By Claire Swedberg
Dec. 8, 2011—For the past three years, Mexican oil-industry maintenance and transportation company Cotemar
has been utilizing a real-time location system (RTLS
) on four oil platforms located in the Gulf of Mexico, to identify which personnel are aboard each platform and the services they are using, without requiring the staff to check in or out. With that information, the company is able to know its employees' locations in the event of an emergency, as well as gain information regarding the number of meals they've eaten and the laundry services they've utilized, thereby enabling Cotemar to more efficiently provide supplies to those platforms. Based on that success, the firm plans to expand the system to include the mustering of personnel on the platforms in the event of an evacuation, says Pedro Salguero, Cotemar's chief of IT, who described the RTLS solution last month during a presentation at RFID Journal LIVE! Latin America 2011
Cotemar uses AeroScout
-based battery-operated 2.4 GHz tags, which transmit their ID numbers to Wi-Fi nodes throughout each of the four platforms. The tags are worn by all staff members and visitors , enabling the company to know who has boarded or left a particular platform. Although no significant emergencies have been reported on any of the platforms since the system went live almost four years ago, if something were to occur, the company would now have real-time information regarding who was or was not on that platform.
Cotemar provides marine services to PEMEX
, the second largest public oil company in the world. These services include the transportation of personnel to and from the oil rigs, as well as food and laundry on board. In addition, the firm is responsible for providing records regarding the transport of workers to and from each platform.
"The main issue is knowing who is in and who is out," Salguero says. Typically, 200 workers change shifts on a daily basis, with as many as 500 people on each platform at any given time. Personnel come and go through three routes—by ship, via helicopter or walking down the gangways connecting the platforms. Prior to the AeroScout solution's implementation, staff members and visitors wore bar-coded badges that would be scanned as each person checked in at the platform, and again when that individual left. If someone forgot to check in or have the badge's bar-code scanned, there would be no record that he or she was on the platform. The system could create queues in which personnel had to await their turn to check in or out. Moreover, bar-coded badges were often damaged in the platform's rugged environment—in which the average temperature is approximately 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity is around 80 percent—and thus could not be read
Those bar-coded badges have been replaced with AeroScout T-2 tags that employees wear around the neck on a lanyard, explains Ricardo C. Berrios, AeroScout's VP and general manager for Latin America.
Four years ago, Cotemar first approached AeroScout. According to Salguero, the company had investigated two other passive RFID
solutions, but found that the maintenance costs for RFID readers would be higher than that of maintaining AeroScout's Wi-Fi
-based system. In contrast, the AeroScout solution would rely on the Wi-Fi nodes to serve as readers already installed on all four platforms, though Cotemar did install additional nodes to improve coverage for the RTLS
, he says.
areas include the helicopter landing area, the boarding area for transport ships, the dining area, the laundry room and the gangways interconnecting the PEMEX platforms.
Thanks to an AeroScout Wi-Fi RFID tag wore on a lanyard by each worker, Cotemar can track visits to the platforms' dining room.
For safety purposes, the company needed only to know if a tag
had been read at a platform's entry or exit point, in order to determine who was onboard at any particular moment. However, the firm discovered another benefit: By monitoring who has entered the dining and laundry areas, Cotemar can more accurately know which services each individual uses, and then bill PEMEX accordingly. For example, staff members are expected to have access to three meals daily at the dining hall, as well as laundry services. As a worker reports to the dining or laundry area, AeroScout's MobileView software determines the location of that person's tag, based on the Wi-Fi nodes receiving that transmission, and links the individual with that specific location. LCD screens installed at the dining hall and laundry area also display a greeting to that individual, indicating to him—and to the dining or laundry staff at that location—that he has been recognized. In this way, those staff members can know if someone arrives for services without his or her AeroScout tag, and can thus request that individual's ID.
Additionally, the data captured and interpreted by MobileView software is forwarded to Cotemar's onboard management software, located on the company's server residing at each platform. Cotemar has Internet access to each server as well, from its central office in Mexico. Once the firm determines whether three meals or more were consumed during a day, it can bill PEMEX accordingly. The system also enabled Cotemar to ensure that the appropriate inventory of food is available onboard, based on the number of individuals using the dining area and thus consuming food.
"The system is working very well," Salguero states. According to Berrios, AeroScout provided some training to staff members onboard the platforms, educating them about the tags' value, thereby ensuring that they aren't removed or discarded. The company also provided some training regarding the replacement of batteries on the tags. The AeroScout system was installed initially on one platform about four years ago, and then went live on the other three consecutively, two months later. Since that time, the company has been adjusting to using the hardware and managing the data culled from the RFID reads. Now that the technology has proven to be a success, Salguero says, he hopes next year to add another read point in the MobileView software that would recognize mustering-point locations, and link those locations to the personnel reporting to those sites in the event of an emergency. In that way, he explains, the company could manage who had reported to a mustering point, and identify those who had not done so.