The mining industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need to enhance safety, improve productivity and control costs, with the growing importance of technologies such as automation, 3D mapping and geomodelling, robotics and IOT. These technologies can improve the success of exploration activities, reduce the environmental impact of mining, improve productivity of operational mines, and, in the case of tunnel ventilation systems, enhance both safety and efficiency. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the mining industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet Of Things in Mining: Tunnel Ventilation System.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

150+ innovations will shape the mining industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the mining industry using innovation intensity models built on over 350,000 patents, there are 150+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, magnetic-field based vehicle positioning, tunnel safety optimisation, and smart mining alarms are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Tunnel lining construction devices, tunnel boring machines, and tunnel ventilation system are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are LiDAR-guided navigation and location-sensitive alarms, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the mining industry

Tunnel ventilation system is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Tunnel ventilation system is a network of connected sensors to monitor mines and enhance operational safety and efficiency, and optimise mine productivity. Since ventilation systems are the largest consumers of power in underground mines, smart tunnel ventilation systems significantly improve miner working conditions while also lowering mine energy consumption. Smart digital technologies are being used by companies all over the world to monitor and optimise ventilation systems and ensure a safe working environment.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established mining companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of tunnel ventilation system.

Key players in tunnel ventilation system – a disruptive innovation in the mining industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to tunnel ventilation system

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 21 Unlock company profile
Epiroc 19 Unlock company profile
China Railway Construction 16 Unlock company profile
China Railway Group 14 Unlock company profile
China Energy Investment 14 Unlock company profile
China Coal Technology & Engineering Group 6 Unlock company profile
State Grid Corporation of China 6 Unlock company profile
Walt Disney 6 Unlock company profile
China Railway Tunnel Survey & Design Institue 5 Unlock company profile
Huainan Mining Group 5 Unlock company profile
Tian Di Science & Technology 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leaders in Tunnel Ventilation Systems include Epiroc, which provides a complete ventilation solution for tunnelling and underground mining operations, including system design and installation of fan stations and ducting. The company’s Serpent Ventilation System is made up of highly efficient, low-noise fans and long-lasting PVC-coated ventilation ducting. Advanced sensors measure carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide levels on a regular basis to determine air quality, and then automatically adjust fan speed to maintain adequate air flow and a perfectly regulated underground work environment. The smart Serpent Automatic module reduces energy consumption while adhering to all environmental requirements and regulations.

To further understand how Internet of Things is disrupting the mining industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things in Mining, 2021.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article. 

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.