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Immersive technologies are the future, so how do they benefit industry?

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15 minute read

These are exciting times. For those who may be unaware of the advancement of this incredible immersive technology over recent years, you may be surprised by the abundance of benefits virtual reality(VR) and augmented reality(AR) can offer to a wide range of industries. In addition to entertainment and gaming, immersive technologies offer the opportunity to benefit industries such as oil and gas, cleantech, education, manufacturing, agriculture, retail, real estate and many more. 

Consider this, when learning new processes or training for a specific position, creating an immersive learning program could advance cognition, engagement and retention of vital information over what could be learned through traditional programs. While we may be still some time away from this being the norm, it is hard to ignore the forward-thinking work going on in this industry. 

VizworX is a Calgary based tech company specializing in multiple advanced technologies. While they are one of the great teams at the forefront of this imaginative world of immersive technology, their core mission for all of their clients is simple – they solve problems. 

Focusing on key areas, the Vizworx team is well versed in VR, AR, mixed reality(MR), artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), geospatial data mapping, biometric evaluation, and custom visualization solutions to name a few. Thankful for the opportunity to discuss this topic with Jeff LaFrenz, CEO of VizworX

Proud winner of multiple awards over recent years such as the Cross Sectoral Company Success Award from ConvergX in 2020, Outstanding Achievement in Applied Technology by ASTech and The Innovation Award by PTAC in 2019, to name a few. Recently, Jeff was a recipient of the University of Calgary 2020 Alumni Service Award.

– “What is physical and virtual becomes a blurry line at some point in the future”

Challenging as it is to condense, the incredible applications this immersive technology can have for industrial processes. While this topic could be extrapolated into each individual sector, the overall benefits are still being uncovered as this technology continues to evolve. However, it is important to explore the narrative of what it can offer today.

Infrastructure planning

This can be construed in two ways.

The first. Real estate may integrate immersive technologies at a higher capacity than other industries in the near future. We are aware of 360-degree walking tours, however, imagine having the ability to use a VR headset to be fully immersed in what could be your new home, where you interact with space on a true scale. Moving forward, the experience may prove to be the key to innovating the buying or renting process. 

As noted in Engineering.com back in 2016, we now have the ability to walk through a home virtually before any construction begins. If we consider the long term financial risk we all face with building a new home, mitigating any misconstrued requests and ensuring the model is true to the physical, benefits both the future homeowner and project managers. The same can be said for all parties involved in the construction of condo units, including pre-sale to consumers.

The second, industrial facility production.

While it can be difficult to summarize the process included in planning, pre-production, regulations and geo-mapping that goes into the production of infrastructure. With the use of this technology, a large scale project could be first explored through a VR model to engage with what could be the post-production facility, mitigating the risks of inefficient mapping, overhead and problematic regulations. 

In theory, creating a virtual tour and geospatial map of an upcoming project could allow for tours, audits and restructuring before production. Mitigating the risk of inefficient planning, saving time and ensuring that the final production model will be cost-effective. With the level of cognition that is possible, we could see a re-evaluation of the process of industrial construction pursued as this technology continues to enhance the user experience.

This type of solution is catered to by the subsidiary of VizworX called EnsureworX. Lead by their CEO, Dustin Wilkes and CFO, Charles Edmonds, this arm of the company specialize in creating immersive engineering review models with their Panoptica solution. If we consider the complexity of certain infrastructure requirements for facilities such as power generation or waste management, the ability to review models, assess ventilation and inform engineers who may have concerns regarding certain functionalities, can allow for a far more streamlined process. 

With the amount of capital required for certain industrial facilities, Jeff offers his insight into how Panoptica, or similar review model technology could offer a major advantage when visiting the pre-production stage of an infrastructure review or build.

“One of the challenges every industrial space is running into is data overload. Typically from a human perspective, a lot of what we do is to come from a human perspective of how you present the data to dramatically impact how people understand what it is as well as how they are going to make decisions.” – Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

Foreign Investment / Remote Tours

Evidently, this pandemic continues to confuse and re-calibrate plans to interact with others around the world. As flight schedules continue to be disrupted and to be monitored during a fortnight quarantine post-arrival in a foreign country. Now more than ever, the opportunity to create a virtual demonstration of an early-stage start-up mitigates confusion in regards to travel plans but also lowers overhead for foreign investors to travel to that location for an in-person demonstration. 

“Humans by nature have a biological spatial understanding, these technologies leverage that ability to present information that is spatially oriented. I could present you with a rendering of a building, and that would be hard for you to understand, or I could drop you into that building in virtual or augmented reality where you can walk around it and you would get it right away” – Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

One bright light in the ecosystem of innovative technology in the energy space is Eavor Technologies, a closed loop geothermal technology company that has been continuously disrupting the space. With a major push around the world for clean baseload energy that is both dispatchable and scalable, Eavor is a global front runner. Recently featured in Rolling Stone for their new “Harmony” video and insight from their team. 

Due to the major disruption in flight schedules, Eavor Technologies created a virtual walking tour of their “Eavor Lite” facility, which is their proof of concept stage site located in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. To think of the pandemic no longer allowing any convenience for international travel let alone group tours. This solution created an intuitive immersive experience where you as the visitor can walk around and access panels throughout, where their team offers deeper insight into their technology. It can be toured through the Oculus Quest and also through a desktop or smartphone, found here.

(Source: Eavor Technologies Eavor Lite facility, Virtual Reality Tour Announced By Cutting Edge Canadian Energy Tech Company, September 15th 2020)

Operational Training

Cognition and retention of information vary both on the human and technical level. Traditional methods of training employees consist of the use of company assets, written or video material and in some cases exams. While these methods are still widely used today, there is the argument for a declining level of engagement with this type of information and the increase of online activity, thus leading to a lower level of retention. 

The solution could very well lie in this immersive technology. There is little data available on the segmented levels of cognition and retention in traditional vs immersive training, however, it is important to note that a high majority of us learn by doing, exactly what an immersive experience offers without the use of expensive equipment that could be better served. 

Panoptica contains a suite of tools that leverage mixed reality technologies. Teams can collaborate digitally from anywhere individually as they view models in a true 1:1 scale. By creating a 3D model that can be evaluated, allows for any inefficiencies to become apparent in the design process, thus mitigating time and overhead.

(Source: Medium, “Model Reviews in a Post-COVID Era”, VizworX review model, Carter Yont, published July 28th)

Safety and Emergency Training 

One example is training for airline pilots, where they are subject to an immersive training course that will uncover all circumstances where an emergency may arise. Being a passenger on countless flights, I am even glad this technology exists. 

Immersive training is not new. Cited from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Pittsburgh back in 2006, countries such as Germany, Australia and the US came together to explore the benefits to the mining industry. 14 different countries came together to discuss how VR can be employed in the future or research, development and safety training. 

(Source: CDC, “Virtual Reality in Mine Training”, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2006)

While this was years ago, it is a reminder that this technology has been around for some time. As time and education move forward, the quality of the image rendering, functionality and reduction of cost continues to benefit the end-user. 

As mentioned, Panoptica can create a 1:1 ratio 3D review model. In addition to playing a major role in planning, safety training programs are an essential part of any industrial process. When you consider the assets and time allocated from senior employees, the cost increases in such a way where those assets and staff could be put to more cost-effective work. The cost of producing an immersive training program that can be utilized from anywhere is minuscule in comparison. 

“If you look at the future of where these immersive technologies are going, price points are coming down significantly, and the capabilities are going up significantly. We are going to have this blended environment where employees could walk around an industrial facility and look at a boiler, overlaid on that physical world is all the data and digital information required. What is physical and virtual becomes kind of a blurry line at some point in the future. That is where we want to be, seamless engagement with our environment between physical and virtual worlds.” Jeff LaFrenz, CEO

We are only scratching the surface here, there is still much to uncover in the world of immersive technology in this tech revolution. We can look forward to things such as retail shopping from the comfort of your living room where you can try items on virtually, or even where engineering students will avail of an immersive learning program that could advance cognition and retention to a point where innovation reaches far beyond our wildest aspirations.

I recommend visiting the VizworX and EnsureworX websites. Check out their blog on Medium and be sure to give them a follow on Twitter to stay up to date on any developments in the future.

 

For more stories, please visit Todayville Calgary

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Alberta

EAST TANK FARM EQUITY ARRANGEMENT

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EAST TANK FARM EQUITY ARRANGEMENT

In the fall of 2017 Suncor, Fort McKay First Nation (FMFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) announced the completion of the acquisition by FMFN and MCFN of a 49 per cent interest in the East Tank Farm Development (ETFD) valued at approximately $500 million. The two First Nations independently financed the acquisition, with the offering structured and marketed by RBC Capital Markets.

The agreement is unprecedented in size and scale for the First Nations and Suncor and is part of a growing trend of Indigenous communities as equity owners. The investment will provide a steady stream of revenue to both FMFN and MCFN for a minimum period of 25 years. Located 35 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, the ETFD provides storage, cooling and blending services for bitumen received from Fort Hills.

At a signing ceremony on Nov. 22, 2017, Suncor, Fort McKay First Nation (FMFN) and Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) announced the completion of the acquisition by FMFN and MCFN of a 49 per cent interest in Suncor’s East Tank Farm Development (ETFD).

The two First Nations independently financed the acquisition, with the offering structured and marketed by RBC Capital Markets. The agreement is unprecedented in size and scale for the First Nations and Suncor and is part of a growing trend of Indigenous communities as equity owners.

“We’ve completed a historic deal for energy development in Canada. This unique partnership has been part of a journey that demonstrates how innovative thinking and collaborative spirit can result in a mutually- beneficial opportunity and it has changed the way Suncor thinks about how our Aboriginal neighbours may participate in energy development,” said Mark Little, president, Upstream, at the time of the signing and now Suncor’s president and CEO. “Through this partnership we’ve learned a lot about working together to create something significant, and I look forward to continuing to work together on this joint investment with Fort McKay First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation for many years to come.”

The agreement is held in a limited partnership with Suncor called Thebacha, the Dene word for “river.” The investment will provide a steady stream of revenue to both FMFN and MCFN for a minimum period of 25 years.

“The economic benefits generated from this deal will help our Nation to build capacity within our businesses, develop infrastructure in our community, fund social economic programs, and provide us with the means to help pay for education and training for our youth, and will be felt in our community for generations to come,” says MCFN Chief Archie Waquan.

Located 35 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, the ETFD is part of the existing East Tank Farm and adjoins the Hot Bitumen Terminal (HBT) and its associated tanks. Once Fort Hills begins to produce bitumen, the ETFD will receive the Fort Hills hot bitumen via the Northern Courier Pipeline.

“The deal represents one of the largest business investment to date by First Nation entities in Canada, and not only demonstrates the great potential for partnerships between First Nations and industry but serves as a model for how First Nations can achieve greater self-determination through financial independence,” said, FMFN Chief Jim Boucher, Chief at the time of the signing. “It is an example of how First Nations and natural resource development companies can find ways to support each other for the mutual long-term benefits.”

Thanks to Todayville for helping us bring our members’ stories of collaboration and innovation to the public.

Click to read a foreward from JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Click to read comments about this series from Jacob Irving, President of the Energy Council of Canada.

Jacob Irving, President of Energy Council of Canada

The Canadian Energy Compendium is an annual initiative by the Energy Council of Canada to provide an opportunity for cross-sectoral collaboration and discussion on current topics in Canada’s energy sector.  The 2020 Canadian Energy Compendium: Innovations in Energy Efficiency is due to be released November 2020.

Read more on Todayville.

 

Hydro-Québec takes partnerships, environmental measures and sharing of wealth to new levels

 

 

 

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Alberta

ECONOMIC RECONCILIATION IS A PRIORITY AT ENBRIDGE

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ECONOMIC RECONCILIATION IS A PRIORITY AT ENBRIDGE

Building and maintaining relationships with Indigenous nations and groups over the lifecycle of our assets is essential to Enbridge’s continued success as a leading North American energy delivery company. An important part of how we do business is to work with Indigenous communities to help increase their capacity to participate economically in our projects and operations. Economic engagement ranges from providing training and employment opportunities that build transferrable skills, to the procurement of goods and services from Indigenous businesses. To tap into Indigenous communities’ growing capacity and desire to participate in contracting and employment opportunities, Enbridge has adopted a supply chain process that requires prospective contractors to include detailed Socio-Economic Plans that outline how they will include local Indigenous communities and businesses in their work for Enbridge’s projects and operations. This approach exemplifies our desire to build long-term relationships which create value for both Indigenous communities and our business.

Enbridge has long recognized that hiring Indigenous businesses supports local employment, gives us the opportunity to understand available services and talent, and helps build trust and relationships. We also appreciate the important contribution that Indigenous businesses make each year to the overall economy.

In 2019, we marked a major milestone, surpassing $1 billion in Indigenous spending since 2011 across our Liquids Pipelines and Gas Transmission businesses. This includes direct spend with Indigenous businesses as well as subcontracting opportunities for Indigenous businesses, suppliers and wages paid to Indigenous workers from our contractors.

Our Line 3 pipeline replacement project (L3RP) is an excellent example of how our supply chain is delivering on our commitment to maximize Indigenous participation. This supports our efforts to advance economic reconciliation in accordance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action #92.

At $5.3 billion for the Canadian segment alone, the L3RP was the largest capital project in Enbridge’s history. It also represented our largest and most successful community engagement effort – including more than 150 Indigenous communities from as far as 300 kilometres from the pipeline right of way.

As of late September 2019, Indigenous spending on the L3RP totaled approximately $440 million for contracting and wages, while more than 1,100 Indigenous men and women were employed on project construction, representing approximately 20% of the overall workforce.

Indigenous monitors provided environmental and cultural perspective to the project construction team.

“The economic benefits flowing to Indigenous communities from Line 3 pipeline construction are no accident or happy coincidence,” says Enbridge’s Dave Lawson, Vice President of Major Projects. “Rather, they are the direct result of our comprehensive and proactive engagement program and the joint commitments between Enbridge and numerous Indigenous communities and groups.”

The leaders of several First Nations located along the Line 3 route note that “this economic stimulus benefited more than just the workers, it benefited the families and the Nations we represent.” They worked with Enbridge and “found ways to ensure environmental protections, and ways to secure tangible economic benefits and career development commitments for the indigenous people we represent. Enbridge listened and we believe this project has been a success for our people.”

Another community benefitting from the L3RP was the Manitoba Metis Federation (MMF). David Chartrand, President of the MMF says, “In order to work on a pipeline you have to have certification, so we got our people all ready and trained a year before the pipeline went in. We were ahead of the game.”

“I can honestly say,” he adds, “that this is one of the true success stories that we can probably talk about. Enbridge has got a blueprint for other companies if they want to use it.”

This focus on engagement and inclusion led to 58 cooperative project agreements with Enbridge, representing the participation of 95 Indigenous communities or groups.

“From the outset, we made a concerted effort to ensure Indigenous communities understood our project, specifically how they might participate and benefit economically,” explains Kim Brenneis, Director of Community and Indigenous Engagement. “I think the positive results we’ve seen speak to Enbridge’s strong commitment to inclusion as well as to building mutually-beneficial relationships with Indigenous nations.”

Beyond successful engagement, there are three major reasons for the strong Indigenous project participation and spending profile, explains Barry Horon, Director of Supply Chain Management for Projects.

“First, we worked with Indigenous communities to help create the capacity needed to participate in meaningful pipeline contracting and employment opportunities; second, Enbridge adopted a proactive supply chain process that, among other initiatives, required prospective contractors to include detailed Indigenous participation plans in their bids; and third, we implemented a labour strategy to enhance connections between Indigenous job seekers and our primary construction contractors through an online portal and the use of Indigenous labour brokers,” says Horon.

Indigenous men and women, such as Kara Pooyak of Sweetgrass First Nation, made up 20% of the Line 3 construction workforce.

Included in the Indigenous workforce were 27 construction monitor and nine liaison positions that provided both Indigenous perspectives and advice to the Line 3 project team. This helped to ensure that Enbridge’s environmental mitigation strategies – which were approved by the National Energy Board – were implemented during construction.

Another key component of the labour strategy was the now-completed Line 3 Pipeline 101 training-to-employment program. Over three years, more than 260 Indigenous men and women graduated from the program, many of whom have secured work on the L3RP.

Justin McKinney of Swan Lake First Nation is building a career in pipelining, thanks to training and mentorship he received during the Line 3 project.

Our experience with the L3RP led to an assessment of how Enbridge’s Indigenous engagement practices had evolved over the past few years. An outcome of this process was the introduction, in 2019, of our Indigenous Lifecycle Engagement Framework, which now guides our approach to building and sustaining long-term relationships across our business going forward, including for enhancing Indigenous economic participation in our projects and operation.

The framework was shared with several Indigenous nations in Canada. We are now incorporating their feedback into our planning and we will continue to seek to seek their input to ensure that our approach remains in step with their interests and goals.

Thanks to Todayville for helping us bring our members’ stories of collaboration and innovation to the public.

Click to read a foreward from JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President and CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

JP Gladu, Chief Development and Relations Officer, Steel River Group; Former President & CEO, Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business

Click to read comments about this series from Jacob Irving, President of the Energy Council of Canada.

Jacob Irving, President of Energy Council of Canada

The Canadian Energy Compendium is an annual initiative by the Energy Council of Canada to provide an opportunity for cross-sectoral collaboration and discussion on current topics in Canada’s energy sector.  The 2020 Canadian Energy Compendium: Innovations in Energy Efficiency is due to be released November 2020.

 

Click below to read more stories from Energy Council of Canada’s Compendium series.

Read more on Todayville.

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