Previously, a Chevron engineer would have to travel from the office to the plant as many as five times a work day. This process would involve biking to the site, donning safety gear, checking the problem, removing the gear and biking back. Now, plant workers can simply utilize goggled with wired cameras to start a video call with the engineer and work on solutions in real time. This sort of Augmented Reality technology means the company can provide a holographic computer for workers to utilize.
Chevron anticipates that these “HoloLens” devices will save itself millions in operating costs. Since starting their use, Chevron has doubled its investment to 110 goggles in the hope of trimming operation costs and bolstering productivity. Chevron operates in over 100 countries, with some sites being considerably remote and forcing specialists to travel as much as 500,000 miles per year.
Chevron’s interest in HoloLens technologies comes right as the world’s suppliers of gasoline and crude oil seek to improve efficiency and their viability in a market growing with electric and renewable power outlets. Amazon, Google and Microsoft are all offering cloud server technology to that industry and many startups are seeking to interest energy companies with their AI and big data services.
Jud Jacobs, executive director for IHS Markit, says that the energy sector has been looking to use AR for remote work but progress has been glacial. The offshore nature of most oil and gas facilities, coupled with safety requirements for on-site devices means that wireless internet is spotty at best. Jacobs believes that progress from the tech sector, through companies like Microsoft, could improve industrial tech applications.
ABI Research, a tech firm, projects that energy and utilities will constitute a fifth of global smart glass shipments in 2018. Four years later, it anticipates that the leading three AR-investor companies will spend $18 billion annually.
Other energy companies have looked toward tech. Baker Hughes uses 20 “Smart Helmets” equipped with AR glasses. It states that a three-day problem can be trimmed down to a three-hour problem with AR, citing the story of a remote Malaysian plant having equipment issues that would have taken weeks of traveling. Instead, an engineer used the helmet to call an Italian team and solved the problem in under a week.