Orange Business Services partners with De Beers on 'geofencing' solution for offshore diamond mining

Orange Business Services partners with De Beers to enable a geofence around heavy machinery that's used for offshore diamond mining. (De Beers)

Orange Business Services teamed up with De Beers to co-develop a "geofencing" solution to keep offshore diamond miners safe from heavy equipment.  

The pilot used Orange Business Services digital IoT technologies to create a geofence that kept miners a safe distance from the heavy machinery used by De Beers Marine South Africa, which is a division of De Beers.

With space limited on the MV Mafuta, which is currently the world's largest offshore diamond mining vessel, Orange Business Services and De Beers employed wearable sensors to monitor how close crew members were to heavy machinery. MV Mafuta, which is owned and operated by Debmarine Namibia, operates 150 kilometers off the coast of Namibia.

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The Orange IoT solution was developed in response to De Beers’ "zero harm" objectives. It followed a joint exploratory workshop with the Orange Business Services team in South Africa and focused on IoT technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy locators and wearable sensors, as a precision crew locator tool that can be integrated with onboard antennas and an Orange software engine.

In the pilot, Orange Business Services imported the Mafuta’s AutoCAD files and undertook an onboard site survey to map antenna locations to geofence a predetermined area on the vessel. Ten crew members were equipped with wrist sensors. When one of the crew members breached the geofenced area onboard the vessel, the ship’s bridge was alerted immediately.

The connection between the tags and the IoT sensors was via Bluetooth while Wi-Fi was used to connect De Beer's network to visualization on a tablet.

De Beers Group Technology SA, which is the R&D arm of De Beers Group, is looking at additional applications, including a breach alert function to link the sensors directly to the mining machinery via a SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) control system, and PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to enable automatic cut-off of the machinery in the event of a breach in the geofence.

"This smart IoT solution developed with DeBeers is a great example of innovating and co-creating with our customer. The geofencing pilot has already proved successful in one of the most challenging heavy industrial environments—a floating diamond mine at sea, with prolonged exposure to strong vibration and corrosive saltwater. The next phase of its development will aim to refine the interface and data collection capabilities, and include testing a trigger function to deactivate machinery in the event of a breach of the geofence by a crew member,” said Keith Matthews, country manager for South Africa, Orange Business Services, in a statement.