IDF 2008: BP deploys mobile internet devices

BP has teamed up with Intel and Panasonic to equip its field workers with mobile internet devices (MIDs) that will boost their productivity and help streamline processes.

The oil giant's chief technology office director of applications Curt Smith took to the stage during Anand Chandrasekher's mobility keynote at the Intel Developer Forum(IDF) in San Francisco to detail how the company is embracing the fruits of the chip maker's efforts in this area.

"Our group is charged with bringing a number of digital technologies that BP can [take advantage of] to make a significant impact on the business' bottom line. How do we get power computing to the people working in the field who are actually making the money? People in the office have everything they need but getting this to the field is hard," Smith said.

"They have to have a screen they can see, a keyboard, a network, [rugged enough] so you can drop it, be able to work on it with big, heavy gloves and also enough battery life to last a shift, which is at least eight hours. Panasonic and Intel have worked together to bring this to us. We're [currently at the stage of] taking this to the field to see what applications work and the response [so far] has been absolutely tremendous."

During his keynote Chandrasekher talked about how MIDs will take three distinct forms: productivity devices, consumer devices and communication devices. Panasonic and BP's role was to showcase the potential of using ultra mobile, connected devices to boost productivity in areas where reaction speed equates to money.

BP says that it's been quite overwhelmed by how many possibilities there are in terms of where MIDs can benefit its work, but that it has identified a couple of priorities thus far. One such example is the large factory in Louisiana holding offshore parts for the Gulf of Mexico. If one of the wells in this area goes down, it can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars an hour in lost revenue, Smith stressed.

The yard where the parts are stored is vast and trying to walk around the eight acre area and they go back inside the office to enter data was laborious and time intensive. Using MIDs, workers can use the 3G network to enter data as they go, saving time, money and, no doubt, worker leg ache.

BP is also contemplating the use of MIDs in its lubes packaging plant where the ability to enter data in real time from the production sidelines would be hugely advantageous, according to Smith.

When asked if there was anything final he wanted to add, Smith was not ashamed to gush about how much he thinks this technology will transform his business. "Thanks very much for your help," he told Intel. "We think this is going to be a big help to BP."

Maggie Holland

Maggie has been a journalist since 1999, starting her career as an editorial assistant on then-weekly magazine Computing, before working her way up to senior reporter level. In 2006, just weeks before ITPro was launched, Maggie joined Dennis Publishing as a reporter. Having worked her way up to editor of ITPro, she was appointed group editor of CloudPro and ITPro in April 2012. She became the editorial director and took responsibility for ChannelPro, in 2016.

Her areas of particular interest, aside from cloud, include management and C-level issues, the business value of technology, green and environmental issues and careers to name but a few.