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Creating the future of oil & gas with intrinsically safe wearable computers

Author : RealWear

29 January 2020

For each day that a typical 200,000-barrel-a-day refinery goes offline, that’s close to $12 million USD in lost revenue. That’s $12 million USD lost for every day your frontline workers have to wait for an expert to learn about the situation, travel to the site, and complete the fix. It doesn’t have to be this way.

With hands-free wearable computers, take pictures with a simple voice command
With hands-free wearable computers, take pictures with a simple voice command

(Click here to view article in digital edition)

An increasing number of oil and gas (O&G) majors are minimising downtime and boosting profitability through the use of carefully chosen “enterprise-ready” wearables. These purpose-built solutions have been shown to improve productivity while maintaining situational awareness, including some that are certified for ATEX and IECEx zones.

For example, Saudi Aramco found that wearable technologies can contribute to a 70% increase in safety compliance and a 10% improvement in productivity. In this article we’ll review several typical use cases for purpose-built wearables in O&G, and how 21st century technicians might benefit from these devices. 

Visual Assist

Inspections and audits are a fact of life in the O&G industry. But how can your workers take pictures and video while maintaining situational awareness? Equip them with voice-operated and hands-free rugged wearable computers approved for use in highly restricted zones. For example, when using RealWear’s intrinsically safe HMT-1Z1, a worker can simply say, “Take Photo,” to capture high-res images when performing routine safety checks, equipment inspections, and to confirm timely repairs.

Workers who use these wearable computers can also take full HD video with another simple command, “Record Video.” The whole process is 100% hands-free, so workers don’t get distracted. This makes audits and inspections easier and faster.

But sometimes pictures and video aren’t enough. If there’s an emergency repair, your on-site team might need to share pictures and video with an expert at the home base and that expert might be thousands of miles away. In these situations, O&G workers need more than a Visual Assist, they need a Remote Mentor.

Remote Mentor

Many O&G technicians work in extremely isolated locations. And when equipment breaks down, sometimes they don’t have the skills to fix it. In this case, the typical solution looks like this:

1. Workers halt production.

2. Expert spends hours or days travelling to the site.

3. Expert completes repairs in minutes or hours.

4. Full production restored.

5. Expert returns to home base to await the next emergency shutdown.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. Frontline workers can use Remote Mentor solutions to connect with subject matter experts from anywhere. Remote experts can see what the operators see, hear what they hear, and provide real-time guidance. And when each day offline can cost millions of dollars in lost production, every minute counts.

If your frontline workers had rugged hands-free computers, what would this look like?

Imagine an inexperienced wellhead tech, Luke, and he’s inspecting equipment on a rig in the Mariner field 95 miles east of Shetland in the North Sea. Luke identifies a major vibration that he doesn’t recognise, and he needs a second opinion. Luke initiates a Remote Mentor video call with Bill, his rotating equipment expert out of the company’s Amsterdam office.

Luke: “I’ve got this sensor that’s telling me there’s a problem with the assembly. Can you see what I’m looking at?”

Bill: “OK, I can see the part you’re referring to. Can you let me hear the machine?”

Luke: “Got it. Switching to Noise Capture mode now.”

Bill: “Yeah, I hear it. It’s a problem with the second stage bearing. Submit a work order in Maximo. We need to take care of this immediately.”

Digital Workflows improve productivity and help maintain situational awareness
Digital Workflows improve productivity and help maintain situational awareness

Previously, Bill would have had to travel to the rig and identify the problem first-hand. Now, frontline workers and remote experts can collaborate in real-time to fix problems quickly and reduce unplanned downtime.

And that’s exactly what Shell is seeing right now. In early 2019, Honeywell helped Shell deploy the HMT-1Z1 to 24 operational sites across 12 countries. Shell’s Digital Realities Leader, Michael Kaldenbach, explained: “In the past, we would have to actually fly people over in order to resolve issues. In this case, it’s nothing more than a phone-call away. We can still offer the same level of support or even better, using this kind of augmented reality. We’ve significantly reduced the cost of travel. But at the same time, we’re quicker in resolving issues that might contribute to leaks or spills.”

McKinsey estimates improving productivity by 10% can mean savings of $220 million USD to $260 million USD just for one site. Based on all of this, Remote Mentor solutions deserve a closer look.

However, what happens if it takes more than a video conference call to fix the problem? What if the remote expert needs to share a document with the frontline worker? This is where Remote Mentor meets Document Navigator.

Document Navigator

If we take the Luke and Bill example again, but imagine that this time Bill wants to give Luke a bit more information.

Bill: “Thanks for submitting that work order. Now, I’m going to send you the manual for this assembly so you can identify these issues in the future.”

Luke: “OK, what do I need to do?”

Bill: “I just shared it, check notifications.”

Luke: “Ok, got it.”

Bill: “Now, whenever you have issues with this assembly, refer to the schematics here.”

It’s hard to provide global teams with up-to-date paper manuals on a regular basis. And even if these paper manuals are always current, what are the chances workers will have them nearby when they need them?

With Document Navigator, workers can get just-in-time training right when they need it. They don’t need to worry about stopping their work to grab a binder from a locker on the other side of the rig. If they want to check a job, all they have to say is, “Open Manual,” “Page 23,” “Zoom Level 4.”

Technicians can use Document Navigator during inspections, safety checks, and anytime they need to verify equipment status. Now, workers like Luke don’t have to choose between carrying a manual and staying aware of their surroundings. They can keep their hands free and eyes forward at all times.

After a worker talks with a Remote Mentor and examines schematics with Document Navigator, how do they address that issue when it comes up again? This is where checklists can help in the form of Digital Workflows.

Digital Workflow

Jack has just arrived on Luke’s rig. Jack got the work order Luke submitted, and now he’s ready to fix the assembly so it doesn’t deteriorate. Jack simply says, “My Programs,” then opens a Digital Workflow application. This solution will show him how to complete the fix step-by-step. 

Jack has two years of experience working with equipment like this, but he doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. If he doesn’t fix this second stage bearing right now, that means another technician will have to deal with it later. They might even need to halt production, both of which Jack would like to avoid.

Once Jack completes each part of the repair, he can proceed to the next step in the Digital Workflow. Each step includes areas where he can dictate notes and attach images from the camera on his rugged wearable computer. This way, Jack’s Operations Manager back at the home base can get valuable context and monitor his work.

Schlumberger is already seeing the benefits of rugged wearable computers. They chose Ubimax connected worker solutions for some of their quality and compliance inspections. David Redding, Digital Innovation Manager at Schlumberger, shared the following observation at the RealWear Summit in May 2019: “I almost think of this as hands-free YouTube. The guys are actually able to watch a video of building something, whether it’s manufacturing or maintenance, and they can see that real-time on the device, completely hands-free. And of course, HSE is a big one for us, so now we’re moving from something hand-held to hands-free. So not having to take off our gloves to do the maintenance.

Workers can analyse real-time machine health with the IIoT Visualisation
Workers can analyse real-time machine health with the IIoT Visualisation

“And also, quality and compliance. We’re not missing steps, we’re not missing part of the process. So now we can systematically force them to do checks, in the manner we want to do them. But the big one that we saw was the efficiency. From the maintenance side we saw a 33% efficiency gain. And we can translate this into financial dollars internally, and that’s going from the hand-held to the hands-free.”

It only takes a few minutes to build a Digital Workflow, but these solutions can reveal a tremendous amount of previously hidden information which could prove invaluable for O&G executives and data scientists:

• “How long does it take our workers to advance from one step to the next in a Digital Workflow?”

• “We want to evaluate our technicians’ performance across different sites. How well do technicians on this rig complete repairs on Digital Workflows compared to technicians on other rigs in different parts of the world?”

• “How long does it take experienced workers to complete this task vs new hires?”

The O&G industry is currently facing a skills crisis. Companies need ways to make up the skills shortage as experienced workers retire, and Digital Workflows are one way forward. When technicians use Digital Workflows, they can complete repairs more quickly and accurately the first time. And this will also improve workers’ situational awareness, since they can now keep their hands free and devote their full attention to each step on the checklist. With hands-free wearable computers, workers like Jack, Luke, and Bill have a better way to do work more quickly and smartly.

But there’s an additional area where wearable devices can have a major impact on worker productivity. Technicians can use these rugged wearable computers to analyse machine data from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). 

IIoT Visualisation

O&G companies that learn how to harness IIoT data will see higher profits and increased productivity. But if that data is siloed, that won’t help technicians who deal with machinery every day. How do you package IIoT data in a meaningful way for your frontline workers?

IIoT Visualisation solutions allow technicians like Jack and Luke to examine IIoT data for the right machinery right when they need it. With just a few simple voice commands, frontline workers can analyse machine health and take appropriate action.

Savvy O&G companies can use IIoT data to improve the bottom line:

• Reduce the number of times a worker has to go on site for a fix.

• Decrease the number of workers that have to show up for that fix

• Limit the number of repeat visits to fix a specific issue. 

This is what the connected workforce will look like in the future. Machines will freely share IIoT data with O&G workers, and workers will have an easy way to visualise that data. From there, technicians will be able to take appropriate action, extending machine life and reducing the cost of repairs. This type of human + machine collaboration will improve productivity and keep workers out of harm’s way.


Enterprise wearables promise to revolutionise the O&G workforce. Devices like these can transform how data is collected, how work is completed, and the performance of entire facilities. Intrinsically safe wearable computers can improve worker productivity and preserve their situational awareness at the same time, without compromises. Now it’s no longer a question of if industrial wearables can deliver a solid Return on Investment, but how much.

About the author:

RealWear develops rugged enterprise wearable computers for Oil & Gas, Petrochemicals, and other industries where safety is non-negotiable. Founded in 2016, RealWear has achieved global recognition through its focus on safety, security, and stability. Learn more at

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