Digital Forms, Mobile Apps, IoT, Data Analytics, and Machine Learning in the Oil and Gas Industry

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cody Cupp, CEO of the UNEE Group based in Houston, Texas. UNEE focuses on Digital Transformation. We discussed how Petrochemical, O&G, and Energy customers are undertaking Digital Transformation, and this blog shares with all of you Cody’s insights that he has gleaned from actual customer implementations.

These industries focus on Minimizing Risk, Increasing Safety for Resources, Optimizing the Workforce, and Operational Excellence. In order to achieve these objectives here is what O&G companies are deploying:

Digital Forms: O&G firms have a great number of paper-based forms they have to fill. These are related to Environmental, Health, and Safety (ESH). They are now converting these forms to Digital, collecting data on mobile devices, and integrating that data with back end systems directly. These forms work offline and are dynamic. From a User perspective, filling a complex multi-page form is far easier on a tablet than on paper. It leads to better data quality also.

Mobile Apps: Customers are also deploying mobile apps in the Field for Data Collection. Both smartphones and tablets are being used for this. Again, these apps work offline and can send data to backend systems directly. Readings for meters, Inspections, and Work Orders can all be managed via mobile apps instead of filling the paper.

Internet of Things (IoT): Companies are deploying smart sensors, smart meters, and smart cameras on assets to collect data more frequently and accurately. For example, Utilities data is being captured by Smart/Digital meters that can help analyze utilities usage. The data from the Smart meters is fed into an IoT Gateway that consolidates all the information in a backend Utility Management System. This allows for better chargeback of utility consumption to customers thus increasing revenues. It also enhances Customer Service at the same time. Also through Smart Cameras, clients are looking at ways to reduce the risk that can identify leaks in real time by analytics assisted image analysis.  This can increase safety significantly.

Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence: With advancements in data science, computing, and data integration platforms, customers can now leverage these digital transformation toolkits to optimize their business. Leveraging business intelligence, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, these industries have many options for driving costs down through the reduction of operational bottlenecks, asset management, and supply chain optimization. On the top line, these same technologies can be used to optimize assets to find new revenue streams, increase customer satisfaction, and provide overall business transformation into leaner, more agile enterprises.

Business Benefits:

Increase in Revenues, Reduced Costs, Enhanced Safety, and Superior Customer Service are being experienced by customers who have gone Digital in O&G.

Lessons Learned:

There are various points that need to be kept in mind:

  • Data Quality: At the beginning, one should define how the data should look. Various departments like Operations, Maintenance, and Customer Service have their own views of the data. Your data governance models should be able to support these varying views even if the data sources are the same.
  • Understand Your End User: The focus should be on answering the business question and truly understanding the stakeholder(s) process.
  • Quick Wins: Projects with a Quick Win should be selected initially to generate momentum.
  • High Priority: Tackle the Business Problem that is the most important.

As always, please share your feedback or related ideas you may have by writing to us at

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Upcoming Days in the Life of an Internet of Things “Connected Sensor”

I am a sensor, a device that senses the environment. Humans first made me to enhance their industrial operations, and now I gather, my species can help them monitor their health too. My host is a machine called a turbine, and my particular DNA enables me to detect vibrations in my host. I was born in Taiwan and shipped to Houston, Texas as an infant. Maintenance folks every so often visit me, inspect my readings, and record them on a paper form. Or at least that is how they used to. Nowadays, they whip out their iPads with a flourish and use mobile applications leveraging Mobile Application Development Platforms. But, I hear from analysts that all that is about to change. Technicians will not visit me to inspect my host-instead, I will send data to them. For, we have arrived at a momentous event—the Internet of Things (IoT) is here. I am told that the IoT will connect Machines to Machines (M2M) and things to humans, and everything to everything.

I for one, am confused. For decades, I led a lonely life isolated on the shop floor with only the occasional visit from the Maintenance Technician. Now, in one fell swoop, I am going to be connected to what they call the Internet. Others say that I am going to talk to the cloud. I will be sending vibration data about my host—not plain old data but Big Data. This Big Data will be analyzed in real time using frameworks like Hadoop. All this vibration data analytics will actually help keep my host healthier and enable humans to run their industries better. But, I feel like Brutus, in that I have betrayed my turbine host, by sending data every minute without permission. Is there no data privacy for machines?

The other day, some reputed consultants had come over to “Connect” me. They were repeating a mantra incessantly—what I could decipher was Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (SMAC). I felt like “smacking” them on their faces. “Bluetooth Low Energy” will make it feasible for me and my brethren to be connected in droves of billions—in fact over 50 Billion things will be connected within 6 years. I am anti-social and do not want to be connected. Just because humans have replaced reading on Facebook, doesn’t give them the right to impose this state of “always on” on me. I like my quiet time.

In any case, my turbine host will also not be spared. Augmented Reality will be used to perform better maintenance on her. Our technician visitors will come armed with Wearables when they come to repair us—novel looking Google Glasses and fashionable smartwatches powered by Android Wear. Beacons may be deployed on the manufacturing floor, I hear to deliver contextual data.

I guess I am being a spoilt sport. Rooted in the past. Isn’t progress the purpose of life—even for a lowly sensor and a turbine? Are Cars not being connected too? Are Homes not being Nested? So, I am going to embrace this brave new world. I say, usher in the era of the Internet of Things.

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