AR technology in the oil and gas industry: Mozenix
The global AR software market is growing fast. And with the coming of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, 2018 is being predicted by many as being the “tipping point” in the market. Experts say that while the current emphasis in the immersive technologies sector is on VR, AR will eventually out-strip this growth and become even bigger than its fully immersive counterpart. Digi-Capital figures suggest that the share of the $120 billion AR/VR global revenues predicted by 2020 will stack massively in AR’s favour, gaining $90 of the total (up from a predicted 50:50 split of the predicted $30 billion revenue in 2018).
To this background, Dundee tech start-up Mozenix is working with leading UK companies to design and develop mobile AR prototypes and apps for Google ARCore & Apple ARKit and its latest project involves developing an innovative AR app for the oil and gas sector. Working alongside Return To Scene Ltd (R2S), an Aberdeen-based software company developing visual asset management software for global brands including BP and ExxonMobil, Mozenix’s mobile AR application will provide answers to key challenges in offshore oil and gas production.
“Offshore oil and gas assets are complex adaptive structures with a constant flow of actions being undertaken by international teams. The systems that enable these actions are underpinned by asset registers which are represented by physical tags attached to equipment. The location of these tags and the ability to visualise data in a certain way is crucially important. This is where AR technology, specifically Mozenix unique software delivery capability, can solve a myriad of challenges.”
— Martin MacRae, Head of Product Development and Support Services, R2S
A missing or incorrectly located tag, drawing, or 3D model can result in increased risk, as it could mean teams are working in the wrong place or on the incorrect equipment. Such actions can be catastrophic in the high hazard industry of oil and gas. The value of the AR application to the oil and gas industry is potentially substantial. From the initial deployment, current technicians will be able to carry out their work with greater efficiency and speed, so reducing cost and improving safety.
The application is being developed with a number of core objectives in mind: to increase the speed and efficiency of current technicians, to enhance safety standards and to reduce operational costs.
What technology does it use?
Developing applications for use in an offshore setting presents a unique series of challenges that would not be associated with most conventional app development projects. Generally speaking, software needs to be developed for ruggedised devices that are intrinsically safe and compliant with associated offshore health and safety standards.
Overcoming the challenges
Developing mobile apps for use in an offshore environment, specifically AR applications, can be challenging. There are numerous technical constraints that need to be considered at the outset of any offshore software project. Some of these constraints include the availability of WiFi and cellular data. Other constraints relate to environmental conditions such as wind and availability of natural light.
Situations often arise as a consequence of seemingly innocent actions, if the engineer or technician is wearing large gloves for example, as Michael Romilly explains. “Because of this, the user interface has to be designed in such a way so as to optimise the user experience. This may mean making certain buttons within the application larger or easy to discover, depending on the precise context of each use case. All of these factors have to be carefully considered and they key is to always start with the end in mind. Our job is to understand the commercial goals of the client and deliver software that performs against specific KPI’s.”
What effect has this had on the sector?
AR technology is transforming business operations and software delivery throughout the oil and gas sector. It’s being used to drive process efficiency gains and solve complex engineering challenges. These gains are manifesting themselves in cost savings, safety enhancements and increased workforce efficiency. In some cases, AR technology is creating entirely new streams of revenue, or being used to bolster existing sales channels.
For any company that’s extended a desktop software offering into mobile, the challenges associated with extending either into AR are very similar. This applies to oil and gas and construction in the same way it applies to alternate industry verticals such as retail and financial services. For many businesses, given that AR technology is still relatively new, understanding how it’s liable to impact software delivery and business operations is still a challenging process. As with all software projects, one of the biggest challenges is the availability of skilled development capability. The best way to understand the business impact of AR is to work with an expert who understands the technology and how it can be used to underpin commercial goals.
Increasingly, as demand for AR development capability grows, businesses will need to consider how they inject ‘AR thinking’ into their software development plans. Developing mobile AR apps is very different from creating conventional 2D mobile apps and requires a different development mindset and a unique blend of development capability and expertise. Understanding how to build an AR development team and effectively resource projects will become increasingly crucial.
What is the future for this technology in the sector and in the wider industry?
“Within the oil and gas sector, AR technology can solve a multitude of complex process efficiency challenges, but wider adoption will rely upon demonstrable commercial ROI,” says Michael Romilly. “As AR starts to actively demonstrate its commercial impact, the industry will witness more proof of concept projects and prototypes evolving into full scale productions.”
Correspondingly there will be an increase in the number and diversity of different use cases whereby AR can be adopted to make existing processes faster or more efficient.