Real-time positioning solutions for complex industrial environments

European mines are under pressure to produce more while operating at deeper depths. The Swedish start-up Widefind addresses the industry need to increase the efficiency of mining operations and enable increased automation with a unique tool that provides precise information on the locations of assets and people in underground mines.

The Widefind positioning system provides localisation with centimetre accuracy, which is vital for increasing safety and overall productivity in complex industrial environments. The product developed by Widefind is based on state-of-the-art radio positioning. The technology has the potential to be used in multiple applications where localisation is a crucial factor.

The technology works much like every accurate local area GPS with unique identifiers for each tracked object and with a full bi-directional data link. This allows information to be transmitted over the same system. Furthermore, seamless integration with IoT devices is possible, even when expanding and building on already developed standards and solutions with the addition of Widefind positioning information. The information will be carried over existing infrastructure in mines or factories and collected in a central server, with an open API for real-time information access, allowing the facility to build and integrate the information into their current operations.

Sensor networks have always intrigued me. The ability to measure our surroundings accurately and automatically and then based upon that do faster and better decisions is critical for automation. The problem of position is mostly solved by GPS, but the accuracy that GPS usually provides leaves room for improvement, especially for machines. If you then look at GPS denied locations, the contrast between what is there today and what we provide is even larger; I cannot wait to see what innovative and disruptive solutions we will enable!

Kristoffer Ödmark, CEO at Widefind

The overview of tracked personnel, equipment and machines increase safety in mine operations and overall productivity as well as measure efficiency whilst having on-demand real-time data for better planning and resource utilisation. Therefore, the solution provides more efficient management for better overviews of operations and hence more possibilities for improvement.

Accurate and reliable real-time data on assets in deep mines

Widefind offers cutting edge technologies in the form of proprietary hardware and software solutions for providing accurate and affordable UWB based 3D localisation solutions, that are currently unique in the localisation market when compared with other types of solutions that provide similar accuracy and at the same affordable cost.

Widefind initiated the development of a positioning system for underground mines in early 2019. A prototype system was developed, and in June 2019 Widefind performed a PoC demonstration for one of the partners of EIT RawMaterials Innovation Hub North. This project was supported by EIT RawMaterials through the Booster Call 2019. In autumn 2019, Widefind was accepted into the RawMaterials Accelerator programme, and further developed prototype that was installed in the Kristineberg mine operated by Boliden, another partner of EIT RawMaterials.

Based on the learnings from this installation, the product concept was refined and in early 2020 presented to yet another EIT RawMaterials partner, LKAB. Impressed with the concept (WISPR), LKAB placed an order on a large-scale test, which will be operational before the end of 2020.

LKAB, the high-tech mining company from Sweden that operates the world’s deepest iron ore mines, has chosen Widefind to deliver positioning solutions for its underground operations in Kiruna. LKAB is working hard towards the underground mine of the future, which according to its vision will be carbon dioxide-free, digitalised, and highly autonomous. At LKAB, they believe, as we do, that knowing the exact locations of the people and assets underground will be an essential part of the realisation of that vision. Widefind is very proud to have been given LKAB’s trust and is very much looking forward towards working closely with them to realise their vision.

Moreover, during 2020 Widefind proceeded in the RawMaterials Accelerator joining the first cohort of graduates of the programme. Meanwhile, Widefind was also granted the Booster 2020 to develop a basis for navigation assistance based on WISPR. Furthermore, Widefind received financial support the Booster Call in response to the COVID-19 crisis to enable the delivery to LKAB and to develop a demo kit for the WISPR system that will help facilitate sales in a post-COVID-19 world.

The founders of Widefind first studied and later worked at the Luleå University of Technology, and the knowledge they gained facilitated the creation of an IoT system for positioning autonomous machines in research. The positioning system was the basis for the product that Widefind is offering today, and through the support of EIT RawMaterials, it is being tested with different partners as a solution for their problems. It is an excellent example of how studies, research and business boost each other.

About Widefind