Augmented reality (AR) is having a transformative impact on the oil industry, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is playing an evolving role in managing critical asset malfunctions and breakdowns on remote sites while assisting in maintaining social distancing through audio/visual-based virtual communication.
The oil industry is asset-intensive, and downtime presents major challenges. Whether on land, offshore or in deep water, remote and oftentimes hostile locations make managing assets logistically complicated. Keeping qualified staff is harder, and downtime is costly and can develop into HSEQ issues.
Energy companies strive to mitigate issues with scheduled maintenance for critical assets and reactive attention for noncritical assets, but assets and sites are not created equal. Variances in operational processes, environmental conditions and locations create unique situations for each site. More importantly, maintenance is only one portion of management.
Stepping boldly toward a new era, the industry has taken advancements further by assigning repetitive labor to technology, which allocates more time for business analysis and improvement, leading the way to modern predictive maintenance approaches made possible by the Internet of Things. Smart connected assets, condition monitoring sensors and software, and advanced data analytics platforms and solutions provide significant business value for industry operators.
In continuing to find innovative ways to capitalize on new technologies, the oil industry is adopting AR for asset management.
Sodexo Energy & Resources has released Remote Technical Assistance Powered By Smart Glasses, an AR technology that incorporates assisted reality, dynamic workflow management and online scheduling. It creates a situation where it can seamlessly connect onsite technicians via head-mounted technologies to its team of experts from a knowledge hub. The technician is guided remotely and in real time by the relevant expert to resolve the issue, thereby eliminating the need for travel and ensuring faster turnaround times for service requests.
The smart glasses provide an immersive experience for the user. While wearing the assisted reality smart glasses, the onsite technician can send, receive, or open and view documents on the glasses. The wearable technology provides a direct “you-see-what-I-see” link to the expert from the knowledge hub, who can then remotely guide the onsite technician to perform intricate tasks by accurately guiding them through each step of their work. The experts, at their end, are able to screenshot and zoom in on problem areas and can share schematics or drawings with live annotations where required.
Often at remote sites, there are general technicians present, but they are not specialized and/or accredited to work on more complex systems. For example, air conditioning is essential on remote sites, and losing it for an extended period of time can be detrimental to the quality of life for employees on site. There is typically an HVAC technician on site, but they are not qualified to work on roof air exchange units. Many times, it takes several days for a specialized technician to reach the site. In this scenario, a virtually available specialist can help diagnose and troubleshoot issues. Often with spare parts on site, the issue can be fixed without a technician ever having to travel the site.
Another example where AR is applicable for remote sites is wastewater treatment plants. Issues with treatment plants have the potential to close an entire camp should critical parts stop functioning. AR glasses allow specialized technicians the ability to dial in and assist.
The Remote Technical Assistance Powered By Smart Glasses provides benefits for facilities management onshore as well, particularly with sites across multiple states and varying regulations. A cost-efficient centralized team can perform the initial diagnosis and guide the onsite team to fix issues. If greater onsite expertise is required, the appropriate state-accredited subject matter expert can be called in when required.
The smart glasses technology was developed with feature-rich commercial off-the-shelf Realware glasses and AMA’s XpertEye remote assistance software, both of which satisfy energy industry needs.
The Realware glasses operate on Android 8.1.0 and the WearHF hands-free interface with a 2.0 GHz 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 chipset with Adreno 506 GPU (OpenGL ES 3.1 & OpenCL 2.0). They have 16 GB of internal storage, 2 GB RAM and a MicroSD slot that supports a maximum 256 GB card. They are Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled, and they come with a 3,250 mAh Li-Ion rechargeable, field swappable battery. The glasses weigh 380 g and are ruggedized IP66, MIL-STD-810G, 2-m drop tested. The boom arm adjusts six ways for all head sizes and are left or right eye compatible. The display flips out of the way when not in use. The display has a 20-degree field of view, 1-m fixed focus 24-bit color LCD, 0.33-inch diagonal, outdoor visible, and WVGA (854×480) resolution. The glasses also have four digital microphones with active noise cancellation, accurate voice recognition even in 95 dBA of typical industrial noise and an internal 91 dB loudspeaker. The camera has 16-MP four-axis optical image stabilization, phase detection auto-focus with an LED flashlight and the capacity to video 1080p at 30 frames per second.
The AMA XpertEye browser-based technology provides seamless remote assistance with smart glasses, a dedicated smartphone and external video sources. The combined product set provides energy customers with advanced telepresence using AR-capable smart glasses to share the view of a situation with another person(s) via live audio and point-of-view video. With this technology, companies can augment any skill gaps, reduce downtown, save travel time and realize ancillary benefits like reduced training time and a lower carbon footprint.
Because of the nature of the work, energy companies cannot take advantage of an entirely remote workforce afforded other types of businesses. The challenge of keeping remote camps and offshore platforms free of COVID-19 has presented significant challenges to producers. Remote Technical Assistance Powered By Smart Glasses can assist by reducing the number of potential exposures.
In the “Oil and Gas after COVID-19” article, McKinsey & Co. reported that the industry will continue to scale up technology, taking inspiration from some of the new approaches that have emerged from this pandemic. They believe it will be the catalyst to rethink the size and role of the functional teams, field crews and management processes needed to run an efficient oil and gas company.
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