Category: Technology

Safety Is Job 1 at Shell and Team Penske

6,000 ft above the Gulf of Mexico – Flying aboard a 16-person helicopter back to New Orleans I was still questioning why I spent an entire day sitting in a classroom and being dunked in a pool.  Upside down.  Harnessed to a helicopter simulator chair.  Shell explained it was all in the name of safety just in case there was an issue during the flights to and from its deep water oil and gas production facility in the Gulf we were headed to.  As we are about to land safely at the New Orleans airport there was nary an issue during the 100-minute flight but it was reassuring to have passed the Tropical Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET) the day before.

I was a part of the crew invited to tour the Turritella, Shell’s Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility stationed 200 miles south of Louisiana.  The purpose of this trip was to demonstrate to media and members of Team Penske how safety and preparation are critical in the offshore environment and on the track.  Team Penske, of course, is a the professional stock car, open wheel and sports car racing team that currently competes in the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series, among other racing leagues.  Penske Corp. president Bud Denker led his team members on the trip – he was first in the training pool – which included 3-time Indy Car champ Helio Castroneves.

Day 1 of this 2-day event was spent at Shell’s training facility in Robert, Louisiana, about an hour north of New Orleans.  The 9-hour (yes, 9 hours!) training class taught us safety techniques and procedures of how to escape and survive a helicopter should it ditch in the water.  Teamwork was the theme as all participants learned how to work together to exit the aircraft should it land upright or upside down.  This is where fun came in.

The afternoon found us all in an Olympic-size pool that featured a full-scale replica of a helicopter attached to moving cables above.  After watching several demonstrations of how to enter and exit the chopper we were strapped to the 5-point harnessed seats several times in both upright and upside positions.  Notwithstanding unwanted water rushing up our noses we all passed with flying colors and were presented with HUET certificates we would need for the trip the next day.

 

A 6:00am hotel lobby rendezvous began our busy Day 2 with a bus ride to the airport.  After another safety briefing we were escorted to a helicopter that Shell contracts with PHI.  Liftoff was right on schedule and we were quickly soaring above the Gulf.  Several members of the Shell team briefed us on their Gulf of Mexico drilling and production facilities while we gazed at nothing but water as far as the eye could see.

Carlos Maurer, president of Shell Lubricants America, was quick to point out one of the final products that is produced in the water below us includes engine oil so many of us use everyday.  Helio made sure we all knew that his likeness appears on many of those oil cannisters sold at retail outlets and was the sole reason Shell continue to have record sales numbers.  Knowing that we needed to remain strapped to the seats during the flight no one was going to ague with the gregarious race car driver.

 

 

We approached the Turritella vessel which hovers over Shell’s Stones field in the Lower Tertiary geologic frontier in the Gulf.  Discovered in 2005, it is Shell’s second producing field in this region along with Perdido.

 

 

As we circled to get a good view we could see an oil tanker floating a few hundred yards behind the FPSO.  They were in the midst of off-loading millions of gallons of oil from the Turritella onto the tanker.  This process occurs several times each week.

We landed slowly onto the helipad located a the stern of the vessel.  After unstrapping ourselves we carefully walked down into a holding area where we were given more safety instructions and handed personal protective equipment.  Our tour began as we were clad in coveralls, protective eye wear, gloves and hard hats.  Over the next several hours we were led through the Turritella’s command center, bridge, engineering room, crew bunks and the cafeteria.

120 crew members were on board during our visit, most working the typical off-shore schedule of 14 days on, 14 days off.  The crew certainly eats well as we dined with them during a lunchtime shift.  Homemade hummus, salads, baked cod, pasta, potatoes and dessert was served by the trained cooks and kitchen crew.  The menus change daily which makes for a happy, well-fed crew.

At some point we needed to see the equipment and learn the process of how oil and gas – almost 10,000 feet below us – was being extracted from 27,000 feet below the earth’s surface onto the vessel on which we were standing.  The Turritella is a modified ship with one key feature – an extremely large turret is situated near the bow.  This structure rises several hundred feet above the main deck and extends through the vessel nearly 30 feet under sea level.  This feature allows the Turritella to circle around the stationary turret ensuring the vessel is constantly pointed into the Gulf’s waves to minimize rocking and swaying.

Deep inside the vessel at the bottom of the turret is an incredibly engineered system where a large buoy connects to the ship.  Underneath the buoy are a network of steel pipes that creep almost 2 miles down to the bottom of the Gulf.  Oil is pumped up through these pipes into the massive storage tanks aboard the Turritella where it is held until it is off-loaded onto tankers.

We were told this FPSO concept was created, in lieu of a stationary oil rig, for several reasons including safety, of course.  An FPSO can disconnect the buoy and float away from danger should a hurricane enter the Gulf.  The process of disconnecting the buoy – which floats about 200 ft below the water surface – and reconnecting it to the Turritella takes about 7 days.  To ensure a smooth operation should the vessel be in the path of a hurricane Shell goes through the drill once a year.  An estimated 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day is produced from Stones field.

Our visit ended with most of the Turritella’s crew listening to Helio and Team Penske members talk about teamwork and the importance of their work.  Helio made sure to let them know their efforts propel his team to race throughout the year and his checkered flag finishes could not happen without Team Shell.

Upon landing back at the airport we realized the HUET certification we received the previous day was but a small percentage of the measures Shell goes through to ensure its employees and equipment remain safe.

 

 

LISTEN TO THE TRIP RECAP AS HEARD ON IHEARTRADIO’S “THE HIGH-TECH TEXAN SHOW WITH MICHAEL GARFIELD”

It’s a water bottle with a Bluetooth speaker!

Aquio is releasing a water bottle with a twist.  Literally.

The 16oz double-walled stainless-steel bottle houses a modular 5-watt Bluetooth speaker that can either twist off or be used right on the bottle.  Aquio partnered with audio company iHome to create the unique product which will be on sale August 1.  The company claims it can keep hot liquids hot for up to 14 hours and cold beverages cold for up to 24 hours.

The iP67 rated speaker (waterproof and sandproof) actually sounds quite good with a 360 degree throw.  It has digital echo cancellation for speakerphone use and provides audio caller ID.  Yes you can talk to your water bottle.  Battery life is up to 6 hours.

Aquio is available in black, seafoam, blush and merlot and lists for $69.99, though the company is offering a 30% launch discount plus free shipping.

 

 

 

 

 

Watch and take a LISTEN here:

VIDEO: Summer Tech/Travel Gadgets

Summer is halfway over but you may still be packing up to hit the road.  Here are some smart and sharp products to help you with packing, monitoring your home, sharing your memories, and helping you sleep in those noisy hotel rooms.  I will elaborate on these and more products, as usual, on my High-Tech Texan radio show (Saturdays 11a – 1p CT) on iHeartRadio around the world.

Click screenshot below to watch clip from HOUSTON LIFE (NBC-Houston)

PRODUCTS SPOTLIGHTED:

Eagle Creek/National Geographic Explorer Series Travel Bag
Guardzilla 360 degree video camera
B-hyve WiFi hose faucet timer
PhotoSpring digital photo frame
SleepPhones headphones for sleeping

Everyone is All In on AI at CES 2018

One of my post-CES rituals is whittling down all the products and services I saw to figure out who “won” the trade show. I remember falling in love with thin HDTVs in the early 2000’s, fawning over Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players and yearning for every smartphone I saw on the convention center floor.  This year I was impressed with camera-filled refrigerators that can recommend recipes and TVs that can be rolled up as flat as yoga mats.

But the darling of this year’s CES was not a gadget but the growing amount of artificial intelligence software helping these products run.  The proliferation of companies showing off their products was mind boggling.  Robots ran – and climbed stairs – amok, car simulators showed how they can be driven without a driver, even coffee makers that let you know when a fresh pot was ready. Google and Amazon were everywhere.  Literally everywhere including hotel and tram signage along with booth workers wearing ubiquitous “Hey Google” outfits.  Almost every product seemingly sported the message that it could be controlled with some faction of AI.

To make some sense of why 2018 may be the year that our voice and touch will be the key factors to hit the market, I spoke with Jeremie Capron, Managing Director of Research at ROBO Global.  His company created the first benchmark index to track the global robotics and automation market bringing solutions to investors.

Our conversation:

VIDEO: Cyber Monday Tips & Gift Ideas

We know Cyber Monday is a made-for-the-internet event but it keeps me busy every year.  I spent most of the morning speaking with radio stations across the country as I gave listeners tips on what to watch out for and avoid.  The afternoon found me in a few TV stations showing up some neat gear that was either on sale or to give viewers interesting ideas on what to buy.  Here are some clips from my HOUSTON LIFE (NBC) appearance.

This first clip includes the hot new Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphone, the Samsung IconX wireless earbuds and the Nest Thermostat E:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I yapped about the Arlo Pro 2 security cameras, Saddleback Leather bags and the Weatherman Umbrella:

Cyber Monday Tips

I have no clue if Cyber Monday is the biggest day for online shopping in the U.S.  Some stat says it is while another disputes it.  It’s a made-up date anyway thanks to the National Retail Federation.  But it is my duty to write blogs like this and make media rounds each year to either hype up this “special” day or warn you about all those nasty, evil cyber criminals lurking to steal your credit card and personal information.  Since it is almost impossible to keep an updated list of every online store offering 50% off a kitchen blender or free shipping if you spend $100, I will go with the super hero angle of protecting the world from the bad guys.  But feel free to email me if you find a good deal on a pair of black, size 11 Chelsea boots.

Yes this is the most wonderful time of the year but here are a few things to keep in mind before you click the BUY button:

Use a credit card vs. a debit card – Your debit card is linked to your bank account, thus exposing your available funds. By using your credit card there is an added sense of security knowing that you are using borrowed money. If you see or sense something odd with a recent purchase contact your credit card provider and they can dispute the charges.

Don’t save your information – If you frequently shop on a specific website, you probably have an option to save your credit card information.  Definitely a convenient and time-saving trick but not the safest thing to do especially if you use a public computer or a device that others can access easily.  Suck it up and take the extra minute to enter your information each and every time.

Use a secure connection – We love WiFi but try to avoid making purchases through a public wireless network.  It’s not that difficult for cyber criminals (Boo! Hiss!) to hack into that WiFi signal and access your details.

Change your passwords frequently – Blah, blah. How many times have you heard this?  JUST DO IT!  NOW!  Especially when doing frequent online purchases. Changing your passwords often is important, but so is making sure you have strong passwords too.  Throw in some characters like $ or % or !.

Update your antivirus – This should happen automatically but check your computer’s software regularly to keep it up-to-date.  Don’t forget there is also antivirus software for your mobile phones.  Download a copy from either Avast, Trend Micro, or Sophos.

Happy shopping and get out there to find me those boots.

I remember not too long away perusing the Thanksgiving Day newspaper ads so I could plan out my route and shopping list for the next day…Black Friday.  The day after turkey, stuffing and the Cowboys’ game meant finding parking spaces along with finding good deals on products that I really didn’t need.

Nowadays there is no need to look at a newspaper just as there is no longer a wait until that Friday after Thanksgiving.  Black Friday has turned into Thrifty Thursday and now seemingly into Nifty Thrifty November.  Sales are either leaked or officially released online weeks before Black Friday and many stores begin selling these items immediately.

Before heading to stores (if you still dare) or click that link to buy a product, make sure to do some research.  Shipping costs can add up.  Some stores match competitor prices.  And batteries may not be included.  Plus if you happen to sleep in after all that tryptophan consumption, don’t worry.  Studies have shown that Black Friday deals are not the cheapest prices of the season.  Many retailers mark prices down further in December as the days before Christmas dwindle.

Here is a list from Mashable.com that tracks Black Friday deals from major stores like Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Nordstrom.  Happy hunting.

P.S.  If you do find some good deals my favorite color is purple and I’m a size Medium shirt.

VIDEO – Hurricane Harvey Preparedness and Rebuilding

As Southeast Texas continues to dry out and recover from Hurricane Harvey, here are some products to help you rebuild, repair and prepare for future disasters.  As seen on NBC Channel 2 in Houston.

CLICK TO WATCH

VIDEO: Hot Summer Gadgets

It’s not even summer yet but things are already heating up.  The place to be is OUTSIDE and on my recent “Houston Life” appearance (NBC) I showed some gadgets to help you have some fun.  Enjoy!

Click HERE to watch


 

 

 

 

 

Origin Acoustics AcoustaLandScape Outdoor Speaker System 
Nexia Wi-Fi Outdoor HD Camera
TecTecTec Golf Rangefinder
Arccos 360 Personal Golf Shot Tracking System
Huawei Watch 2 

 

Series: Steps To Make Your Home Smart

Thermostats. Cameras. Lighting. Window shades. Refrigerators. TVs. Audio systems.

This is just a brief list of things in your home that can be updated, upgraded and integrated into a “smart home.” One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what is the simplest way to make a smart home.” My answer isn’t that simple as there are many ways to do it including DIY kits, hiring contractors, using cloud servers vs. on-site storage, etc…

So it is time to do some show-and-tell on bringing your home or apartment into the 21st century. Over the next few months we will be adding and installing products and services in a new home while documenting the research, installation and usage. We will be adding videos, stories, links and suggestions on how to plan for a new home or just retrofitting an existing home.

Send your suggestions or favorite products to us and we will incorporate your ideas into this series. Tune in to “The High-Tech Texan Show” on iHeartRadio and on stations across the country to hear our thoughts and listen to product and industry experts. And maybe we will give away a few items to get you started.

Get Smart! (Sorry about that, Chief)