The inaugural 2019 World 5G Convention in Beijing from 20 to 23 November 2019 brought together thousands of experts and industry insiders to exchange ideas and showcase the latest applications of 5G.
Whilst 5G is still at its very early stage of development, China has been actively exploring its applications in different areas.
At the exhibition hall of the convention, telecommunications carriers and dozens of tech companies showcased their latest products and applications on how intelligent and convenient 5G will make people’s lives and work in the near future.
One of the exhibits of remote driving had the driver seated in a simulated cabin in the exhibition hall remote controlling a self-driving car in south west China’s Chongqing city about 1,500 kilometres away, by looking at the screens at the front displaying feeds from the cameras on the car’s roof, over the high speed and low latency 5G network.
Another exhibit had two musicians’ tens of kilometres apart collaboratively perform a musical ensemble as if they were at the same place.
However, 5G can enable much more than that, according to experts.
“Through the in-depth integration of 5G technology with education, medical services, industrial manufacturing and many other industries, it will promote the deep integration between the digital economy and the real economy, creating more new applications, new industries and new values,” said Wang Zhigang, China’s minister of science and technology.
Zhou Huimin, head of marketing operations of Huawei Wireless Network, told CGTN that the company had provided solutions based on 5G technology that make various vertical industries such as mining, manufacturing and traffic planning more intelligent and efficient.
And experts believe that 80% of 5G applications will be in the industrial Internet of Things, as 5G will make smart manufacturing possible thanks to its features of ultra-high speed, low latency and multiple connections.
“5G is the infrastructure for the digital transformation in various industries, and it takes time and needs coordinated development,” said Xu Zhijun rotating Chairman of Huawei, adding that 5G needs to work with artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and other technologies to create greater value.
SAFER AND MORE EFFICIENT MINING SITES
Earlier at the Mobile World Congress at Shanghai from 26th to 28th June 2019, a booth showcased the remote control of excavators and live stream of onsite excavation at a mining site which belongs to China Molybdenum, the world’s only 5G smart mine in operation, where 30 5G autonomous mining vehicles have been deployed, and the company’s monthly capacity is 500,000 tons, according to an article by Huawei in Telecoms.com on 22 July 2019.
How did China Molybdenum achieve this? At the 2019 Customer Strategy and Pain Points Analysis Conference (CSPA), Chief Operating Officer and Chief Engineer Yang Hui from Yuexin Intelligence shared with the audience the great value 5G contributes to the construction of smart mines and explained how China Molybdenum introduced 5G technologies. According to Yang, 5G is ideal for smart mine construction and mining is the new “battlefield” for the business use case of 5G technologies.
China Molybdenum has been replacing its 4G technologies with 5G technologies and has been improving unmanned mining through 5G network development and technologies such as short-range control, long-range control, control of single vehicle, centralised management, and smart management and control since 2015. China Molybdenum collaborated closely with many companies, including Huawei and Yuexin Intelligence on this initiative.
The two main types of mining techniques are surface mining and sub-surface mining, and surface mining has absolute advantages in terns of scope and safety and various surface mining techniques have been developed, which have been adopted by most mines over the past 10 to 20 years.
There are over 3,000 surface mines in China with reserve deposits of over 20 million tons. It would cost around 200 million yuan (RM118.5 million) for each of these mines to invest in intelligent mining equipment, and if a manufacturer has just 10% share of this market, its market prospects are in the order of 60 billion yuan (RM35.56 billion), Yang Hui, Yuexin Intelligence Chief Operating Officer and Chief Engineer told the 2019 Customer Strategy and Pain Points Analysis Conference.
However, safety is still a major concern in surface mine operations and in such complicated terrain, large machinery can fall at any time. “I once saw an excavator disappear while it was in operation,” said Yang Hui. “Later, we found it in a 30-meter deep pit.”
Thus, to protect mine workers from such dangerous environments, the mining sector has long been exploring the possibility of unmanned mining, which 5G now enables.
Yuexin Intelligence had been working hard to explore unmanned mining and China Molybdenum and Yuexin launched their unmanned mining project in 2015, deploying remote control technology to address the safety issues relating to extraction activities in mining voids, as these safety concerns had been plaguing the company for years, according to Yang Hui.
Short-range remote control became a reality in 2015, long-range remote control in 2016, and in 2017, self-driving trucks were successfully tested.
“At that time, we were content with remote control,” said Yang Hui. “In dangerous areas, we remotely controlled excavators to dig out the ores and then the remotely controlled trucks to load and transport ores. (However) This did not improve efficiency; on the contrary, it made the process more cumbersome,” said Yang Hui.
Whilst remote control technology helped enable the extraction of high-grade ores previously off limits due to safety concerns, however it did not improve mining efficiency and China Molybdenum was still on the lookout a technology which would enable full automation of mining operations without the need for humans in the field.
By 2018, remote drills, remote excavators, and a fleet of 30 driverless electric haulage trucks empowered by Yuexin Intelligence were put into use. The solution allowed drilling, shovelling, loading, and transportation to be fully automated, without the need to deploy any on-site staff.
Most notably, Yuexin substituted 5G for 4G, enabling a dramatic increase in productivity. Production capacity shot up to 500,000 tons per month. This was the first time that 5G technology was deployed in the mining industry in China.
To read part 1 of the article, click here