Most of us over the last few years have at one point (openly, or secretly on Google), asked the question, “What is IoT?”. The explanations have often involved something to do with coffee makers, refrigerators, or other home appliances. While these are simple ways to explain the concept, they’re also not representative of the intent or capability of IoT.
Heavy industries, like oil & gas, have been experimenting with IoT in past years in an increasingly meaningful way. The most commonly used examples are applications involving pipeline sensors, and heavy equipment preventative maintenance. Through the downturn in the Calgary economy it’s become clear which businesses are looking forward, and which are operating only in a moment-by-moment survival mentality. The common reactions that we’re all familiar with to the boom and bust cycle of the energy world are cutbacks in capital expenditure, and layoffs. What have the corporations been doing that have put a different spin on the latest economic downturn? They’ve been looking for, & finding, ways to increase efficiencies to mitigate the need to downsize with traditional methods.
How has IoT helped with increasing efficiency and saving money at a time where it may seem risky to be investing in new technology?
Broadly speaking, there are two categories that IoT within oil & gas impacts the most:
First – in the field.
The people closest to the equipment being used are benefited by increased performance, safety, and efficiency in maintenance. They get feedback by the second, allowing them to be more responsive, and therefore more efficient.
Second – in the office.
Those making strategic decisions are being armed with all of the data that their field teams are using in real-time, bite-size pieces – only decision makers are seeing it through the birds eye view of big data analytics. Instead of focusing only on the small snapshots formerly available, or more detailed reports that are months or years outdated by the time all the data is analysed - managers, directors, and C-level executives are getting meaningful information from pipelines, plants, & refineries faster than ever before. All with reduced latency and increased security because data is directly sent to, and stored, in the Cloud.
The result of these two pieces working together is that those corporations that have made the investment in new technology in a down economy enjoy two main benefits. They have been well-served in a down market by being able to make responsive decisions on a timeline that is meaningful to both business considerations and the welfare of employees. At the same time, they have set themselves up to be more competitive due to far greater business insight as the Calgary market gains momentum again.
So, our answer is that IoT in heavy industry is definitely here to stay – and reaches far beyond your coffee maker.