By Andrew Ayton, software manager, Motion Software
Demand for tablet devices in the harsh environment of the offshore oil and gas industry has rocketed in 2014. Companies are turning to tablets to enhance operational performance, streamline processes and deliver better services to clients.
With the relevant software support, mobile devices – including Windows 8, Android and Apple tablets – are becoming an ever more familiar feature of front-line work, in areas ranging from asset tracking and stock control to integrity and inspection work.
That's because more companies are recognising the gains of deploying technological solutions in terms of accuracy, reliability and productivity in hazardous areas where industry regulations need to be met.
We’ve seen demand for our hardware solutions – specifically tablet devices – rise in 2014 by 150%. This growth is expected to continue in 2015 with the launch at the start of the year of the first zone 1 hazardous area tablet for use in the North Sea. This opens up new opportunities for firms looking to increase efficiency, collaborate and collect data for tasks performed in hazardous areas.
Today I believe the tablet is viewed as a business tool as much as it is a leisure product. In effect it's added another technological dimension to the industrial arena, not least in areas which have often relied to date on time-consuming, pen-and-paper-based systems.
We’re witnessing a growing trend of tablet use in frontline inspection activities, with personnel using them to input data instantly into software systems as they perform the work. As well as saving time, it gives managers an instant “dashboard” view of projects and their status. Its growth in asset tracking, where entire order processing systems – in particular order picking/mobilisation and off hiring – can be managed directly through a device, is equally evident.
Tablets, with software support, can be deployed both in offshore oil and gas environments as well as in onshore locations such as warehouse or depot operations. The screen enables desktop applications to be deployed in hazardous areas, allowing workers to view and interact with a series of systems including those for data collection, access to documents, technical drawings and even video conferencing.
Based on our experience, it's a growing trend. Tablets are being used for an increasing range of practical applications in industries more used to conventional tools and techniques.
They offer greater speed, accuracy and efficiency in operational areas where those attributes can make a genuine difference in terms of performance and safety. The growth in the rise in the use of tablets for business operations is only going to continue.