EDR Systems are IoT Systems

In oil and gas, specifically in upstream oil and gas drilling operations, the drilling activities are monitored by a system known as an electronic drilling recorder, or EDR. An EDR records various items at regular intervals (from 1 second to 10 seconds, typically). Common reading include hook load (weight on the pulley system on the rig derrick), block position (the position of the pulley system on the rig derrick), drilling rotational RPM, pump pressure, etc. Derived readings include rate of penetration (drilling speed), weight on bit, measured depth (hole depth), true vertical depth (how far down are we?), etc. Other readings include mud pit volumes, pump strokes, etc.

In order to get the various readings, EDR systems employ sensors. There are sensors for weight, fluid depth, pressure, some equipment has built-in sensors, etc. and the sensor data is acquired through a variety of protocols (Modbus, Profibus, OPC, Ethernet IP, and proprietary protocols). These are standard industrial protocols for getting data from sensors and providing them to monitoring equipment.

EDR Systems Connect Things

EDR systems allow things to be connected and monitored. They also allow the data to flow out of the rig and onto the Internet. There are a variety of ways that this is allowed. For example, a block position encoder can be connected to the EDR system to measure the block position as it moves up and down the derrick.

EDR systems can also talk to other systems, such as control systems. Many pieces of equipment have control system components that allow computer control of the equipment. These devices can be networked to EDR systems, using Internet protocols, and EDR systems can read data from these systems. Because these systems are used to control heavy equipment, it is important that there be limitations to the connectivity between EDR systems and control systems. It is probably a good idea to have control and monitoring of the network traffic between these two systems, such as to place them in two separate zones with limited access to each other.

Other systems may also have data fed out of those systems using standard oil industry protocols such as WITS or WITSML. Many EDR systems allow these types of inputs to their monitoring functionality.

Finally, EDR systems connect upstream from the rig to the Internet. Because rigs are often remotely located, the only connectivity is either over cellular networks (Edge/3G/4G) or satellite networks. This means that connectivity is often inconsistent and dependent on the weather. There is also quite a bit of electromagnetic interference on rigs that may cause issues with cellular or wireless connectivity.

These systems can support two-way communication with the Internet to both push data to the Internet and get updates from the Internet. As with control systems, security concerns are important and must be considered with this type of connectivity. The EDR systems are used for advisory functionality, sometimes referred to as SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), which is important to those drilling the well. The data is used to make important decisions and should be protected adequately.

Sample EDR System and Data Flow
Sample EDR System and Data Flow

EDR System as IoT System

As you can see, an EDR system is an Internet of Things. It takes things and connects them using various protocols. It then puts them on an intranet or on the Internet. It is capable of connecting all of your devices and reporting on them.

If and EDR system is an IoT system, then could standard IoT frameworks simply replace EDR systems? They would need to be durable and industrial strength to do so. This can come up because EDR systems can costs $100s to $1,000s per month. There are FOSS IoT systems, commercial IoT systems (ex. Microsoft), and Industrial Internet systems from GE. One would need to be careful with such IoT systems to make sure that all regulatory and safety standards are met (hazardous location classification, for example).

What you would gain from using an off-the-shelf IoT system is the economies of scale that you would not get with EDR systems. Since EDR systems are almost purely proprietary and are manufactured in small lot sizes, they will not be able to keep up with innovations in massively manufactured IoT systems.


It will be interesting to see if IoT and Industrial Internet systems will displace EDR systems, as well as other SCADA systems.??There are already vendors advertising these types of services.?? As the IoT frameworks mature and are expanded to meet more and more use cases, they will more than likely overtake the smaller proprietary systems used to do the same functions.