I recently attended the Oil and Gas Mobility Summit in London. I thoroughly recommend attending this event if you are looking to meet other professionals in the Oil and Gas industry engaged in rolling out a mobility strategy, and if you want access to industry experts with up to date intelligence on the latest trends and topics.
The event was vendor agnostic and, indeed, covered a wide range of topics from mobile strategy and business case, through to latest advances in high throughput satellites. My personal interest was in where and how these topics would be pertinent to my customers in the Oil and Gas sector, all of whom have SAP at the core of their IT landscape.
Internet of Things
There was a lot of excitement about IoT and various scenarios pertinent to Oil and Gas were discussed. Large numbers of sensors on remote assets such as offshore oil platforms or pipe networks providing constant digital updates will certainly improve asset management productivity by cutting out manually intensive tasks, and give a quicker indication when things are about to go wrong.
Taking this a step further, the ability to use this digital sensor data along with the right predictive algorithms will enable Oil and Gas companies to predict when machinery is going to break, and take preventative steps in advance. The impact on reducing Shut Down costs in upstream oil and gas could be significant. Finally, from a downstream perspective, the data available from the advances in creating the “connected car” could be used to drive efficiencies through the supply value chain.
There are two common elements to this trend – one is the vast amount data created by the IoT, the other is having the computational power to do something meaningful with it. Here, SAP’s HANA platform is the key to unlocking this, given its following strengths:
Its ability to store and perform fast complex calculations on very large datasets is well documented
Its ability to replicate source data sets in near real time will, for example, enable it to keep data sourced from, for example, SAP Enterprise Asset Management up to date
The predictive algorithms it has at its disposal will support the statistical analyses necessary.
SAP announced its IoT platform just last week at SAPPHIRE in Orlando (see here for the press release). The platform is based on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform and is called “HCP for the IoT”. Interestingly, SAP announced that Seimens has chosen this platform to develop its Seimens Cloud for Industry IoT solution and, for me, this is relevant as a key challenge of IoT is enabling connectivity to the myriad devices that you might want to communicated with; by teaming up with one of the largest manufacturer of industrial devices, I believe that SAP has made a significant dent in this mammoth task.
The potential for wearable technology to improve performance and reduce risk of personnel maintaining assets in hazardous environments was discussed. Of particular interest was the development of hard helmets (e.g. the Daqri Smart Helmet) that can provide context sensitive augmented reality pertaining to the asset being maintained, thus freeing up hands from holding mobile devices and enabling them to hold on to ladders and handrails instead.
Combined with the IoT, these same helmets can be used to project an augmented reality image of a sensor dial without having to be near enough to that sensor to physically read it (or read the physical it). Manuals and diagrams pertaining to the asset under scrutiny can be presented to the wearer, and inbuilt cameras can be used to beam back images to remote “experts”, reducing the need for onsite presence. One key challenge of wearables in Oil and Gas is the need, in circumstances involving hazardous gases or liquids, for wearable devices to be intrinsically safe.
In terms of SAP offerings pertinent to Oil and Gas, the SAP AR Service Technician delivers integration between the SAP Work Manager mobile app and a smart glasses device. This supports not only augmented reality visualisation, but also voice activated command, recording and recall of voice notes, and the ability to beam back video images from the glasses to an “over the shoulder expert”.
Presenters at the conference remarked that the early days of mobility had seen most organisations deliver many mobile solutions in an inconsistent fashion. Each solution was developed as a point solution, often by business divisions operating independently from central IT, but with the anticipation that central IT would ultimately take on responsibility for supporting it. This had created a problem in many organisations where the disorganised plethora of mobile solutions attracted a high cost of maintenance/ support, and a represented a risk to certain business critical processes. This has been exacerbated when considering the trend towards organisations adopting BYOD, and therefore the need to support compatibility with a range of devices.
The trend now, in recognition of this, is to move towards consolidating these independent mobile solutions onto corporate mobile platforms that reduce TCO through driving consistency. The important features of a platform that underpin this are that it must be able to:
- Manage devices, users and the applications that are installed on them, catering for BYOD scenarios as well as corporately owned devices
- Act as middleware and communicate multiple heterogeneous systems to expose them as simple services that can be consumed by mobile applications respecting the need for fast roundtrips
- Support various applications that are either online, offline or occasionally connected
- Provide security through user authentication and encryption of data passed over a network.
The SAP Mobile Platform delivers these features and, for my SAP-focused customers, it will be the first choice for a mobile platform. Particularly in Oil and Gas, the existing Syclo applications will be supported on this platform going forwards. Additionally, the platform is a pre-requisite to support Fiori applications where offline capability is required.
Coming away from the Oil and Gas Mobility Conference, I was encouraged to know that SAP is focusing on the latest trends and innovations in the area of mobility. There is recognition there that what is required is a robust platform to support these new technologies, and in an integrated way that will, for example, enable a dial on an oil rig to integrate seamlessly with its representation in the organisation’s SAP EAM solution. That platform is all based on SAP HANA bringing with it not only integration, but capabilities such as predictive analytics, consumer grade UX, telematics and geo-location. I am excited to see how this develops and is adopted by my customers in the months and years to come.