It’s an interesting thing about mobile communications and data collection technology. It intersects all of our daily lives. Checking email or sending text messages. Accessing documents or applications while we’re on the road. Checking out at the local convenience store. Signing for a parcel as it shows up at the office. It goes on and on. All of these technologies intertwine to make our lives very efficient.
There are, however, some environments where mobility and data collection technologies would prove to be invaluable — way beyond a convenience to end consumers — and yet penetration lags. Having been to the 2010 edition of RFID Journal Live!, the oil and gas industry appears to be one such market.
Within Complexity Lies Opportunity
In far-flung locations — think Kazakstan — oil exploration applications offer up some of the textbook problems that RFID and related data collection technologies are practically designed to solve. There’s an expensive operation involving tight deadlines and expensive equipment. Downtime is not really an option (or really just a terrible option). Parts and equipment are expensive and difficult to track. Yet, exploration requires that companies have pretty quick access to these parts and equipment. Finally, you can layer on national regulations that must be adhered to and audits that must be performed.
RFID — ranging from passive to active tags — are a likely solution to many of these complex operational woes. Metals and liquids — reflecting and absorbing RF waves — were long a bane of RFID tag designers. I saw a half dozen providers alone that have solved this issue with specially designed tags. Harsh conditions? Again, tag companies have engineered around this issue as well. The cost? Well, compared to misplacing a million-dollar piece of equipment or overstocking expensive parts, RFID technology is pretty economical.
Without question, the oil and gas industry represents a complex supply chain. But, in that complexity, there is also waste and inefficiency. And, it’s in mitigating this waste and inefficiency that lies the opportunity for RFID.
RFID technology has slowly been successfully deployed across a range of applications. Tag vendors are finally delivering volumes of tags that were predicted years ago. It seems as if RFID has finally crossed the chasm. And, the oil and gas industry may be the next place RFID technology lands.