Kick-start your digital journey in oil and gas by focusing on the ‘Edge’

My opinion is that if we choose the correct combination of technology, partner and product we can really make a difference and quickly.

There are so many new trends out there around software development, but how do you convince your manager to make these changes? You figure out a plan that gets results from day one. Where to start? With all the possible options ranging from machine learning, blockchain and cloud platforms, making the right decision upfront can be a daunting task. There is nothing more beneficial in technology than to start using it and learn how you can really derive gain from it. To make this possible, the solutions must be flexible and modular allowing for specific use cases to start with, and not demand that you must invest in a complete platform or stack from the beginning.

I do not like obsessing over all the technologies like IOT, Big data, Machine learning etc., but rather emphasize what characteristics digital technologies should contain. This should be kept in mind when choosing technology/solution rather than what trend it fits into. Focus on what it can do for you, and be specific regarding how it can solve your problems.

An interesting point from the Accenture and Microsoft 2017 Upstream  O&G Digital trends survey1, is that over 50 % of the investments being made in digital are within big data storage (a storage infrastructure that is designed specifically to store, manage and retrieve massive amounts of data). Only 13 % of the digital investments are within Edge technology (performing data processing at the edge of the network, near the source of the data). In my opinion, I find this a bit contradictory, because it is at the Edge the digital journey begins. This is the heart and origin of the data you are going to create value upon, so I simply ask why not get the basics right first, namely ensuring optimal quality, aggregation and distribution of the data?

What many tend to forget when speaking about all the potential in digital within the industry is the actual pain points currently present at a majority at the industrial sites out there. Typically, a site architecture consists of a dozen of different networks, one or several of these contain field networks (Operational technology, or OT) which is segregated from the rest, and the OT networks are segregated from the networks containing IT infrastructure. Even within the OT networks, segregation is present in terms of different networks for safety, process, utilities etc. The big question to those speaking about machine learning and technology is how do you get the data, and just as important, how do you ensure that the quality of the data is sufficient?

Not only are you faced with the challenge to get high quality, available data, but you also need it quickly.  ABB helps customers address these issues and start learning in digital by bridging the gap between OT and IT.  Our ABB Ability IntelliEdge running on HPE Edgeline Converged Edge Systems can be used to create value for customers immediately. By deploying this solution, we can start small, collaborate and learn together with our customers. IntelliEdge is an easy deployable solution, which connects to different field devices/gateways/plc’s in the OT systems, and extracts all the complexity from the field protocols by standardizing and converting it to one common protocol. It is built with security in mind, meaning that it is a safe way to connect OT data to the IT network, whether that IT network is an office network on site or the cloud.

Typically for a start we would go in and choose a system/function to begin with, extract the data and generate and visualize important KPI’s tied to the use case, whether that is predictive maintenance, faster decisions, optimized production etc. Then we learn as we go, meaning that we optimize the user interface or KPI’s while using it. We might also find that we need more data than we started with to achieve the goal, then we simply update IntelliEdge to capture data from more data sources.

Earlier in this blog, I talked about how to convince your boss that digitalization can start adding value today. This is your first step in that conversation, standardize and benefit from data capture because the live OT data is what every value creating algorithm/function/KPI is built upon.

How do you visualize it? Currently, we have demos showing how the user and use case can vary from the executives, network specialist or maintenance personnel. The demo shows how your CEO can get an instant overview of KPI’s within oil production and site efficiency, while at the same time, your Maintenance manager can see the health of their equipment and if something is about to fail.

Reach out to me to kick-start the conversation today with ABB Ability IntelliEdge – the heart of realtime IoT for faster decisions. ABB’s digital solution for oil, gas and chemicals.


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About the author

Roger Hansen

I am a Senior R&D engineer within BU Oil, Gas and Chemicals, where I work in a section named Digital Design, responsible for driving digital solutions. My main area of expertise is technologies and systems within IoT, and looking at the potential in new technologies. In this role, I am currently heading the development of ABB Ability IntelliEdge, which is a SW intended to be the “heart of industrial IoT” by unifying complex industrial protocols at the edge. Both in work and privately I am passionate about innovation and challenging existing solutions. I joined ABB in 2011, where I have held various roles within Engineering before I started working with R&D in 2016. I obtained a BSc in Electronics Engineering and a MSc in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and currently live in Norway.
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