New developments for owner operators
During WPC 2016, Microsoft showcased many new developments during keynotes, parallel sessions and stage presentations. Some partners also showcased their specific solutions using Microsoft technology. From all the new developments shown in the event, here are a few that are of interest to owner operators in capital intensive process industries, such as Oil & Gas, Metals & Mining, Utilities, Pharmaceutical and Chemical.
HoloLens – mixed reality in practice
HoloLens was a big topic during the conference. Two major applications of mixed reality (mixing the digital world with the real world), were demonstrated:
Use of the HoloLens for training purposes
The person on stage was looking at a large digital turbine and had to indicate certain parts to pass the training, including indicating where safety zones must be applied in the real world. This application is very useful to train employees to operate or maintain a production line.
Data analysis of user behavior
Another example was to include the results of the players in a 3D mockup of the golf course, allowing the owners to optimize the course design and improve personal skills. This application could be transferred to a production plant to analyze the way multiple employees are executing repetitive maintenance activities.
Mixed reality could also be used within the engineering phase for plant modifications. The new design could be added to the real world to analyze collisions or gaps with the existing factory, the construction phases or how easily future maintenance activities could be executed.
Internet of Things
Microsoft is delivering various technologies to connect machines and monitor asset performance. Microsoft Azure is crucial in these developments for its integrated machine learning and analytics capabilities. The Internet of Things in industrial environments is about equipment performance optimization, which requires many instruments to monitor the production process itself. The challenge is to combine asset performance with production optimization.
At WPC 2016, the company OSIsoft showed how their PI Connect system integrates with MS Azure to monitor the impact of asset performance on production. Resulting changes to asset data or necessary plant modifications will successively be executed with the integrated environment of BlueCielo Meridian.
Even though Microsoft has 34 data centers around the world (more than AWS and Google combined), there are still companies which, due to regional security and compliance restrictions, cannot benefit from Azure services. Azure Stack is a new hybrid cloud platform product from Microsoft that enables organizations to deliver Azure services from their own data center. This means that anyone will be able to deploy those same Azure services, opening up new possibilities for cloud-based technologies to reach on-premises scenarios. Microsoft Azure Stack is due for release mid-2017.
Mobile devices for hazardous environments
Mobile devices on site is still poorly adopted in hazardous environments for which the Class 1 Division 2 (C1D2) certification is required. Microsoft has participated in the development of a Surface Pro that can be used under this certification and mobile applications can help optimize the onsite business processes. Learn more about Rugged Tablets here.