BP is going live this week with a remote sensoring application for shipping based on wireless technology it helped to develop through a proof-of-concept implementation.The chief technology officer sold the idea to business managers to get backing for a commercially developed system.
The petrochemicals company is deploying a wireless mesh network based on 26 computing devices called “motes” for remote sensoring on the Loch Rannoch, a shuttle tanker that operates out of the BP oil terminal in the Shetland Isles.
Remote sensors will gather vibration data from 500 locations on the ship, replacing a manual process, and will allow BP to perform timely preventative maintenance.
Following a successful trial on the Loch Rannoch, Harry Cassar, technology director at BP’s chief technology office, presented the findings to users in the main areas of BP’s business, including refineries, exploration, production and gas distribution. “I wanted to try to develop motes as a platform for other areas of the business,” he said.
During 2005, Cassar’s team worked with Intel, sensor manufacturer Rockwell Automation and motes hardware developer Crossbow to develop a commercial version of the Loch Rannoch proof-of-concept.
Cassar originally spotted the motes technology in 2003, attracted by the fact that the device was a complete wireless platform. Wireless technologies fare badly in industrial applications, since metal surfaces play havoc with signals. But motes offer resilience since they operate as a mesh network, so data can be transmitted even if parts of the network are inoperable.
BP’s chief technology office aims to develop further applications using emerging technologies.