Augmented Reality for O&G Field Operations

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Mehdy Touil, Senior LNG Panel Operator, Yamal LNG
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A Review of RealWear HMT-1 Rugged Headset from an Oil & Gas Operations Perspective

As much as I am passionate about LNG, I am also very much into digitalization and have been following with great interest the latest news in Virtual/Augmented Reality. I am in the unique position of being a content creator as well as an end-user, so this review covers both ends of the spectrum.

The O&G industry is well known for being conservative in nature, and most of the digital initiatives taken to date have a limited impact on existing operations. However, rugged enterprise wearables have the potential to transform the way we work at a scale never seen before. 

Most of the consumer-grade VR/AR headsets available in the market today are not suitable for the tough field conditions of Oil & Gas. Even more importantly, most of these devices are not certified from a safety point of view. That is why I was quite excited at the prospect of having a closer look at RealWear HMT-1 at the PTC IoT Summit held in Moscow, Russia on the 26th of November.

(Courtesy of Andrew Rhodes, RealWear's campaign manager, who kindly arranged a demo with the help of Andrey Petrov, RealWear Account Executive for Russia & EMEA).

The HMT-1 is a lightweight, wearable computer which can clip into a hard helmet or bump cap. It features a display screen attached to a movable boom arm, a 16-megapixel camera, and 4 microphones that allow for superior noise cancellation and voice recognition. HMT-1 also has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS, as well as a 16GB internal storage, 2GB RAM and a MicroSD slot (up to 256GB).

HMT-1 uses Android 8.1, and since RealWear has a vast network of software partners you won't have any difficulties finding apps for industrial use. And in early 2020, RealWear HMT Release 11 will bring Android Enterprise capabilities to HMT-1 devices. This major firmware update will fulfil the needs of CIOs and IT managers, who need enterprise-ready security and performance on all devices in their networks.

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The high-resolution display screen fits just below your line of sight thanks to the adjustable boom arm, and it views like a 7” tablet held at arm’s length. It is clear, not intrusive at all, and your brain will quickly forget its presence. I wear glasses and I didn’t experience any out-of-focus issues or distracting reflections while testing the device.

One of the most impressive features of HMT-1 is its advanced speech recognition. There’s no need for a wake word. The HMT-1 responds immediately to commands like "Take Photo", "Zoom Level 3", "Open Document", and many more. This fits in with RealWear’s “Say What You See” design philosophy. For example, I was able to open a PDF file and read through it flawlessly using the "Scroll Down" command while being aware of my surroundings the entire time.

I could already picture myself in the field in front of a valve reading a P&ID!

This video offers an excellent overview of the various commands:

For us O&G operations folks, the use of commercial, consumer-level electronics is ruled out. Safety comes first in our industry, and any digital transformation program must take this into account. Intrinsically safe instruments are the norm in O&G. AR wearable devices, like any other electronics used in hazardous environments, should present zero risks of ignition in explosive atmospheres. Fortunately, RealWear offers an intrinsically safe version of its HMT-1 headset: the HMT-1Z1. The HMT-1Z1 rugged wearable computer is similar to HMT-1, except the former is approved for use in environments that are ATEX Zone 1, IECEx Zone 1 and CSA C1-D1.

And this makes HMT-1Z1 probably the most attractive option for process field operators: Imagine having access to any document you need right when you need it, pulling up P&IDs, datasheets, or SAP work orders just by looking at a pump. Competency assessments would also benefit by standardizing the learning curve, and by connecting field trainees to mentors who can monitor every movement and action of the operator. 

Other benefits of using HMT-1Z1 for O&G field operations:

  • Start-up/shutdown procedures can be simulated at a high level of realism without impacting production. 
  • Operators can collect field readings based on pre-set historical data and alarms settings. 
  • A vendor can remotely assist a maintenance team via live video feed. 

The possibilities are limitless!

While the drive behind change in the Oil & Gas industry will always be profitability, many oil majors are now using HMT devices to improve productivity and safety at the same time, without tradeoffs. Shell, Schlumberger, National Oilwell Varco have introduced HMT devices to their workers, and other O&G companies are sure to follow their lead. 

As more and more Oil & Gas majors see the benefits of HMT-1 and HMT-1Z1, one thing is clear: digital transformation will change our industry for good.

Mehdy Touil is an LNG Senior Panel Operator at Yamal LNG, currently based in Moscow. Mehdy has over 17 years of experience in the Oil & Gas industry, having worked on projects in Russia, Qatar, and Algeria. This is an updated version of Mehdy’s original review which he shared on LinkedIn on December 3rd 2019. Read Mehdy’s original review here.

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