The Smart Rock Bolt


The Smart Rockbolt


Entry by: Jens Eliasson, Pablo Puñal Pereira, Hasan Derhamy, Joakim Nohlgård, Mikael Larsmark, Henrik Mäkitaavola, Claudia Nohlgård

Affiliations: Luleå University of Technology, Eistec AB


Luleå University of Technology introduces The Smart Rockbolt, a low-power IoT device for industrial and mining applications. The Smart Rockbolt provides a safer working environment for people working in mines through online, real-time monitoring. The Smart Rockbolt is a standard rock bolt with embedded electronics capable of a multi-year battery lifetime. Hazardous levels of seismicity or load will automatically generate optical alarms using multi-colored high power LEDs as well as wireless alarms in mine control systems. The technologies in the Smart Rockbolt can also be used in many other applications such as infrastructure monitoring, building monitoring and more.

How does The Smart Rockbolt use Internet Technology?

The Smart Rockbolt uses a lot of different Internet and IETF technologies: for example, 6LoWPAN for IP-based wireless communication; IPv6 and IPsec for secure communication; NTP for time synchronization; CoAP for data transfer; OMA LWM2M for device management and metadata; and IPSO Smart Objects as the object model for sensors and actuators. We are also using technologies such as TLV, CBOR, JSON, and XML for data communication and storage.

EISLAB (Embedded Internet Systems lab) at Luleå University of Technology (LTU) has been pushing for the use of IP-based communication for more than 15 years now. EISLAB has been performing R&D on Embedded Internet Systems / Internet of Things since 2003. The use of IP allows us to be interoperable with industrial monitoring and control systems, and to avoid vendor lock-ins which come with the use of proprietary technologies.

Why did you choose to invent The Smart Rockbolt? What problem do you see that it can solve?

In recent years, there have been some very dramatic accidents in mines where people were trapped for months or killed inside collapsed tunnels. Many of these accidents are because tunnels or other cavities in a mine became fragile and collapse. Standard rock bolts are used to reinforce tunnels, but sometimes the rock bolts become damaged and thereby lose their load bearing capability. This can lead the tunnel collapses, with injuries or even deaths as a result for workers, and severe economic losses for mining companies.

We believe that The Smart Rockbolt can help to minimize the risk of these types of catastrophes happening in the future.

Smart Rock Bolt5resizeWhat is the practical application of The Smart Rockbolt for the everyday user?

The Smart Rockbolt is used to monitor rock bolts for the mining industry, which provides a safer working environment for people working in mines. This technology can, of course, be used in other applications as well: for example, the real-time monitoring of infrastructures.

The capability to perform real-time monitoring of installed rock bolts, where changes in parameters such as seismic activity and load can be detected and alarms transmitted to mine monitoring systems immediately, is essential to mitigating disasters in the mines. This approach enables mining companies to reinforce areas where many bolts have become damaged or evacuate workers before a collapse.

The Smart Rockbolt can also alert workers immediately of the vicinity of pending danger through the use of high-power LED lamps.

Are there plans to produce The Smart Rockbolt for the marketplace, or is it already a product that can be purchased/obtained?

Yes, we are currently planning to create products based on this technology. We hope that by participating in the IPSO Challenge, we will be able to reach mining companies that are interested in collaboration in the development, testing and use of The Smart Rockbolt.

Why would you consider The Smart Rockbolt to be “innovative”?

Rock bolts have been used in mining for more than 100 years. Even though there have been many improvements in their design, they have not changed dramatically. However, today in 2015, we have managed to put them on the Internet! Each rock bolt in the future can have its own IPv6 address, making them a true thing on the Internet.

The Smart Rockbolt is innovative in many ways. Firstly, it combines many different technologies as a means to prevent injuries and deaths and to minimize the risk for substantial financial losses in industrial applications. Secondly, The Smart Rockbolt uses many state of the art technologies, such as OMA LWM2M and IPSO Smart Objects. It is also performing signal processing and event detection of vibrations in high data rates. The Smart Rockbolt also has an expected lifetime of 2 to 5 years, even with this highly complex application.

Smart Rock Bolt for Flyer

What would winning IPSO CHALLENGE 2015 mean for you or your company?

Winning the IPSO CHALLENGE would mean a great deal. Our work with the intelligent rock bolt has some very exciting potential and the exposure that the IPSO Alliance and its member companies could provide will help open many new doors for us.

If selected as the Grand Prize winner, how do you think you will spend the $10,000 prize?

The prize will be used to bring the current prototype to a full product, ready for mass testing in mine sites. We currently have a first generation prototype that can measure vibrations and strain, alert miners of danger using high-power LEDs and a very long battery lifetime. In the next step we will need to improve the prototype for it to be able to function in the very harsh environment in a mine with moisture, dust, water, vibrations, explosions, etc.

What would you like to see in the future for the Internet of Things?

The most important thing for us in the IoT domain is interoperability. We want to be able to interconnect products and services from different vendors, over application domains and underlying technologies.

Why should more companies utilize IP?

The use of IP is the core foundation in order to bring interoperability one step closer. IP today enables computers, tablets and smart phones to communicate using the mobile telephone network and the Internet, thereby enabling true mobile applications. For end-users, the use of IP means that their devices and systems have the possibility to communicate and thereby exchange information.

Why did you decide to enter IPSO CHALLENGE 2015?

We had some ideas that we wanted to show to the world. We at LTU have been performing research in IoT since 1998, and advancing in the CHALLENGE would give us good PR and visibility. Our first truly IP-enabled wireless device was developed in 2002 using the lwIP stack, Bluetooth and IPv4. Participating in the IPSO CHALLENGE felt like a natural thing to do.

Contact Information:

Twitter: @SmartRockbolt
LinkedIn Jens Eliasson | LinkedIn Pablo Puñal | LinkedIn Claudia Nohlgård | LinkedIn Joakim Nohlgård

Read More: Ericsson Research Blog: Internet of Things in Mining