The role of assisted reality in the digitalisation of the oil & gas industry
By Jon Arnold, VP of Sales, RealWear, Inc.
We’ve seen significant technological advancements in recent years, including 5G, AI/ machine learning and IoT devices, all of which have played a unique role in fuelling the fourth industrial revolution – “Industry 4.0.” Such advancements are also having a profound impact on the oil & gas industry, where the automation of traditional industrial practices is driving digital transformation. As a result, we’re all seeing the vision of Digital Oil as coming to fruition. Companies now recognise digital as the only way forward. To increase production and cut costs — while honouring their growing environmental responsibilities — oil & gas companies are overhauling how they conduct maintenance, repair, and operations through their deployment of digital technologies; and this includes intrinsically safe assisted reality solutions.
Assisted reality wearables can be clipped onto a hard hat, with a head-mounted display that enables digital content to be displayed without obstructing the user’s line of sight. The technology is also hands-free, which is vital for use in an industrial setting where health and safety is paramount and a worker’s hands are required for carrying out a critical task, rather than trying to use an alternative device like a phone or tablet.
By way of example, oil & gas companies such as French Multinational TotalEnergies, National Oilwell Varco, Shell, Saudi Aramco and Schlumberger have deployed this technology as part of their routine operations. It’s easy to understand why; normally, if workers on a rig run into a problem they can’t solve, everything stops. They then wait for an expert to arrive on-site to diagnose the problem and fix it. This process may take several days, but for every hour offline, hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost in productivity. In this instance, assisted reality devices enabled workers to view step-by-step instructions for any task they encountered during a shift. They could view and complete any workflow with a few simple voice commands, and their managers could analyse their work in real-time.
In the instance of a pipeline failure, for example, natural gas companies must contact the site maintenance unit to respond immediately. Failure to solve the issue quickly will have a heavy impact on daily work and have potential security and safety risks. By using assisted reality wearables however, the dispatching centre can access real-time information for scientific decision-making and guide the technicians through emergency repairs accordingly. A wearable deployment would therefore cut downtime significantly.
In recent years, the traditionally conservative oil & gas sector has seen a push to embrace emerging technologies, including assisted reality. This push was rapidly accelerated by the pandemic however, looking beyond it, oil & gas workers always need a better way to communicate and to share information among themselves, whether they’re on the same oil rig or half a world away; given that assisted reality meets their needs safely, effortlessly, and comprehensively, it’s fair to say that the technology is here to stay. In fact, as these majors begin to shift toward sustainability using wind, wave and solar, assisted reality will play an even deeper role in our energy future.