Energy exploration means going where resources are located, and for one major U.S. company, that means extracting oil and gas from geological formations globally. When it comes to monitoring remote sites in North America for safe operation while keeping field workers connected, this customer relies on Digi Remote Manager® to configure and maintain connectivity – all from a single point of entry – as well as Digi industrial cellular routers.
As a division of one of the largest oil and gas production companies globally, one Digi oil and gas customer has contributed to tripling the larger organization’s resource portfolio over the past ten years. The global organization now features approximately 40,000 active oil and natural gas sites across North America.
Understandably, this Digi customer has a mission-critical requirement to monitor remote sites and gather device data and readings through their SCADA process control system, while maintaining the highest levels of network and data security. With so many remote locales, this can be a challenging proposition.
According to Randall Kerr, Director of Product Management and Sales Engineering at Digi International, the customer had two critical requirements. “For remote locations that need Internet connectivity, they use public SIMs / APNs, then create a VPN tunnel to secure their data,” he said. “But when problems arise involving something like network performance, they might require a static, public-facing IP address to remotely access, diagnose and correct the situation – and that has the potential to create security vulnerabilities. The alternative was to have someone travel to the site and log in to verify settings. Often, that person is not intimately familiar with the hardware in question. This often resulted in lengthy calls between field team members and IT staff at headquarters.”
In other situations involving unplanned network outages or emergency situations, customer drilling sites might leverage cellular connections via their Digi® TX54 and TX64 cellular routers. “In these scenarios, the customer creates a portable emergency response kit that can quickly be dispatched to any site in need,” Kerr said. “The onsite crew can use built-in, high-capacity Wi-Fi connections, just like in a corporate office. But the key is centralized manageability, since IT can’t always be on-site at these distant locations to manage every device.”
The tasks involved in maintaining an industrial IoT network include firmware and other software updates, security patches and continuous performance monitoring.
To oversee their massive deployment of cellular routers, this customer relies on Digi Remote Manager®, a secure management platform to monitor and engage their complete portfolio of distributed devices. Digi RM provides IT administrators with a single point of access to easily and continuously monitor, diagnose, update, and manage Digi routers anytime from anywhere, without requiring costly on-site visits.
Previously, this customer’s centralized IT team was responsible for provisioning remote sites, including compressor stations, satellite offices, temporary facilities, small trailers or well sites.
“Team skills and expertise can vary,” Kerr explained. “With Digi RM, they can review each device by location and application, without the need for a public IP address. This is a vastly more secure model, and team members can easily locate device metrics, such as signal strength and quality.”
“The oil and gas industry, and this customer is building an Azure app to send active alerts if any device’s signal strength happens to fall below a certain threshold. This helps them more rapidly troubleshoot network issues.
The organization also uses Digi RM to set up and pre-configure Digi routers at remote locations. “Previously, they would receive the Digi device, provision it, test it, then deploy it to a remote site,” Kerr said. “Now, they find it far more efficient to simply send the device straight to the work site with its SIM card already installed. They simply plug in the unit and it can receive its configuration remotely within minutes – all via a TLS encrypted connection to the Remote Manager platform.” He added that if any issues arise, requiring a device reset, the correct configuration can again be quickly sent to that unit, saving time and money.
“With Digi, this customer has the devices, connectivity, and management needed to keep every site reliably connected and secure.”
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