Miners in ties, Huawei's new bet

November 10, 2022 - 15:56
Analysts used to draw pessimistic scenarios when Huawei fell into geopolitical turbulence and bans. However, it has rotated and explored potential new markets for the past three years, highlighting that the mining sector has been operating very primitively.

Analysts used to draw pessimistic scenarios when Huawei fell into geopolitical turbulence and bans. However, it has rotated and explored potential new markets for the past three years, highlighting that the mining sector has been operating very primitively.

Wang Lei, 26, is a trained pilot but left the profession for many reasons. He then joined the Red Willow Forest miners, wearing hats, labour shoes and thick uniforms to mine coal at 300 meters. 

"Three shifts a day in a complex and harsh underground environment. When the engine started, the noise was loud. The ashes covered the air. Pressure work from morning to late," he said.

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The application of technological solutions to coal mines brings outstanding benefits

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But those days didn't last. After two years of cooperation between Hongliulin and Huawei, smart coal mines were born. Wang Lei is now comfortable sitting in his office, proficient in logging into large data management platforms to remotely inspect and maintain communication devices and belts within hundreds of meters deep mines.

Coal mining is inherently harsh, toxic and dangerous. But this industry is moving as Huawei's big technology promotes automation through 5G, cloud computing, AI and IoT technologies.

The coal corps and the dream of "miners in a tie suit"

"Most tech companies in the world don't choose mining as a breakthrough, but Huawei does," founder Ren Zhengfei said during the opening of the Smart Innovation Laboratory (S&I), built by Huawei and Shanxi Province in early 2021. He also expressed his desire to form a coal miner's legion.

He said China has more than 5,300 coal and 2,700 metal mines. If Huawei can compete in more than 8,000 mines, it can provide services to mines worldwide.

Over the decades, the coal mining process has not changed. The number of deaths yearly from accidents in mines reaches hundreds in China. Workers also often get lung dust, also known as black lungs, due to long exposure to coal dust.

China's major tech companies, led by Huawei, are pushing for a full-scale digital transformation in the mining sector. Responding to Xinhua in 2021, Mr Ren said Huawei could help the coal industry achieve its goal.

"In doing so, we not only develop our own strength but also solve the problem of high-performance products in the coal mines so that the miners can work in suits and ties," he expressed.

He took the example of Tianjin Harbor - one of China's most modern seaports, where loading and shipping are virtually autonomous. 

"We're hoping the mines will end up like that. Achieving this step would be significant to Canada and Russia's mining operations in the Arctic Ocean. The working conditions in the frozen lands are so bad that no one wants to live there. However, there are plenty of resources, so stay there. If we can exploit remotely without humans, this resource will be of great importance to human society," said Huawei's head.

Huawei is getting closer to the goal of remote without human mining

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To realise the plan to help the ambitious miners in a tie suit, on March 21, Huawei formed a team of experts called Coal Mine Corps. The team's vision is to bring digital technology to every mine and build smart mines where everything is connected, aiming to improve productivity, reduce the number of mines and work greener.

5G technology mining breakthroughs

Huawei has developed customised and compact 5G mobile base stations that are dust and water-resistant. With low lag and high bandwidth, 5G settings at mines increase network speed ten times faster, collecting and transmitting data 100 times faster than 4G. This way, data from the drone systems, sensors and cameras in the mine can be uploaded in real-time stably and quickly. Statistically, 70% of the machine damage can also be detected and processed promptly if the information is collected and analysed within seconds, minimising the cost incurred in maintenance.

In 2020, the Xin Yuan coal mine in Shanxi pioneered the construction of the first 5G smart coal mine in China. During the construction, the mines faced a series of equipment and connectivity challenges as they deployed deep-ground technology. Huawei then provided an IP industrial network solution with 50GE/100GE broadband networks, providing access to video surveillance and production control services.

One of the causes of the high number of casualties in the Songzao mine disaster in Chungking in 2020 was poor communication. 

Thus, in 2021, Huaihe's Zhangji coal mine decided to apply Huawei Wi-Fi 6AP AirEngine6760R-51E technology to build a wide-wave wireless network. The technology allows access to individual devices, such as handheld devices and smart helmets, in the mine anytime and anywhere while providing video recorded by patrol robots.

As of April 22, Huawei has been present in more than 200 coal mines and has installed more than 3,000 5G devices underground.

On November 9, Huawei officially announced the MineHarmony operating system for the mining industry to begin the commercial application phase. Along with 5G and AI, the platform is determined to bring smart mining operations into the new chapter. MineHarmony is a joint invention of Huawei and China Energy Investment Corporation, which has deployed over 3,300 sets of equipment in 13 mines and a coal-washing station.

All command and coordinating operations are carried out on the ground, remotely controlling the mines.

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MineHarmony allows devices to "speak the same language," share data and allow for the connection between man-machine and machine-machine. This operating system allows mining workers to connect their phones to devices in the mines to check the image data and end the mining process with one tap on the phone screen. Workers can also check the risks of accidents without being in that position, reducing the risk of a toxic work environment.

"No retreat is the road to victory."

Huawei's black fortune began in the middle of 2019 when it was put on a US blacklist, compounded by the effects of the COVID pandemic. 

Ben Wood, Director of Analysis at CCS Insight Market Research, assessed the ban seriously impacted Huawei's business. However, with a long-term vision: "Huawei is not an easy company to give up."

This was proven shortly after when the world's largest telecommunications company made a series of important strategic changes, such as the launch of the HarmonyOS operating system, the developing IoT devices, joining the automobile sector, building a series of AI, 5G, cloud solutions, as well as deep into the mines. 

Coal Mine Corps' slogan is "No retreat is the road to victory".

He once declared: "The company's only way of life is to focus on developing its own strength." 

In the current difficulty due to the effects of political and economical, many businesses tend to cut down on their personnel. Still, Huawei, on the other hand, boosts the investment of resources while spending more than 20 per cent of their revenue is equal to $22.4 billion for R&D.

Radoslaw Kedzia, Vice President of Huawei CEE and Northern Territory, once said: "Every company must develop and adapt to a changing environment, whether a business or a political environment. That means we're also creating new businesses and new products."

Huawei's essence is the inner force, the human and the value of creativity. This is a small contribution to the company showing stability in the storm, and rapid growth in participating in the top 10 most valuable brands on the planet, according to Brand Finance's vote.

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MineHarmony, a joint innovation by Huawei and China Energy Investment Corporation, with 5G+AI Helping Mining Industry Unleash Digital

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