New promise


What is IIoT and how can its rise impact the energy industry? If you’re familiar with products like the Nest Thermostat or Amazon Alexa, then you’re familiar with IoT, the Internet of Things.

IoT is the interconnection of everyday objects via the internet. These objects can be anything with a function, from something as complex as an automobile, to something as simple as a thermometer. When computing devices are embedded into these objects, it enables them to send, receive and process data. As a result, these objects are often referred to as ‘smart devices’.

IIoT, the Industrial Internet of Things, is when this concept of smart devices is applied to industrial markets, such as manufacturing or supply management, rather than products made specifically for everyday consumers. When deployed properly, IIoT allows industrial enterprises to take their operations to new heights.

Energy is no exception, as IIoT can help energy companies operate more efficiently, safely and sustainably. With a connected industrial infrastructure, users have access to more data than ever before. Companies can now collect data from any piece of equipment, no matter how archaic, and also receive data points from events that occur onsite. This data often represents previously inaccessible information, allowing companies to start recording new patterns and build an index of information that can ultimately lead to predictive maintenance, stopping problems before they start.

Our IIoT technology illustrates multiple ways in which this access to data from the physical world can help the energy industry cut costs while increasing safety and operating more sustainably. By adding connectivity and intelligence to industrial hardware, companies can more effectively monitor their remote sites, without requiring any major changes to their infrastructure.

The critical key to success for industrial companies considering IIoT is the technology’s ability to deliver meaningful operational change without overhauling their entire operation. Rather than requiring companies to invest in complicated and cost-prohibitive infrastructure to enhance their operations and drive data to the cloud, IIoT solutions such as ours are a way to bring cost-effective digital intelligence directly to the field. It also provides an end-to-end IIoT platform that empowers energy companies to advance their operations with easy-to-adopt technology.

For instance, energy companies can now use IIoT to manage oil and water levels across all of their wellsites without ever touching a single tank, avoiding the dangers of manual gauging or the cost, maintenance and infrastructure challenges that come with guided wave radar.

Due to the lack of continuous monitoring, an unattended site means that a tank overflow could go unnoticed for hours. Even when a company can access in-tank measuring readings remotely, such equipment is often riddled with maintenance needs. Thermal sensing devices allow customers to remotely monitor multiple tanks simultaneously with a single device that sits 50 feet away from any critical equipment. By cutting back on everything from employee driving time to the dangers of onsite work, companies can save millions across their supply chain with added efficiencies while also reducing worker accidents.

An IIoT ecosystem also has sustainability benefits. In conjunction with thermal, smart optical sensing devices can help companies reduce emissions by more comprehensively monitoring natural gas flaring, no matter how old the site. Rather than relying on intermittent checks that often require onsite personnel, these sensing devices can identify sites that may have unintended flaring, as well as send alerts at the onset of any black smoke or a dangerous site incident. Connected devices can even alert users to pilot light outages the moment they occur, allowing companies to address any potential fugitive emissions immediately. In addition to flares, such devices can monitor sites in real-time for accidents, fires, or unauthorized personnel arriving to a site.

For context, the cost of methane leaks is an estimated $2 billion per year, and 13 million metric tons – enough natural gas to fuel ten million homes. Energy Security Council, a Houston-based security group, has estimated a one to three per cent loss rate of crude oil due to theft, at a cost of about $2.1 billion per year.

Other types of low-cost sensors can identify everything from equipment at risk of failing, to site anomalies, without ever needlessly sending a person onsite and exposing them to unanticipated risks. In addition to the added visibility that these new data sources can provide, the learnings can also be increasingly applied to predictive analytics, preventing problems before they start.

As the energy industry continues to evolve in the post-Covid world, having connected field service options that enable efficiencies on a tight budget will become increasingly important. Luckily, energy companies can now implement IIoT solutions with cost-effective, easy-to-install devices without overhauling their existing infrastructure. Easily implemented technology that makes it possible to more effectively monitor, manage and profit from one’s operations in safer and more sustainable ways – that’s the new promise of IIoT.

Jory Schwach is CEO of Andium. Andium is an Industrial Internet of Things company using technology to build a smarter world and empower leaders to create meaningful change. Founded by Jory, Andium is led by a global team of engineers, innovators, business leaders and designers. With the world’s first true end-to-end IIoT platform, Andium offers an ecosystem of products and services that provide the next generation of remote monitoring capabilities, without the need for heavy infrastructure or IT.
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