Wireless sensor and control network for oil equipment in the Texas desert
The Task: A Texas startup business wanted to connect oil drilling locations in remote locations. One goal was to collect data about production, machine performance, equipment health, and other parameters. Then they wanted to control certain operations remotely; speed up or slow down pumps, control valves, etc.; and, ultimately, integrate the whole thing with user-friendly front-end software.
The Challenge: The client had done exceptional preparation work on the use case and design side. Also, they had some crucial hardware components already set. I had to make them work together, select matching components, come up with plans for how to work with the existing sensors, and talk to a backend API. Some of the machines had computer interfaces that needed adaption. The application environment brought extra fun: very high temperatures, unstable power supply from various sources, little communication options. That made power consumption and heat production an issue. And, keeping an eye on mass production, low component cost was a factor. The timelines were tight.
The Project: With well-spelled-out use cases and front-end designs in place, this was mostly hardware and firmware development and integration. We started by prototyping and testing individual sensors and controllers, then gradually grew logic around those, and continued with verified modules. For every moving part of the increasingly larger system, we looked at different options to realize it, weighed the pros and cons, and simulated how they played together. Everything was prototyped before settling on a design. Lots of parameters were still in flow. In short incremental cycles, work was passed between hardware development, software development, and field test lab. The project grew pretty fast, so I brought in more and more freelance people to form a team of specialists from around the world. They each helped with firmware, PCB layout, front-end development, etc. My work was done when the team—including a full time project manager—was rolling and heading towards production.