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Is the North Sea workforce ready for wearables?

Wearable technologies in oil and gas can boost productivity and safety. But where to start?

Luca Corradi is the Managing Director for Accenture in Aberdeen. He talks with us about how the use of wearable technologies in the North Sea can make “futuristic possibilities” a reality today.

What are the key challenges wearable technologies can help North Sea operators address?
Taking advantage of wearables can radically lower an operator’s cost profile. That’s because the levels of productivity and efficiency are enhanced. That’s what we call augmentation of physical processes. Take, for example, a helmet camera. Offshore workers can work with an onshore specialist by looking over their shoulder, reducing the need –– and cost –– of having specialists available offshore all the time. This is even more important with the oil price at the current low levels.

Other applications of wearable technologies include augmenting the cognitive process of offshore workers. Bringing them data and information to support decisions on the spot increases the speed of intervention and reduces complexity.

What are the biggest factors preventing oil and gas companies from investing in new technologies?
Cash is limited right now and used to keep basic activities going. There’s little to invest in new technologies, even if they have a positive business case. The second reason is culture. Given that safety is so important, a conservative approach is favored to a radical change in working practices. Yet operators recognize there is an opportunity to learn from other industries now.

But what’s really preventing investment is the question of: Where to start? After all, wearable technology is a component of cloud, analytics, and mobility. It’s so much more than a camera; there is much more context. It is imperative to start with a vision and focus on the use cases that deliver the most benefits.

Where could wearables have the most impact for North Sea companies?
Safety is always a good place to start. Wearables with sensors can monitor the overall health and fatigue of a worker which can prevent incidents and monitor the location of personnel in the facility, so you know where everyone is at all times. This real-time information can be crucial in case of an emergency or evacuation.

Productivity is another area. Imagine conducting maintenance activities with a tablet device, heads up display, or camera-mounted helmet giving you instant access to specialized procedures and instructions.

When the job is done, the permit system can be updated in real time on the spot, with pictures taken of the completed work, instead of waiting for the worker go back to the office. So safety, productivity, and access to real-time information could be the biggest impacts.

In 10-15 years, which technologies do you predict every oil and gas company will using?
Automation. The combination of increasing computing power and storage (now enabled by the cloud) and the advances in robotics will result in increased automation. As designs are made in 3D computer aided design systems, the robotics element can help keep these designs up-to-date at every second and right down to the smallest change, while executing work. This will also help the onshore centralized team have a very accurate visual map of the field.

On the employment side, operators will require more data scientists to develop algorithms onshore versus manual labor offshore. This is important to note as the industry’s workforce goes through a massive shift.

And finally, a Centre of Excellence for Aberdeen companies to help leverage the high skill levels in the area across other regions could be a key mechanism to enable business growth.

For more insights from Luca on wearable technologies, see his recent Press & Journal article.

“You need to start with the vision, develop the use cases—and you need to see the benefits quickly.”

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Luca Corradi, Managing Director, Energy Accenture

Luca is a Managing Director in the Accenture Energy industry group. He leads oil and gas and oilfield services work in Scotland and heads up Accenture’s Aberdeen-based office. Luca brings twenty years of experience in designing and leading change management projects of which fifteen years have been in the oil and gas industry supporting energy clients globally.

Luca also leads the Accenture Global Energy Hub network, thirty Energy communities around the world connecting Accenture energy professionals and helping to drive the collaboration and capability development agenda.

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