Roadmap to Interoperability

Monday, April 9, 2018.  Interoperability is a large, intricate, and complex issue that can inhibit technological advances in the international mining industry. Players hold widely different views and interpretations as to scope, content, application, and end state.

Indeed, GMSG has identified interoperability as a priority industry initiative. So they’ve stepped up with a unique approach to the problem—a universal roadmap. It’s important for the industry.

Interoperability overlaps and impacts other industry subject matter and developments such as data, integrated operations, and autonomous mining. The pressing need for a common enabling approach has spawned a number of interoperability development initiatives by international industry stakeholder groups—but substantial coordinated development and progress in advancing interoperability on the international stage has yet to materialize. The GMSG roadmap is to provide guidance “through the maze”.

To build the roadmap, GMSG launched its Interoperability Definitions and Roadmap Project. The project provides common interoperability definitions, principles, terms, scope, and references needed by, and to guide, further interoperability working group initiatives and developments. The result is generating input for the much-needed international roadmap: a landscape of interoperability initiatives, projects, organization, and resourcing which are aligned, collaborative, and supportive with interoperability developments of other organizations.

The interoperability project is basic but broad. It doesn’t get into details, specific technologies, or solutions; it’s described as a “mile wide, inch deep” logical perspective. It applies the principle of consensus based upon “close enough, not perfection”. The roadmap will consist of pragmatic, achievable, and incremental evolutionary steps that will enable change in the industry from its current state to the end state.

The project is organized globally, with a working group leader (WGL) in each of four regions: North America, South America, Australia/Asia, and Europe/Africa. A project steering committee of 24 members drawn from a cross-section of stakeholders from the regions provides guidance; the four WGLs are members. Within each region, the project participants are organized generally into three teams to address logical groupings of deliverables. Two of the teams operate in parallel working on items like definitions, principles, organizations; their results providing input for the final roadmap drawn up by the third team.

GMSG has been addressing and organizing this interoperability initiative and working group for the past two and a half years. They’ve held several workshops on autonomous mining and interoperability and made significant progress. The workshops have featured fruitful discussions and strong support; and often produced plans for future work. However, plans for development work on the roadmap still need further input, jeopardizing the originally-targeted completion date of end June 2018. Time has become of the essence.

To ensure the interoperability guideline and roadmap is a timely success in the face of rapidly advancing technology, further active leadership and strong participation by mine operators is needed to determine and drive industry advancements. In addition, more significant contribution by OEMs is required—as deliverers of the technology. Broadest stakeholder input will clearly make the roadmap fully comprehensive so as to maximize its usefulness to the entire industry. It behooves any company that sees the need for smooth interoperability in mining to shape priorities and benefit by being an integral part of the industry roadmap’s creation.