Martin MacRae, Technical Director for R2S, part of James Fisher Asset Information Services (AIS), speaks with Wireline about the R2S AR application which aims to bring augmented reality technology offshore.
Aberdeen-based James Fisher Asset Information Systems (AIS), the digital arm of James Fisher and Sons plc, has enlisted the expertise of mobile application specialist Mozenix to bring immersive technology solutions to the oil and gas industry.
The R2S Augmented Reality (AR) product will enable users onsite to access valuable real-time operational data, overlaid on any image, like the maintenance history of a piece of equipment, or its engineering drawings. Through this app, users will be able to coordinate activities more efficiently and immediately identify equipment and access detailed asset information.
“The enterprise application of immersive technologies was an area that sparked our interest early on; and an area oil and gas was significantly trailing in when we embarked upon this journey in 2016. Our peers in, for example, the aerospace and automotive industries had already begun to realise value of immersive applications like AR and VR in multiple phases of operation,” R2S technical director Martin MacRae tells Wireline.
The R2S AR app is all about accessibility. With pressure on increasing skills and flexibility, software like this can play a major role in digitally empowering offshore workers. R2S AR puts relevant information in the hands of personnel, reducing time that would be spent searching for it and providing on site assurance. This is particularly helpful for those unfamiliar with a site, and provides access to records and equipment in real-time. “[We are] bringing a system to industry that has immediate application and return on investment,” MacRae continues.
R2S has supported the oil and gas industry globally by photogrammetrically capturing and building over 150 assets (from platforms to FPSOs and refineries) into R2S software. The software produces high quality 360˚ spherical images which join to create a walk-through environment for the user. “We recognised the value of these assets to users and wanted to extend this value to workers offshore by enabling remote access to assets,” MacRae explains.
Such software has created time and cost efficiencies for companies and enhanced collaboration. R2S concluded that developing an augmented reality dimension would be the next step that would extend the benefits of the software to users, quickly.
“One of the many challenges in the development of immersive technologies is the generation of content. We had the content; from the navigable photogrammetric interface of R2S, to the layers of data accessible both in and from the software. By developing an AR application as opposed to its more immersive VR sibling, we could deliver immediate value to our users — maximising access to and use of their data,” MacRae continues.
Content being a non-issue, the next challenge for R2S was safety. AR technology is typically consumed through large headsets, however this is not practical for offshore workers. “Our research was telling us that that the use of onsite headsets or goggles presented physical safety concerns, but also a significant behavioural shift, so, we focused our development on phone and tablet application,” MacRae reflects.
R2S is currently working on rolling out the software to users globally. “There is also clear technology transfer value [to this project], and we are already working with other industries, such as construction and offshore wind, where similar challenges are faced operationally,” he adds.
“This application has the potential to reduce the industry skills gap by digitally empowering offshore workers.”
James Fisher AIS’s relationship with Dundee based tech start-up Mozenix (part of Waracle) began prior to the AR project. “When the project was green-lighted for development, it was clear that the Mozenix team was uniquely placed to help us, bringing with them knowledge from the gaming industry that was put to good use tackling the challenge of accurately locating tags and visualising data, for example,” MacRae explains.
“We are learning from our customers and the industries we work in all the time and feedback on the application and reach of R2S AR extends from the boardroom to the underdeck. [The app] is also an enabler for further digitalisation for oil and gas, for areas such as analytics and automation,” MacRae adds.
Another major project the company is working on is a Visual Positioning System (VPS) which will allow people and machines to identify their location on complex offshore assets via data captured from wearable devices with cameras. “We are all very excited about bringing [R2S VPS] to market in the not too distant future. This project received significant funding from the OGTC and not only involves BP as our industry partner, but technical development from Microsoft, as well as a Scottish innovation and expertise from the likes of Waracle and Aberdeen-based Codify,” MacRae shares.
“There are so many directions we could take with R2S AR.”
The R2S VPS aims to improve the efficiency and safety of technicians, ROVs, and AUVs while operating in very difficult offshore conditions. “Our clients and their wider supply chains are involved with our innovation at all levels, from research and feasibility studies through to field trials and testing to knowledge sharing events. There are many more projects we can’t share just yet, and a range or iterative developments to our existing software and products too,” he adds.
“There are so many directions we could take with R2S AR,” MacRae reflects. “Not all will solve immediate problems for our clients, and some won’t happen at all, but it’s good to start big and work with our clients, users and industry to ensure that we are continuing to meet their needs – and exceed expectations.”