GPS-like solution generates accurate and reliable real-time data on assets in deep mines

European mines are under pressure to produce more while operating at deeper depths. To increase the efficiency of mining operations and enable increased automation to face the challenges related to mining at great depths, the Swedish start-up Widefind has developed a unique tool that provides precise information on the locations of assets and people in underground mines.

Simply put, we offer GPS-like functionality where such systems do not work or are not good enough. Our solution generates accurate and reliable real-time data on where assets are, how they are moving and where they are relative to each other. We have engineered all components with underground mines in mind, from algorithms for positioning in tunnel environments to hardware that is easy to install and maintain.

Markus Sjölund, COO at Widefind

For the past 1.5 years, Widefind has been developing a positioning system for underground mining operations. Knowledge about where machines and people are in the mine can increase the efficiency of mining operations and enable increased automation underground.

The detailed information this solution provides, enables many existing processes to be improved and new ones to be developed, thus increasing the efficiency and safety of European mines.

Markus Sjölund, COO at Widefind

The foundation for Widefind’s solutions was developed at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) in Sweden as part of applied research at FROST, the field robotics lab. The positioning system was originally purposed to position drones for autonomous inspection of infrastructure such as wind turbines. It was developed to offer very high accuracy, long rage, and high reliability, which included functioning in environments where visibility is obstructed due to a lot of moisture or dust in the air.

Widefind’s solution involves an infrastructure (anchors and gateways) that is installed in a mine, tags that are worn by people and mounted on assets, and backend software. All wireless communication between devices is based on Ultra-Wideband radio (UWB).

Launching the solution on the market

Widefind received Booster funding from EIT RawMaterials which enabled the then three team members to move from 50% to 100% commitment. Additionally, the booster project has resulted in two industrial collaborations, both with partners in the EIT Community. The access to the EIT RawMaterial network has been crucial for Widefind in establishing important contacts in the mining industry in Sweden and Europe.

We have collaborated with prominent companies such as Boliden and LKAB, the latter has recently decided to invest in our solution. In 2020, in addition to the collaboration with and delivery to LKAB, we have several ongoing projects and will be launching our solution for underground mining operations on the market. The support we have received from the staff at EIT RawMaterials has been, and still is, very valuable.

Markus Sjölund, COO at Widefind