Is America’s energy industry prepared for the 4th industrial revolution?

A new dawn is fast approaching where data and technology innovation is on the cusp of changing our commercial and personal lives.

Computing power and the data it generates is growing exponentially. We will see vast developments. In a decade from now new companies and companies we already know will have global reputations established through data analytics businesses. This unprecedented growth in data will result from an ‘Internet of Things’ that will monitor and measure our machines, our businesses, our environment and us.

Big data will be everywhere – large volumes of different types of data moving at speed through a digital ecosystem. To compete in this new landscape, companies in America and beyond, must learn to master big data, or they will find themselves out thought, out flanked and out dated.

Data will feature in all aspects of the business life-cycle; from design to manufacturing, maintenance to decommissioning. Data will also be used to predict and anticipate, plan and decide every aspect of the 21st century workplace.

What are the perspectives on big data?

There are many perspectives on big data that need to be appreciated by those seeking to innovate responsibly, and not just in the energy and marine offshore sectors. Big data is an asset and needs to be understood within the total value chain of an organisation. It imposes demands on infrastructure and on us humans.

Energy companies are increasingly integrating data and other asset information to improve workflow management, visualisation, monitoring, control, analytics and communications of their operations. Large seismic data sets, combined with powerful pattern recognition and rapid analysis, support exploration. Drilling data is streamed in real-time from the drill string and surface equipment throughout the drilling of a well.

A gradual shift by industry to increasingly look at real-time analytics to improve safety and efficiency is the mark of a new era – Industry 4.0 – with the aim of avoiding equipment failures and providing geological information for critical decision support. Data standards, generation, capture, annotation, storage, analysis, visualisation, security and ownership will increasingly become key parts of the modern engineering life cycle, significantly changing how design, manufacturing, maintenance and decommissioning of complex infrastructure and other assets will be carried out in the future. Likewise, advanced tagging technologies and smart materials will turn machines and vessels into smart products with memories of each part’s production and operation history.

Data-enabled workers

And, we are on a cusp of further development and broader distribution of wearable sensors, smart watches and even smart glasses will impact how we live privately and how we work professionally, turning us into ‘data-enabled prosumers’. Sensing vital signs could increase worker security and well-being by decreasing the risk of critical failures due to fatigue or illness.

Shaping the future

Big data, in an engineering-related context, is going to bridge the gap from being able to monitor ‘what is’ to predicting ‘what if’ in near real-time, creating value through potential enhancements in safety, reliability and performance of energy assets and infrastructure.

It is a fast evolving technological environment, which provides huge challenges for those seeking to assure safety, from the regulator through to the operator and the manufacturer. Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution.

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