Connectivity concerns hindering IoT’s potential for energy sector

Energy companies will struggle to derive the maximum value from the IoT without access to radically improved, high-speed connectivity.

The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform the energy industry, allowing energy producers to constantly monitor remote installations such as oil wells and off-shore wind turbines, gather real time data on energy generation, and automate potentially hazardous processes to remove staff from harm’s way.

However, new research from Inmarsat, the global mobile satellite communications provider, has revealed that many energy companies lack the high-speed connectivity to fully exploit IoT to improve efficiency and increase profitability. Unless these shortfalls are addressed, energy businesses may be limiting the scope of their transformations.

This is according to independent research commissioned by Inmarsat, which found that while the overwhelming majority of energy companies are in the process of deploying or developing IoT solutions, low rates of connectivity are preventing them from realising the full benefits that IoT can deliver.

Respondents from 100 large energy companies from across the globe were interviewed for an Inmarsat report, and it found that a lack of connectivity emerged as the top obstacle that energy companies face when deploying IoT.

>See also: Connectivity trends for the intelligent fleet

Over half (54%) of respondents cited connectivity as a major challenge, significantly higher than the percentage citing skills and cyber security as challenges (35% and 27%, respectively). A lack of high-speed connectivity may restrict these companies from accessing the full value offered by IoT, potentially rendering them unable to gather and analyse data.

Worryingly, 24% of respondents agreed that connectivity issues were threatening to derail their IoT projects before they even began, further emphasising the connectivity challenges facing the sector.

>See also: Gartner says 8.4 billion connected “Things” will be in use in 2017

Chuck Moseley, senior director for Energy, Inmarsat Enterprise, commented on the significance of the findings: “IoT will play a crucial role in the digital transformation of the energy sector. High-speed connectivity is critical to a successful and profitable IoT solution, to ensure the collection and transmission of high volumes of valuable data from sensors for analysis. Without this connectivity and the real-time transfer of data, energy companies will be unable to analyse their data and extract valuable insights.

“Connected sensors can gather vital data in a wide range of applications, offering energy companies an unprecedented opportunity to improve safety, improve operating efficiencies and reduce production costs. For example, oil producers and pipeline operators can use sensors to monitor hundreds of wells in real time to understand the amount and quality of the oil and gas being extracted or moved.”

“They can also monitor for downtime, unusual behaviour or even accidental leaks, putting them in a stronger position to take pre-emptive action. Energy companies who want to use IoT in this way need to have a constant, uninterrupted stream of data to make informed decisions about their operations, but to achieve that you need access to a robust, reliable communications network,” he continued.

>See also: ‘IoT the top priority in driving digital transformation’

Identifying the role that satellite communication networks play in the development of IoT, Moseley concluded: “The remote location of many production sites and pipelines means that traditional cellular and terrestrial networks do not always provide reliable and stable connectivity. Satellite communication networks can prove invaluable in the deployment of IoT solutions, offering constant, reliable and resilient connectivity. Inmarsat’s satellite communication network can deliver truly global, high speed connectivity to any location and collect large volumes of data with 99.9% uptime, enabling energy companies to focus on the continued innovation and development of IoT and embark on the transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...