See our app roundup for use offshore
There are many ways in which mobile apps can serve the oil and gas industry: by supplying data, such as pump rate, weight on bit, RPM, and mud viscosity as well as production data; through geolocation services like asset tracking and worker security; through efficiency- based services like well organization; by assisting field operations and device management and monitoring; by supplying manuals, guides or industry publications; or just through removing the need for note- taking with pencils and paper. That list isn’t ours alone, by the way. It is based on comments from Houston- based enterprise mobility agency ChaiOne whose recent eBook, Mobilizing the Oil & Gas Industry, estimates that by the year 2015, some $ 8 billion will be spent on oil and gas mobile apps. Gaurav Khandelwal, ChaiOne founder and CEO, said: “The market is expanding exponentially. Not only do you have more use cases for mobile apps coming up daily ~ because the market is educating itself ~ but you also have a higher penetration of smartphones which are replacing feature phones in the oilfield.” This is not just because younger users expect to be able to use iPads as they wander around a field, rig or refinery, but because older users are also adopting smartphones and tablets. “The use cases for mobility are going up,” says Khandelwal ~ and if your oil rig has the connectivity needed to accommodate mobile phones or tablets, it is likely to be enabling some of those use cases.
But what will apps do?
We’ve already offered a few examples but, as Khandelwal explained: “You will see in the market in the next six to 18 months a broader shift in mobility from dumb apps that run on the device itself ~ like calculators ~ to smarter apps that leverage your context to deliver a better experience to the user. What’s starting to happen is that the machines can communicate a reading to your phone directly just by you being in proximity to them.” In other words phones and machines are talking to, and seeing, each other. However, one area of oil and gas app adoption is still in its infancy: apps that directly address remoteness. It’s not easy to track down easily available smartphone or tablet apps that, for example, monitor use and availability of limited satellite network bandwidth or intelligently manage and filter big data or, for that matter, apply M2M from thousands of miles away over an iPhone. But many more of these are no doubt on their way. As Khandelwal points out: “The speed of adoption of technology these days is faster than ever before because mobile devices have entered the enterprise world from the consumer world.” In other words enterprise customers already know about apps and behaviours like push notification; they are not trying to learn something new. More proprietary applications ~ or bespoke versions ~ in use are hidden away inside enterprise companies. While we see several options on the market today we may not immediately hear about many new industry apps as they could be part of in- house enterprise development. In this article, by contrast, we focus entirely on free or openly available apps that can or could be used in remote exploration. The result has been a mixture of apps tailored to this market and standalone ones that have relevance to distance and remoteness ( rather than any particular industry). In almost every case the app itself is free or relatively cheap. However, some require the support of paid- for hardware, software or subscriptions ~ so check before you download.