Gizmos, gadgets and funky tech… launching the industry’s first reality steering group


Jeff Hailey

Jeff Hailey

The “Digitally Enabled Worker” is a term being used more and more commonly in our industry – indeed it forms a large part of my colleagues’ roadmap in our Digital Transformation Solution Centre. When I joined the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (the OGTC) eight months ago the phrase really captured my imagination and the possibilities of what it could really mean to all of us, in all aspects, areas and environments of our working lives.

Within a few weeks of joining the organisation Offshore Europe 2019 (OE19) was upon us, and it was here an amazing showcase of technology projects were on display – a great way to get up to speed in a short space of time! It also taught me that the “Digitally Enabled Worker” means many things to many different people, so this is what I have come to believe it means to me:

We have an abundance of gizmos, gadgets and funky tech (both already available and in development) that can be used to improve safety, control, reliability, connectivity, accessibility or a combination of all these things. Many of these are truly outstanding in their own right. However, when these technologies are brought together - normally dragging a burden of data with them - into a format humans can easily interpret and understand a “Digitally-Enabled Worker” can be created. This allows for quick, informed and smart decisions to be made - an unstoppable force! And it can be applied to literally any environment or job role.

A developer company who occupied a space on the OGTC stand at OE19 really caught my attention; you might have met them there too? VISR Dynamics are a team of developers with a background in video games. They have created digital platform called VERTX – the very cutting edge of mixed reality delivery products. Even at a demo stage, showing how an offshore worker can be guided through a task hands-free was amazing to see, my limited understanding of its potential back then barely scratched the surface…

With a background in delivering modification projects offshore, I know the process intimately; the scope of the job, assess options, resourcing the required skillsets, building a schedule, costing it, scope approval, kick off, design meetings, reviews, progress calls, procurement, expediting, shipping, mobilise offshore, install, site queries, testing, sign-off, handover… blah blah blah! I wonder, even for a simple project, just how many people are involved in this process? What locations are they in? How many different types of communication are used? How accurately is the data being shared? How is it being understood?

Mixed reality (in this situation) is not just a digital instructional layer, it can be an integral part of the full process – interacting and linking with existing design, procurement, planning and logistics systems as well as the very operational plant and equipment itself. Following the project process above, mixed reality can make a big difference. Jobs sequences can be digitally built and sent offshore in seconds, designs can be explored and reviewed in a 3D world by lots of people in different physical places but the same virtual environment. When working through a task offshore, the frontline worker cannot move onto a new step until the current step is complete. System warnings can be given, alerting the worker quicker than ever before. Remote assistance can mean the length of the site query process is a thing of the past. The list goes on.
It’s great, isn’t it?
Well, yes it is – but I’m an armchair engineer, I can see how mixed reality could help in the onshore environment and would love it to deliver something amazing offshore, but I’ve never worked on the tools or experienced the conditions and tasks our offshore teams deal with. So, here’s where we have got to – we’ve shown many people the possibilities of what mixed reality technology could bring to our industry – and they found it very exciting! However, as this technology shoots along its development journey, the applications that it will ultimately be used for could be quite different to what we’re all imagining right now. This is where YOU come in…

We have just launched a major project with VISR to develop maintenance and operational tasks that a frontline worker will use - we can’t wait to see the technology being used in a real environment and start understanding the true impact it can make!

Alongside this project, the OGTC is launching the industry’s first mixed reality steering group. We are in the midst of planning right now while beginning to identify and understand what the challenges are for adopting this technology: training requirements; system interfaces; governance and procedural changes; extreme weather and system failure. Most importantly how can we ensure the technology is developed in a way that people will want to use it, fully embrace it and report back on the benefits it brings?

We want you to come along on this journey with us and help us understand and address these challenges. Interested? Get in touch here.