Few broad-based technology trends have created more publicity recently than the Internet of Things (IoT), a/k/a Machine-to-Machine (M2M), or sometimes called the Connected World. It’s hard to flip through a magazine or watch television these days without seeing ads for Smart Cities, Connected Vehicles and Intelligent Appliances.
The world’s foremost research groups have predicted that by 2020, there will be 20 billion to 50 billion connected assets worldwide. Despite these predictions, use of IoT technology is still largely in its infancy.
At Geoforce, our solutions fit squarely into the Internet of Things – as our CEO James MacLean pointed out recently in this blog post. Over the past few years, we have built the world’s largest network of connected oilfield equipment, currently tracking roughly 100,000 high value assets around the globe on six continents. But Geoforce, like our peers in the broader IoT space, has barely scratched the surface of the potential (and the imperative) of connecting field equipment.
The need to move more rapidly to connect equipment in the oilfield is reflected in many of the pressing issues that face our industry today:
- In a hyper-competitive pricing environment, there is a need to find value-added areas of differentiation and competitive advantage in order to protect market share.
- With capital expenses being dramatically cut for new exploration, it becomes crucial to increase utilization rates of existing equipment.
- The “Great Crew Change” is resulting in a rapid loss of expertise from field operations. This gray brain drain is exacerbated as senior (and sage) personnel take early retirement packages as part of downsizing at many organizations.
- The risk – and associated legal exposure – of oilfield based accidents remains ever-present, despite the industry’s strong safety focus.
- The expense of managing regulatory compliance, such as maintaining certification documentation, is ever-increasing.
Fortunately, Geoforce’s corner of the IoT world (connected field equipment) helps address each of these problems – and many others, too. Here are a few examples:
- Many companies, from equipment rental businesses to providers of portable power, are equipping their assets with GPS tracking – and then sharing the location data with their customers. They view GPS tracking as a value added service to their customers, and many of their customers are now requiring this capability for the equipment they rent.
- Other companies are attacking hoarding, over-purchasing, and other inefficiencies to reduce capital expenses with simple Track and Trace solutions.
- Data such as engine run time information from powered equipment is helping novices better manage equipment maintenance. Unlike veterans who maintain equipment based on smell, touch, and sound, even a less experienced oilfield mechanic can keep equipment maintained properly with the right data in front of him or her.
- From a safety and risk management standpoint, applications such as Driver Focused Metrics are changing the way companies monitor driving behavior, identify risky drivers and – if necessary – take corrective action.
- With no margin for error (or downtime) in this environment, there is a new emphasis on avoiding unnecessary delays caused by non-certified equipment, or equipment that hasn’t been properly maintained. Many customers are turning to compliance management solutions to quickly identify equipment that cannot or should not be in the field.
Many IoT solutions already exist today. They help make oilfield operations more efficient, safer, and drive quantifiable tangible value. The realization of that value will accelerate as our industry looks ahead and sees that the future world of billions of connected assets includes oil and gas field equipment too.