The oil & gas industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need to improve operational efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance safety, and growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, automation, and big data. In the last three years alone, there have been over 523,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in oil & gas: underwater robots. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

60+ innovations will shape the oil & gas industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the oil & gas industry using innovation intensity models built on over 196,000 patents, there are 60+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, intelligent predictive maintenance, gas pipeline network monitoring, and smart oil & gas wells are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Oil well surveillance, embedded controllers, and FCEV fuel monitoring are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas is inspection robots, which is now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the oil & gas industry

Underwater robots is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Underwater robots, also known as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), are robotic devices designed to operate underwater without the need for human intervention. These robots are equipped with sensors, propellers, and mechanical systems that enable them to navigate underwater environments and perform tasks such as inspection, surveying, data collection, maintenance, and exploration. Underwater robots can be either remotely controlled or operate autonomously, making them valuable tools for a wide range of applications in the marine industry, scientific research, and environmental monitoring.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 70+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of underwater robots.

Key players in underwater robots – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.  

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to underwater robots

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
HADAL 43 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 36 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 32 Unlock Company Profile
Boeing 24 Unlock Company Profile
Eni 22 Unlock Company Profile
Kongsberg Gruppen 14 Unlock Company Profile
Uni-President China 12 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 10 Unlock Company Profile
DeepOcean Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Naval Group 10 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Heavy Industries 9 Unlock Company Profile
Kawasaki Heavy Industries 8 Unlock Company Profile
LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton 8 Unlock Company Profile
Oceaneering International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Kitakyushu Foundation For The Advancement of Industry Science and Technology 7 Unlock Company Profile
ABB 7 Unlock Company Profile
Alcon 7 Unlock Company Profile
ThyssenKrupp 7 Unlock Company Profile
Juliet Marine Systems 6 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 6 Unlock Company Profile
International Business Machines 6 Unlock Company Profile
Fujifilm 5 Unlock Company Profile
BAE Systems 5 Unlock Company Profile
Saab 5 Unlock Company Profile
Cerberus Capital Management 5 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 4 Unlock Company Profile
TechnipFMC 4 Unlock Company Profile
Lockheed Martin 4 Unlock Company Profile
Ocean Infinity 4 Unlock Company Profile
Prodrone 4 Unlock Company Profile
Foro Energy 4 Unlock Company Profile
Equinor 4 Unlock Company Profile
Ebara 4 Unlock Company Profile
SoftBank Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Airo 3 Unlock Company Profile
Petroleo Brasileiro 3 Unlock Company Profile
CGG 3 Unlock Company Profile
LG 3 Unlock Company Profile
Samsung Group 3 Unlock Company Profile
State Grid Corporation of China 3 Unlock Company Profile
L3Harris Technologies 3 Unlock Company Profile
Yueqing Huazun Electric 3 Unlock Company Profile
DeepOcean 3 Unlock Company Profile
CRRC Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
ThayerMahan 2 Unlock Company Profile
SparkCognition 2 Unlock Company Profile
Jinling Inst Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Guangzhou Bureau Of Extra High Voltage Transmission Company Of China Southern Power Grid 2 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 2 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Saudi Arabian Oil is one of the leading patent filers in underwater robots. The company uses the Shallow Water Inspection and Monitoring Robot (SWIM-R) for a variety of applications in the oil & gas industry, such as for inspection of shallow water pipelines. The robot helps to inspect pipelines in shallow waters in order to reduce cost and time, while improving safety and efficiency. Some other key patent filers in IoT-enabled underwater robots include HADAL and Halliburton.

In terms of application diversity, Samsung Group leads the pack, while LG and IBM stood in the second and third positions, respectively.

By means of geographic reach, HADAL held the top position, followed by Eni and DeepOcean Group.

Adopting underwater robotics technology to increase productivity and safety is increasing rapidly and many companies are coming forward to accelerate this IoT-enabled transformation for underwater operations.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the oil & gas industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things in Oil & Gas.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.