Satellites to help curb skills shortage

SATELLITE communication technology may ease the skills shortage in the resources industry as connectivity in remote locations will make it easier to download both time critical and personal information from remote locations, according to Inmarsat’s Simon Curran.

Lou Caruana

He said the lack of infrastructure, skills and education spending over the past 15 years would constrain the productivity of the Australian industry, and ultimately constrain the economy.

Satellite services – such as Inmarsat’s land mobile solution BGAN – can be used to attract and retain staff and increase productivity because remote connectivity means more staff can remain centrally located and work across a number of projects, Curran said.

The technology would also help retain Generation Y employees who will demand connectivity through Facebook and other social network sites even while in remote areas

“Getting graduates go to the bush is getting increasingly harder,” he said.

“They’re addicted to Facebook and Twitter. They could be given a scratch card to access sites and remain connected while they are at remote locations for weeks at a time.”

Curran also said there would be less down time, as employees engaged in tasks associated with remote projects can be more productive while they are onsite.

“As people get older they get sicker,” he said.

“Older, more experienced, staff can be deployed in the field as satellite services can be used to enable telemedicine solutions. Those who have manageable medical conditions can be de-risked by reliable, high-quality video broadcast capabilities that can allow medical triage to take place remotely via the voice and data capabilities of services like BGAN.”

Experts can be accessed on the fly if something goes wrong in the middle of nowhere. It can sometimes take days to get an expert out onsite to fix machinery or advise workers on how to proceed when they hit a problem.

“Field workers can video their problem and send it back to head office via BGAN,” Curran said.

“They can also hold video and teleconferences for pre-start and end-of-shift meetings, meaning projects can be managed just as effectively as if all personnel were on the ground.”

Fraser Alexander Tailings (FAT), a South Africa-based company, works with mining companies globally, including Australia, to safely process and dispose of tailings.

The company uses Inmarsat’s BGAN terminals and satellite services to email operational reports and data from anywhere in the world as well as link remote sites to head office back in South Africa, use field equipment more cost-effectively, and ensure reliable communications in case of medical emergency.