Keep tabs on your assets


Low-cost tracking technologies to monitor assets in transit from land to offshore

As the offshore industry moves towards ever-more-remote and extreme locations, product development firm Cambridge Consultants is demonstrating DropTag and Trace – two new monitoring technologies that deliver breakthroughs in low-cost, low-power condition monitoring and indoor location tracking.

With operations increasingly in deep oceans such as the Arctic logistics are more crucial than ever for the offshore industry. Offshore platform maintenance services are forecast to rise to $672 billion (£408bn) by 2018 – up a third over the previous five-year period. The prohibitive expense of late deliveries and/or sub-standard equipment is becoming a huge challenge.

DropTag uses a compact ‘puck’ attached to goods before shipping to log information about conditions during the journey. It then automatically and securely transmits this back to base – allowing an early proactive response to any incident. DropTag works by continuously monitoring the vibrations, temperature and humidity that key equipment is exposed to in transit – and triggering system alerts when preset thresholds are exceeded. The ‘infrastructure’ to monitor DropTag is already in place – in the form of smartphones in people’s pockets.

The Trace tracking technology, meanwhile, provides accurate information on the location of people indoors, even without external signals such as GPS or radio. Highly metallic structures such as ships and oil platforms are known to be difficult environments in which to accurately track people – something that becomes critical in an emergency situation.

With Trace, a number of sensors and a custom algorithm determine someone’s location, with an accuracy of within approximately 1% of the distance travelled. Yet the technology uses low-power, low-cost sensors and doesn’t need any existing internal infrastructure. Trace also has a key role to play in offshore equipment maintenance and condition monitoring. It can track personnel carrying out scheduled system checks, for example, to ensure nothing is missed – helping to minimise or prevent costly interventions.

“Innovative technologies are vital for the offshore industry – to minimise operational costs and loss of production, and increase safety,” said Dr Frances Metcalfe, associate director, oil and gas, at Cambridge Consultants. “A lot of subsea equipment has sealed hydraulics, for example, so temperature monitoring in extreme conditions is crucial. And being able to locate personnel quickly and accurately in an emergency can save lives.”

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating DropTag and Trace to the offshore industry at ITF Technology Showcase 2014, on March 5 in Aberdeen, stand 59 – and at Oceanology International, March 11-13, at ExCel London, stand P455. DropTag will also be demonstrated at Mobile World Congress, February 24-27, Barcelona, stand 7B21.

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