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November 11, 2019updated 22 Jul 2020 5:33pm

Wearable technology in the oil and gas industry: Key trends revealed

Wearables are evolving into important tools in the expanding IoT landscape, driven by a combination of technological progress, on one hand, and market demand on the other.

By GlobalData Thematic Research

Some technology experts believe that wearable technology will be the next big consumer trend, with their impact similar to that of the smartphone. It remains to be seen whether wearables will demonstrate smartphone-like market influence in the coming years. However, GlobalData expects wearable technologies to have a significant impact in certain areas and industries.

Listed below are the key application areas of wearable tech in the oil and gas industry over the next two to three years, as identified by GlobalData.

Real-time monitoring and inspection

A major aspect of wearable technology is to maintain equipment and inspect signs of failure to minimise downtime. The failure of major equipment may cost millions to a company, considering production downtime and repair/replacement expenses. In case of critical issues, field technicians require expert’s help. Bringing experts from onshore offices to the offshore fields located thousands of miles away increases the overall expenses. It also takes a considerable amount of time for inspecting and repairing the equipment.

Wearable technology, such as smart glasses or smart helmet could be a useful solution for reducing time and cost of inspection and repairing of equipment by providing relevant data, schematics, maps, charts and other related information to the field engineer to conduct maintenance of the equipment. Using wireless connectivity, the field engineer can also receive expert’s guidance on a real-time basis, thereby reducing the need to have an expert available on field at all times. This could ultimately reduce the cost of maintenance while increasing productivity and uptime of the equipment.

Workforce safety and injury prevention

Minimising workplace injury is one of the most important aspects of wearable technology. In oil fields, a worker can be exposed to extreme temperatures, hazardous gases or harmful chemicals. Moreover, working around heavy machinery can make a field technician vulnerable to injuries. In these challenging work conditions, wearable technologies can be employed to assess the health of the field technicians. Similarly they can provide essential support and assistance whenever required. Wearable technologies can monitor workers’ heart rate, dehydration, and fatigue. These devices can also detect the presence of harmful gases in the surroundings and alert the worker.

Marathon Petroleum implemented Accenture Life Safety Solution across its refineries, to detect the presence of multiple hazardous gases using wearable technology. The wearable devices used in this solution are equipped with gas detection and alarm generation capabilities. They can transmit information and current health of the worker to a centralised monitoring unit on a real-time basis.

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Resource tracking

Wearable technology can be used to efficiently track the workforce during field operations. Using location-based technologies and wireless connectivity the device can feed real-time location of the worker to the onshore monitoring centre. The resource tracking service can help increase productivity. Further, in case of an emergency situation such as oil or gas leakage, resource tracking can identify a particular resource near the area and quickly deploy them for recovery from the unforeseen event.

The wearable devices can also be used for geo-fencing in oil fields or plants to keep the workers away from hazardous areas. When the device identifies a worker in close proximity to a restricted area it can send alerts to the worker as well as to the centralised monitoring system to keep the worker unharmed.

Emergency response

Wearable devices with location-based technology could help locate resources during an emergency evacuation. Using WiFi triangulation method the technology could identify the exact location of the workers and could provide the same to the centralised monitoring system. Pre-identified location of the workers could facilitate quick rescue during an emergency.

Wearable devices with motion sensors can also be used to monitor the physical movement and posture of field technicians. This is particularly useful in case of gas leakage or accidents for detecting if the technician is responsive or unconscious. By combining resource tracking with motion detection capabilities of wearable devices, companies can deploy immediate rescue measures to treat the affected personnel during emergency situations.

On the job training

Wearable devices coupled with AR/VR technology can facilitate training programmes on newly installed equipment or a newly adopted work process. Using the smart glass or smart helmet the workers could receive on-the-job training from remotely located experts. This would reduce the cost of organising training programmes. Over-the-shoulder trainings could help workers learn during the job while eliminating the need to travel to the training centres.

Transportation of workforce

Transporting the workforce from onshore location to offshore rig is one of the major activities where utmost safety needs to be in place. In order to make a safe landing in a harsh offshore environment, helmet-mounted display is becoming essential for the pilots over the years. Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS) provides situational awareness to the pilot even in low-visibility conditions.

This is an edited extract from the Wearable Tech in Oil & Gas – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.

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