Emerging Technology: A Sudbury ICT company is modernizing mining globally.
Symboticware CEO Kirk Petroski and Technician Andrew Tiernay examine one of the company’s signature software devices, the SymBot. Weighing in at five pounds, the compact unit is used to collect and relay data from remote locations such as underground mines for monitoring mobile equipment in real time.
When Kirk Petroski started his information technology venture in 2008 to research and develop smart software applications, he realized his best opportunity for growth and success was right in his own back yard: Northern Ontario's mining industry. Today, the President and CEO of Sudbury's Symboticware Incorporated, proudly points to his company's flagship product called a "SymBot" that delivers standardized information-based technology and data to Northern Ontario's mining giants, as well as clients worldwide. "The SymBot is essentially an industrial computer that is attached to underground mining machinery", says Mr. Petroski. "Depending on what sensors you plug into it, the SymBot collects and wirelessly transmits real-time equipment performance data in underground mines as well as surface applications."
Designed to function in harsh northern and arctic regions or deep underground, the SymBot streamlines data collected from sensors and transmits the information back to operators and management in real time. That allows companies to make informed business decisions using up-to-date and reliable data. Since network connectivity in mines is typically limited, the SymBot can store data where there are dead zones and then forward the information once a vehicle returns to an area with wireless capability. Another of Symboticware's remote autonomic monitoring and control systems being used underground is a newer product known as "Speed Guard". This cost-effective and efficient device prevents, for instance, mobile equipment operators from over-speeding, resulting in increased mine safety by reducing speeds in excess of equipment's and organization's safe operating parameters. From increased productivity to improved safety, the design, development and integration of these innovative ICT products in the mining industry has helped earn Symboticware Incorporated a number of prestigious business awards, including the Bell Excellence Innovation Award in 2012 and last year's Export Award at the 2014 Northern Ontario Business Awards.
Symboticware staff get together frequently for ‘lunch and learn’ sessions to share ideas and knowledge related to the development of innovative, wireless communications technologies that can be integrated into mining processes as well as other major industries.
Operating exclusively in Sudbury, Symboticware's beginning stems from initial research and development funding from FedNor, according to Kirk Petroski. "FedNor's support allowed a Northern Ontario start-up to develop and commercialize our core product, the 'SymBot'," he says. "Since then, Symboticware has also hired several youth interns through FedNor which has helped to increase our capacity to deliver innovative products to industry both in Northern Ontario and abroad."
Most recently, Symboticware Inc. qualified to receive support through one of FedNor's newest initiatives, the Targeted Manufacturing Initiative for Northern Ontario (TMINO). By using operational assessments as an efficient way to identify a company's strengths and weaknesses, FedNor is supporting a project by Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME) to help manufacturers study ways to improve their processes and reduce operation costs, leading to sustainable growth. "Our next steps are to develop a timeline and assemble a delivery team to incorporate elements of the TMINO study recommendations for new product development", says Petroski. "With improved processes and profitable products that meet the required level of safety standard compliance for mining and other heavy industries globally, our company is setting its expansion plans on greater market share in underground and surface mining as well as adjacent industries including oil, gas and forestry."
As Symboticware Inc. continues to specialize in wireless data solutions for a variety of applications, its innovative and evolving computer software products, including the 'SymBot', are poised to become critical components of every intelligent and highly productive mine of the future.
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