Communications support rapid decision making in remote locations

Paul Boughton

Communications systems often have to operate in remote, dangerous situations, but the latest solutions not only improve processing, but also speed up response to natural or medical emergencies. Sean Ottewell reports.

Cutting-edge technology is required to successfully find, drill, store, transport and refine oil and gas. This is particularly true for communications systems, which have to keep every aspect of the decision support process connected. The more remote the environment, the more sophisticated the communication technology is required.

One provider rising to this challenge is IPX. The company supplies integrated VSAT and Wi-Fi deployment for compounds and camp operations around the world, including FSU, Congo, Nigeria, Gabon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the UAE.

In the Field, IPX connects the VSAT broadband source from main offices to the guest house and field operations such as administration buildings and the well logging shack. Global satellite communications, microwave technology, Wi-Fi, wireless and fibre optic cables work both independently and together to provide the oil and gas industry with a highly complex solution for data transfer of all types.

"IPX provides the linkage and connectivity of drilling sites or producing fields into a wider network. Where traditional cabling methods are impossible, impractical, or too expensive, wireless communications allow companies to extend the office network environment securely," says the company.

At the core of each of its internet protocol private branch exchange (PBX) solutions is a highly scalable and complete PBX, offering cost effective Voice over IP enabled solutions for any sized business. Communications with remote offices and remote workers can be done with VoIP to eliminate long distance costs. Flexible call routing and easy to use features increase employee productivity. Overall, IPX says that the business tools it provides are both powerful and affordable.

The IPX wireless solutions are based on leading wireless technology. Each wireless hub has a range of up to 30 miles. IPX will install the hub system on existing towers or install mast pipes at each of the management homes and guest houses. From each of the management homes personnel will have access to the office network for access to both voice and data applications.

Meanwhile, remote video monitoring allows users to watch drill sites, guest houses, pipe yards, and office assets, via cameras remotely, and in real time, from another location. This may be done either over IPX wireless 802.11, the internet, an office intranet, or by 'calling into' the cameras over standard phone lines using a computer modem.

Another company working with sites scattered across multiple regions in an effort to improve operations, react to emergencies and ensure worker safety is Polycom.

The company offers what it describes as the broadest range of solutions to enable anyone to successfully connect and conference, no matter what the environment. This includes almost any type of user device, as well as the necessary supporting infrastructure and management tools. All solutions are backed by a service and support delivered by a global network of 55 offices in 25 countries.

In terms of voice communications, from a single phone line and wireless communications to large installed voice systems, Polycom voice solutions make audio sound clear and natural. In the energy industry, IP phone connectivity between hq, oil rigs, and remote exploration sites offers high quality, reliable, cost-effective communications. Applications can be embedded into IP phones to transform them into powerful productivity tools and a catalyst for fast decision making. And conference speakerphones are ideal for company meetings, strategic discussions and planning activities.

As companies strive to 'go green', many oil and gas companies are seeking to minimise their contribution to global warming, air pollution, carbon emissions and other environmental issues. Polycom HD video solutions bring everyone together just like being there, making video conferencing a viable alternative to travel. Global energy companies can connect, meet and collaborate virtually thereby enabling dispersed workgroups to increase productivity - all while reducing carbon emissions. Polycom video solutions are also ideal for key emergency situations such as telemedicine and crisis response to provide real-time visual input into decision-making (see box).

Polycom also says it offers the most durable, feature-rich, and cost-effective wireless telephony solutions, dramatically streamlining communication. From headquarters to an oil rig to a remote exploration site, Polycom wireless provides access to the information needed without users being tethered to a terminal or desk. Polycom has a number of wireless phones that are also intrinsically safe for use in potentially hazardous environments.

Meanwhile Pixavi Technology is also proving its worthiness in some of the world's toughest environments. The oil and gas offshore installations have long been deemed a very brutal and unforgiving place of business.

Over the past eight years, many of the world's leading oil and gas companies along with service companies have utilised the Pixavi intrinsically safe video cameras to communicate and collaborate within these harsh conditions.

The ATEX Camera with its two way audio and video allows workers in the field to address issues, problems and situations with colleagues anywhere in the world. With its dynamic technology, the Xcaster EX-5000 high definition wireless video conferencing system enables fast, secure information flow from point to point allowing for discussions or effective multiparty collaboration all in real time.

According to the company, the Xcaster EX-5000 mobile video conferencing system is able to deploy at a moment's notice when time is critical. With the ability to operate in hazardous areas both onshore and offshore, this Wi-Fi camera is able to manoeuvre quickly to various parts of the oil rig or production plant. By using the Pixavi EX-AP-A explosive proof, ATEX certified access points in these ATEX required areas, the Xcaster EX-5000 equipment can immediately begin to send HD quality video via the wireless network to virtually any point in the world. The Xcaster EX5000 is also able to help in cases of e-learning and safety inspection.

The company's latest innovation is the Xcorder EX 4000 camera and camcorder. Certified for operation in hazardous area, Zone 1 and 2, its other highlights include a high-end CMOS sensor for HD video and high resolution still imagesand wireless lan connectivity (Fig.1). It has up to 64GB of built-in storage and features WiFi for storing images live from the field to the network/internet.

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