Using Context Aware Mobile Apps in the Oil and Gas Industry

Seems like anywhere you turn, you’ll hear someone talking about how contextual awareness is the future of technology...or depending on the groups of people you hang out with, maybe you haven’t heard yet? Well, context aware mobile applications and beacons will make a major impact on how people do business now and in the future. Many conversations are happening around beacons (or iBeacons) and retail. Even though some may be concerned with privacy, “77% of consumers said they would be willing to share their smartphone location data as long as they received enough value in return” according to a study conducted by Swirl Networks. Beyond retail though, there are many uses for iBeacon technology and context aware mobile applications in other industries such as the oil and gas industry. Context aware mobile applications can be used to increase efficiency, manage resources better, and decrease the time to respond to incidents and accidents.

So how would a context aware mobile app work in the field for an oil and gas company?

To understand how a context aware mobile app could work in the field, you’ll need a scenario.

Scenario 1:

It’s an early morning out on the oil fields of Texas. John, the lead lease operator, is driving into work for the morning meeting with his team when his phone buzzes. John pulls over and views a push notification of a critical alarm at one of his crew’s wells. John then opens his mobile field management app to view details of the alarm. In this case, time is of the essence and he needs to get a lease operator from his crew to the well as soon as possible.

John navigates to the mapping function of his app and sees where all of his team members are currently located, as well as the location of the problem well. He sees that Terry, a new team member, is also currently driving in and closest to the well. John forwards the alarm to Terry along with notes on how to resolve the issue.

Terry receives the alert and uses his mobile application to navigate to the well site. John is automatically notified of Terry’s arrival once Terry enters the geo-fenced region around the well. Terry is an experienced lease operator, but has never worked on this specific well site before. To find the specific piece of equipment that needs service, Terry turns on the Augmented Reality (AR) function of his mobile app. Using data from a combination of GIS, geofence, and triangulation from beacons placed on the well site, the mobile app overlays physical reality as viewed through the camera with the name and relevant sensor data from the equipment. Using AR, Terry identifies the malfunctioning equipment without needing to call for help and is able to complete the fix. Once the fix is completed, Terry clears the alarm from his mobile device.

Terry then continues on his daily route, with his arrival and departure at each well automatically recorded by his mobile device and synchronized back to a central hub for later analysis. Meanwhile, John is able to use data reported from the mobile devices to track his team through the day and forward tasks and instructions as required. In addition, John is able to optimize route planning and save time.

Scenario 2:

Are you transporting water and/or other materials to an oil field? Well, a context aware mobile application can work in this scenario as well. Managers can track all trucks with a mobile app and receive alerts with information on when trucks will arrive at the sites. For example, Bob is a truck driver that has to drive from Oklahoma City, OK to Dallas, TX. A manager in Dallas is awaiting his arrival. As Bob drives past certain markers in his journey, the manager receives alerts on a mobile app. Once the truck passes the last marker, which is located about 10 miles away from the manager’s location, the manager receives an alert. The manager then uses this information to notify others of the truck’s imminent arrival. The crew prepares the area for the truck and is ready to go just as the truck arrives. Just in case a truck happens to get lost or needs to find another route because of heavy traffic due to an accident, drivers can easily get another route suggestion from the iPad mounted on the dashboard of the truck. The truck driver can easily communicate with the iPad app by voice. This can really help the supply chain and workflow by facilitating in the transportation of crude oil and natural gas liquids.

Managers can also use information from a driver’s mobile logs to record how many miles have been traveled, the average speed of the truck, its location, and any repairs that have been done to the truck. This information can be extremely helpful for executives because it allows them to better manage all their trucks and optimize routes. With the data collected, managers can figure out if drivers need to be retrained or if trucks need to be repaired.

There are additional scenarios where contextual awareness and mobile can have a positive impact on the oil and gas industry. Hopefully, those two scenarios helped you understand a bit more about how context aware mobile applications can make a difference in industries outside of retail.

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