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Technology in Unlikely Places


Make no mistake, the world is getting more technologically advanced. Whether it is your tablet, phone, apps or the internet of things; or whether it is plant automation, machine telematics or fleet management, the path to greater profitability and better productivity is technology.

Having said that, the last place I would have expected to see immediate innovations in technology was at the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).

Imagine my surprise upon learning that MSHA has initiated the deployment of a Mobile Inspection Application System (Mobile IAS) to “further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of mine inspectors and to better carry out MSHA’s core mission of promoting the health and safety of America’s miners.”

According to the agency, nearly 1,500 federal mine inspectors across the nation and enforcement staff will benefit from this new technology.

The Mobile IAS replaces an 18-year-old system that required mine inspectors to carry bulky laptops, cameras, reference material and documentation from previous inspections. The new Mobile IAS integrates all of these features into one application to provide the latest technologies that securely store and transfer data, while improving ease of use. 

“Enabling mine inspectors to work more efficiently means more time to focus on the health and safety of America’s miners,” said MSHA Assistant Secretary David G. Zatezalo. “MSHA’s Mobile IAS is expected to improve the quality of information by eliminating redundancy, and provide more timely information for inspectors.”

Among the features of MSHA’s Mobile IAS are:

  • A Windows-based, lightweight, semi-ruggedized tablet with a camera, video, voice recording, touch screen, digital pen, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability to facilitate data capture and streamline the inspection process.
  • An application built on Microsoft’s Universal Windows platform with photo capture and fillable, pre-populated forms.
  • Service-oriented architecture for efficient data transfer among devices and the MSHA Standardized Information System.

Kudos to Assistant Secretary Zatezalo for presiding over this quantum leap in how mine inspectors do their job. This new technology will not stop an inspector from writing a citation because he doesn’t like the color of your ladder or because the light bulb in the maintenance garage is not a higher wattage, but it does give him greater access to information. And good information is always a good thing.