Public Release: 

UA-invented mining sensor system licensed to startup

Integrated network can sense a miner's location and body temperature, predict problems and potentially save workers' lives and millions of dollars

University of Arizona College of Engineering

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IMAGE: Mine workers wait for blasting to finish in the student-run University of Arizona San Xavier Mine near Tucson, Arizona. view more 

Credit: Pete Brown/University of Arizona

University of Arizona startup GUIA has licensed a mining communication and sensor platform developed by faculty in the UA's College of Engineering and Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources.

While the team's initial focus for this "internet of things" system is mining, the company is looking to apply the technology to a number of other environments.

Pronounced "GI-a," the company name comes from the Spanish word for "guide."

The inventing team includes Moe Momayez, UA associate professor of mining and geological engineering; co-founder Mary Poulton, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Mining and Geological Engineering, and co-chairman of the board of directors of the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources; and Oro Valley technology entrepreneur Sergio Cardona.

The team worked with Tech Launch Arizona, the office of the UA that commercializes inventions stemming from research, to define and patent the invention, identify and build the startup team, and license the technology. Through its Asset Development Program, TLA also provided funding to prepare the early-stage invention for the marketplace.

Known as the SMART Suite 5.0, the technology features sensors that can detect and report on components of worker health and safety, mine air quality, geolocation asset tracking, communication and ground stabilization detection. SMART, which stands for System for Managing Advanced Response Technology, is designed for minewide distributed sensing, monitoring and real-time communication across all mining operations. At the core of the system is the ability to sense a miner's location and body temperature, predict potential problems and recommend steps to avert health risks.

There were 430 deaths from mining incidents between 2007 and 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Mine Safety and Health Administration. SMART Suite 5.0 is the first unified, comprehensive, internet-of-things platform technology to integrate mine safety, miner health monitoring and asset tracking.

According to Momayez, the total direct and indirect cost of a single work site accident in the mining and construction industries can be devastating, with a possible economic impact of over $5 million per incident. This includes expenses such as basic financial costs, human costs (including rehabilitation, death benefits, bodily injury indemnities and income replacement) and a significant, potentially crippling loss of productivity.

"GUIA is the only company on the market addressing this serious issue by offering a single, integrated technology," Momayez said. "SMART Suite is at the vanguard of today's available technologies to monitor mine environment, worker health, reduce operational risk and improve safety."

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