PRESS RELEASE: A new 3-D-based internet platform known as VoxelNET could make it possible to control a vehicle or drone inside a mineshaft from anywhere in the world, track the metal in a car chassis from ore to finished product, and to store data so that it interacts automatically with information from other sources to provide a more profound understanding of a mine and its grade.
The technology has been developed through Mining3 — an industry-funded partnership between industry, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and several research groups that include CSIRO.
“VoxelNET is all about a more efficient way of storing, analysing, sharing and visualising spatially based information,” CSIRO 3-D system researcher and Mining3 technology leader, Charlotte Sennersten, explained.
“It is ideal for spatially based enterprises, but particularly for the mining and minerals industries.”
The internet system currently in use for storing, analysing, transmitting and displaying information was built for handling 2-D text and documents. It has to be modified with software plug-ins to work and display information in 3-D and VoxelNET supports this directly.
VoxelNET can be used to generate a virtual mine and simulate its operation in 3-D. It stores remote sensing information on the fly and enables the tracking or control equipment or material remotely. It’s also able to be shared and accessed by different devices simultaneously and can pull data from a range of sources such as sensors, CAD files and point cloud devices.
The virtual 3-D space is made up of voxels, an equivalent to 2-D pixels on a screen. Voxels are cubes, the size of which can be defined to fit the task at hand. Each voxel in VoxelNET can be precisely located.
The voxels can hold information such as density, ore grade, rock hardness, or even safety regulations and legal requirements. They can be programmed to store, integrate and cross-correlate data from many different sources. They can also act autonomously to find and process data, and to interact with each other in precise ways.
Voxels and the data they contain can also be subject to different defined layers of security. Broad access can be allowed to some information or simulations, while access to more confidential information can be restricted.
The platform already allows input of drill-hole data, real-time vehicle data, remote-sensing data and 2-D and 3-D maps by a single client or user. The applications supported include simulation, remote vehicle control and interactive visualisation.
At present, VoxelNET is only available through consultation with researchers at Mining3.
Next year, it is hoped it will be released as a commercial product. Mining3 is looking at how to support its ongoing development into a cloud-based distributed platform.