ways to store data from the operation of the civil equipment “locally, cache it and then move it forward later on” for analysis.

A second use case that BHP will be testing future hardware hackers on is distributed safety.

The miner said it presently relied on zones and “hard barriers”, such as walls and dividers, to allow vehicles to safely move around mine sites.

However, it wants to “look at how we can digitise or digitally enhance these safety controls”.

In both use cases, the miner noted the importance of creating prototype systems that allowed some level of “middleware integration”, opening them up to be incorporated into BHP’s existing technology environment.

The miner is funding Raspberry Pi kits for participants, but said it was possible for participants to develop prototypes using other hardware and software platforms.

While there are some prizes on offer for solutions to the two use cases, the bigger picture offer is a chance to join BHP’s hardware “digital tribe”.

As part of a major IT expansion announced at the start of this year, the company is organising technology innovation around four internal “digital tribes”, one each for hardware, software, data and user experience.

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