Return to food for thought Return to food for thought About the use of smartphones and  tablets in dive and ROV control rooms
A contractor recently contacted us and requested our advice on a safety flash published by an IOGP member in 2022, where it is stated that the primary duty of the diving supervisor is to carefully manage the divers' decompression to bring them back to the surface in perfect health. Therefore, anything that might distract the supervisor during the decompression phases must be avoided, and for this reason, cellphones are prohibited in the dive control when working on their oilfields. This happened because a supervisor once omitted the 3m stop of his diver while playing with his smartphone. Even though we can applaud and strongly support the idea that the diving supervisors’ primary function is to take care of the divers under their responsibility, we note a conflict between the professional qualities required by this function and the authoritarian measure of forbidding the use of a communication tool that can be helpful to the supervisor based on the mistake of only one person. In fact, should we think that the smartphone is responsible for the incident and therefore must be banned from the control room, or that some supervisors allowed to operate by this company have the mental age of an 8-year-old child, considering that this kind of measure is the punishment level we inflict on naughty kids? Thus, we can consider that, as explained in our "Food for Thought" discussion “About Standards”, this kind of measure is based on an inadequate strategy that consists of infantilizing the personnel to better control them. To summarize, people who play with their phones during the decompression phases and other sensitive processes are not worthy of being supervisors. The smartphone is not the root cause of the incident as this person may have used something else. Of course, this calls into question the training and selection system that some IOGP members implement, rather than whether having a smartphone in the dive control should be restricted by authoritarian measures that affect all the supervisors working for this client. This is an opportunity to remind the evolution of communication systems since the 1990s and highlight the usefulness of smartphones and tablets. At the beginning of the 1990s, the communication systems available to the diving and ROV teams on board most vessels were only VHF radios. The first satellite phone for public use was built by Motorola and made available only in 1998 by the company “Iridium". ( Communications with such phones were extremely expensive, so only the people in charge of the project could use them to communicate with the shore base. Additionally, the areas covered by the satellites were limited to the most active business zones, so many teams continued to use only radios. In parallel, the end of the nineties was also the era when the first public cell phones were made available. Radiophones were available previously, but their price, size, and weight prohibited their use by the general public in places other than cars or offices. Additionally, their coverage areas were limited, which restricted their usage to only certain places. These first public cellphones allowed only voice communication and basic text messages. However, it was possible to use them to transfer emails through specific and expensive services. Regarding the internet and email, we must remember that even though the idea and first attempts were made during the 1960s and 1970s, the real democratization of the system started at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s in parallel with the development of portable computers and operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, and Linux, that can be used by people without specific computing education. We began to have internet connections on board vessels between the years 2000 and 2010, depending on the companies. These connections were initially limited to the on-board management and later extended to the other team members with metered connections. It should also be noted that during this period, many clients and companies have made the presence of a satellite phone in the dive control mandatory. Note that wireless systems, such as Wi-Fi, were first released in 1997 and were gradually installed on vessels approximately after the year 2010, so when the development of satellite communications made it possible to obtain services at more reasonable prices than during the 1980s. The generalization of Wi-Fi on vessels happened in parallel with the development of tablets and the new generation of cell phones, commonly called "smartphones," during the same period. These devices have introduced technical progress, such as touch screens, and are at least 10 times more powerful than the notebooks we used during the 1980s. As a conclusion to this short history, we can see that electronic technologies evolve quickly, and not taking this into account is a major mistake. Smartphones and tablets are also a part of most people's lives today, especially among the younger generation, and this fact should be taken into account. With the Wi-Fi connection now installed on most Diving Support Vessels (DSVs), tablets and smartphones can be used to provide the following functions.
Portable satellite phone Motorola model 1998
Cellular phone Nokia 5110 Year 1998
Radiophone Motorola model MCR 9500 XL Year 1988
It is the reason why, instead of forbidding them in chambers, the CCO Ltd diving management study #8, “Set a policy for electronic devices in chambers”, recommends controlling them and implementing similar measures to those already in force in the airline industry. Click on the cover to open the document.
Communication with the appointed diving doctor: A tablet or smartphone has the advantage of enabling video conversations through systems such as WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Skype, Skred, Telegram, and many others. This provides the doctor with the possibility to guide the “diver medics”, who are not real nurses and require professional guidance. The cameras provided to the latest generation of these devices allow sending high-definition pictures to the doctor, which may enable him to observe in detail a wound or the external condition of the casualty. Note that conference call programs such as Microsoft Teams, Meet, Webex, FreeConferenceCall, and many others allow the doctor or the diving team to organize a video meeting with multiple participants. Additionally, documents and instructions can be sent, which can be visualized on the device through these programs or traditional email. As well as photos can be taken and sent directly to him. Note that, in addition to the tablet or smartphone, it is recommended to provide the following tools: Unscrambled phone communication will be necessary if the divers are diving with heliox. This is possible with diver communication systems, such as the one sold by Fathom ( Of course, in such a case, the doctor needs to use a second line to listen to the diver medic in the chamber. Also, monitoring the parameters of the casualty is essential. This is possible with tools such as the D-MAS Remote & HyperSat from Dan Medical (, that allow effective clinical interpretation and support from outside the chamber, including from doctors onshore, or at a base location (see the picture below). Also, smartphones and tablets with access to the cellular network can advantageously replace those using a satellite connection when the operations are carried out onshore or inland. Regarding this point, note that many petroleum companies allow connections to the local cellular network on their oilfields so that people working in these locations do not need to use satellite phones.
Communication with the company management It is evident that the various functions available on smartphones and tablets can be used to communicate with the company's management or the technical department of the company. For example, a technician on the job site can be guided by a specialist to solve a difficult problem using the video call function, or a video conference call can be organized from the site where a problem is being discussed and solved.
Secured communication on board the vessel Several software applications can be installed on smartphones to use them for close communication without relying on the internet. This allows the supervisor or another onboard manager to send messages on board without passing through the phone, intercom, or radio. “Bridgefy” ( is a system developed for rural zones where internet coverage is poor. It uses bluetooth to send either encrypted or unencrypted messages to distances up to 114 m (330 ft). “MeshMe” is another app that can work via Bluetooth or WiFi for internal and external connections (Refer to Google Play - “The Serval Mesh” ( also uses phones as relays and enables members of a community to make private phone calls and send secure text messages easily. “Signal Offline Messenger” ( is a Wi-Fi-based app that allows people to communicate within a range of up to 100 meters. Messaging could be one-on-one or in a group. Messages sent via this app are delivered in a secure way. “Wi-Fi Talkie Free” allows users to organize communication between smartphone devices at distances of Wi-Fi signal without using an internet connection or a cellular network. ( Many similar apps are available for Android or Apple systems.
Pressure gauge and other sensing device data transmissions Gauge and sensor manufacturers are gradually designing systems with displays on tablets and smartphones. Auto Meter ( digital-gauges-apple-ios-android.HTML) is a manufacturer of digital gauges with displays on Android and iOS devices. Matheson ( gas-equipment/smart-devices/) is another pressure gauge manufacturer that provide systems with displays on smartphones or tablets using bluetooth connection. This system is appropriate for situations where the cylinder or point-of-use station might be in another room or outdoors (oxygen). The system also allows monitoring of gas reserves stored in a yard far from the job site.
Video surveillance There are many apps and hardware devices that can be used to monitor areas via cell phones and tablets. They offer features such as local streaming, cloud streaming, recording and storing footage locally or remotely, and motion detection and alerts. Many programs use the internet, allowing the user to monitor a remote area from the job site. Also, a wireless video transmitter and receiver can be used to display video from a camera on a tablet via WiFi. Numerous systems are available on the market that are often used on drones, and for multiple applications such as reporting and surveillance. Their maximum range is approximately 300m, which is widely sufficient for transmissions on the job site. We can, for example, consider the three following brands, but keep in mind that many other manufacturers are present in this market: DJI transmission ( Hollyland Cosmo C1 SDI/HDMI Wireless Video Transmission System ( adapter/165408.html). Stonkam ( Wireless-Transmitter), that provide systems for underwater vehicles, making them usable offshore and in rough conditions. It is evident that the advantages of these systems are their flexibility and reasonable price, considering that many systems are sold for less than $1000, and that some tablets are sold at prices below $200. They can be used to transmit video signals to the dive control or the construction manager's office, making the installation of video cables, which is sometimes problematic on vessels of opportunity, obsolete. Note that some of these Wi-Fi video transmission systems also work with classic combos.
Wireless control of machines As tablets and smartphones are often used to control drones, they can also be used to remotely control other machines. In an article called ”Smartphones and Tablets in Manufacturing," published on the website Control Engineering ( tablets-in-manufacturing/), it is explained that the natural progression is for industrial applications to explore the possibility of adopting smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices in manufacturing environments.
We can see that the list of applications that can be done through tablets is large and continues to expand, so I probably have missed many applications. Thus, depriving supervisors and other on-site managers of these useful tools should be considered a move against logical historical ways. Of course, it questions the authoritarian management methods of some people who, instead of investigating a problem and looking for balanced and appropriate measures, prefer using infantilization procedures to solve it to the detriment of their company and the people they are supposed to ensure the well-being of.
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