Mine IQ does away with data silos
Jennifer Sloat is yet another example of a Sudbury-born professional who wandered off to Toronto, but yearned to return home. A digital media specialist and software developer with 13 years of experience on the cutting edge of technology in Canada’s thriving megopolis, Sloat didn’t waste any time applying her considerable skills to the mining industry.
Following a stint with now defunct Four Leaf Solutions, a Sudbury software developer that worked almost exclusively for Vale, Sloat founded her own company, Mine IQ in 2013, incorporated the following year and made her first sales in 2015 – two to France and two to Turkey.
Mine IQ – the name of the company as well as the name of the software – “connects all of the data surfacing from a mine,” she said. “We take data from sensors, telemetry from vehicles, biofeedback data, fleet management systems, ventilation on demand, and whatever data a mine produces, and put it all together.
“If I was a control room operator, I wouldn’t want to have to open 20 different software systems, so we built a canopy that sucks up all that critical data and gets it working together.
“One of our mines in France, for example, asked us how they could control the entry and exit of vehicles into their mine. They had a weigh scale vendor, a tagging vendor and a gate vendor, but none of the systems talked to each other, so we brought all the data up into our system, allowing us to control the gate entry based on conditions like the weight of a vehicle and if the tag was approved. If the conditions are met, the gate opens automatically. They know the truck going in is empty, then on the way out it’s weighed again, so they know how much is leaving the mine.”
Mine IQ, said Sloat, isn’t just for control room operators. It also encompasses mobile apps that can be used by all levels of personnel.
“People will spend a lot of time looking for a vehicle underground because someone on the previous shift parked it somewhere. With Mine IQ, an operator in the lineup can query an app on a tablet and see exactly where it is on a map.”
To date, Sloat has focused on selling Mine IQ through resellers offering the software as an add-on to their own digital solutions. “They put their brand on our software and resell it to their clients. It’s a nice distribution channel for us, but we can also sell directly to mines.”
“Each deployment is customized because every mine has a different set of hardware suppliers,” she explained. “We’ll go in and ask ‘Where are you in your evolution to digital transformation? Are you collecting vehicle diagnostics? How much software have you procured, and what are your pain points?’
“From working with Vale, I learned that it’s hard for mining operations to organize all their data and send out reports, and I know from my past experience that it can all be automated. Our goal is to take all those pieces, put them together, present it in usable ways and make things easy.
“For example, every level of management should be able to pick their key performance indicators and have them right on their cell phones. Why not?”
Mine IQ’s target is small to mid-tier mining companies.
“The big mining companies work with the likes of Cisco and ERP systems that take years to deploy and are super expensive,” said Sloat. “For everyone else, there’s Mine IQ.”
Sloat has one partner, chief technology officer Chris Pagnutti, and relies on a Sudbury talent pool of freelance software developers and designers as required. There’s no leased office space, no company signage and no overhead.
“Everyone works virtually,” she notes. “We Skype and get together from time to time.”
It isn’t necessary to have everyone within eyesight to make sure they’re working. “With our team, it’s all about results. It’s a new model that’s working for us and I’d like to keep it that way.”
As for her return to Sudbury, Sloat couldn’t be happier.
“I live on five acres in Wahnapitae (on the outskirts of Sudbury) where I can hike, birdwatch, see bear and moose. You can’t get a better balance of life. More people need to understand that when you live in the North and take advantage of all the activities and things you can do here, that’s the best. I’d never go back to Toronto.”