In business, there are visionaries, and there are imitators. In the field of mining safety and communications, Jannatec Technologies remains at the forefront of innovative technology in products, systems, and services that improve both ease of operations and safety.
Headquartered in mineral-rich Sudbury, Ontario, Jannatec Technologies has made a name for itself with mining companies in Ontario and across Canada, and will soon be doing the same in the United States through its association with MineConnect.
A long-time member of MineConnect – the voice of Ontario’s mining supply sector – Jannatec has established wide-ranging business relationships through its ties with the association. MineConnect was known as the Sudbury Area Mining Supply & Service Association (SAMSSA) until it underwent a rebranding.
Recently, the association decided to set up MineConnect USA. Based in the world-famous gold mining city of Elko, Nevada, MineConnect USA, together with MineConnect, will keep advancing the important role its members play in this vital sector.
“We were eager to participate,” says Mark Burnett, Jannatec project manager, of the decision to be part of MineConnect USA. “The opportunity to grow our business in that area is really exciting.”
For Jannatec, the new U.S. location means the Ontario company will have a local presence and the ability to provide services and generate business in the Elko and Nevada area.
“We see no reason why our products can’t work in a state and mining area like Nevada, which is similar to Ontario in the number and diversity of its mines. There are still a lot of mines that aren’t in the 5G or LTE Wi-Fi area, who still use old-school, leaky-feeder communications underground.”
Established in Sudbury in 1983, the company is led by Chief Executive Officer Wayne Ablitt, one of the founders.
With a handful of employees, Jannatec Technologies began applying its knowledge of radio communications to mining applications. This started with the company’s first product, the Johnny Light, a combination lamp and radio made rugged for the mining industry.
Later versions saw other technologies incorporated into the product. Through innovative design, Jannatec eliminated the need for individual radios, tags for tracking, and assorted other devices to be lugged underground by miners by continuing to incorporate these into one single device.
“We’ve become experts in incorporating many devices into one, so miners are not carrying multiple devices and they can’t lose them,” says Burnett.
Burnett notes that cap lamps are mandatory for underground mining. Ruggedly designed, Jannatec’s product line today includes The ONE Cap Lamp, the TWO GO Cap Lamp, the Johnny Light Series Radio Cap Lamp, and the ENSO Generation 1 Smart Helmet, the JAWS Proximity Detection application, the SCAS Collision Avoidance system, portable and mobile radios, and more.
Unlike anything else on the market, the ENSO Generation 1 Smart Helmet is customizable, comes in different colours, and can be equipped with high visibility LED lights for superior visibility, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tagging, SENA Industrial’s hands-free Mesh communications and rechargeable batteries. Future versions will incorporate a camera where images and video can be transferred via USB to a computer or streamed live depending on available infrastructure, enabling operations to have the capabilities of a ‘connected worker.’
Communications and safety
To make its products, Jannatec continues working with industry giant Motorola, using its high-quality radio components. In the 2010s, Jannatec began expanding its offerings, moving from communications and technology to proximity detection technologies, and is now moving forward with collision avoidance, which has become an increasingly talked about requirement.
“I think a lot of people when they hear the name ‘Jannatec’ might think we are a communications company – but a larger part of our company now is safety,” says Burnett. “We are more of a safety company than a communications company, especially now that we have proximity detection and offer collision-avoidance systems. The things we offer take advantage of communications but also provide a much safer work environment.”
As safety becomes a bigger part of the mining industry, so do devices made to protect people and machinery. Demand for these systems has resulted in Jannatec creating new and innovative projects like JAWS, the Jannatec Advanced Warning System.
Attached to personnel, fixed hazards, and below-ground vehicles, JAWS uses a radio frequency transceiver to detect potential hazards and issue warnings, helping prevent accidents before they happen by enhancing worker and operator awareness. Since it operates as a standalone system, JAWS does not need any external infrastructure or power to function like a leaky feeder system (a standard underground communications system).
Ideal for underground and open-pit mining, the newly available SCAS (collision avoidance) system is also ideal for other applications, including improving safety and productivity in rail yards, warehouses, shipping yards, and many other areas where people and machinery work in close proximity.
The SCASII Collision Avoidance System, developed by sister company Schauenburg Systems out of South Africa – where collision avoidance is mandated – is becoming a very hot topic of conversation at many operations and Jannatec is already in the process of providing demonstrations to both surface and underground mining operations.
With safety becoming a bigger part of mining, companies, often industry giants like Vale – which has had a presence in Sudbury for over a century – have bought into the company’s proximity detection system. By partnering with Schauenburg Systems, Jannatec has increased its potential client base tenfold, since it can now provide safety systems for both surface and underground applications.
Despite considerable competition in the proximity detection and collision avoidance arena, Jannatec’s system boasts many advantages, since it suits virtually any operation.
“Our future is looking really bright in terms of what we can offer,” says Burnett. “It’s just a matter of getting out there, getting those leads coming in the door, talking to people about our solutions, and showing what our product can do.”
Safety, the flexible way
Recognizing that not every mining company has the same equipment or budget, Jannatec’s proximity detection and collision avoidance systems are flexible. Collision avoidance is costly, but it doesn’t mean it has to be implemented in one fell swoop. Clients can put in a proximity detection system and slowly build on it as needed, depending on the size of their fleet, their budget and any mandated timelines set by management.
“Depending on our clients, we look at their budgets, and what their plans are,” says Burnett. “Having a long-term relationship is what we’re looking for with all our clients. There’s so much variability in what the equipment is at the mine that we are the company which can go in and say, ‘whatever you have, we can put this system on it.’”
Opening new areas
With about 95 percent of its business in mining, Jannatec’s position in the sector is secured.
Nevertheless, refusing to sit still, the company is active in other areas, including construction and industrial communications, where the activities are ideally suited to “Smart Helmet” use.
“Part of our plan for growth is to extend our vertical markets in those areas,” says Burnett, adding that the company’s industrial line of communications is a natural for factories, manufacturing plants, and other facilities where workers can talk to one another without actually being linked to any type of network.
Since the company is in the business of safety and technology, Jannatec’s senior management keep their fingers on the pulse of new developments through LinkedIn, various publications, direct discussion with communication giants like Motorola and Ericsson and more importantly, by continuing to discuss the ever-changing needs of the mining industry with their clients.
With a relatively small staff of about 22, including an R&D department that works on software and a service team performing repairs, Jannatec has diversified itself accordingly with companies bringing in 4G, 5G, and other technologies. “We are always looking at how we can change and readjust our focus to make sure we are where our clients need us to be,” says Burnett.
As for many other companies, finding qualified staff is challenging. For Jannatec, this is especially true because of its location and the unique nature of its technology. “Not a lot of people know what leaky feeder communications systems are, or how to work with them and install and maintain them, so we train people from scratch,” Burnett says.
Loyal to its Sudbury roots, Jannatec’s radio lamps and proximity detection systems are in virtually every area mine. Not limiting itself to Ontario, the company also has clients in Manitoba, Nunavut, British Columbia and Labrador’s Voisey’s Bay. No matter the location, Jannatec professionally serves all customers, big and small.
“The big key that we stress with clients is that we are not looking to get a customer for one sale. If I get you as a client, my goal is to keep you forever. I don’t want to sell something to you and just walk away next year.
“I want to plan and see what you need next year and for the next five or ten years. We help clients plan their communications and their safety.”