internet technology

Shell thinks technology first in preparation for internet of everything

Caroline Baldwin

Shell is reshaping its business to think technology first as it uses the internet of everything (IoE) to change its business processes.

The company is leading the way in technology by being the first in the oil and gas industry to try out new technology through the IoE.

Shell-vessel-FLNG-290px.jpeg

“Innovation is in our DNA,” said Alan Matula, executive vice-president and chief information officer at Royal Dutch Shell PLC. “We do things we’re very proud of and a first in the industry.”

Speaking at Cisco Live in San Francisco, Matula said it first predicted that the IoE was coming to the market three or four years ago, and it set up a unique technology outfit dedicated to the concept next to its R&D department.

“We push the technology advances as close as possible to the business outcomes we’re trying to drive,” he said.

Matula said this changed its organisation of IT in the business dramatically. 

He said when drilling for shale gas, Shell must drill hundreds of wells at scale and speed, while preserving quality. 

Cisco provides the company with real-time remote monitoring capabilities, where information at the drilling point can be sent instantly back to the office for analysis.

“This is automation at the edge,” he said. “It can automate the drilling, accuracy and speed.”

Matula said decisions about drilling are made at the edge, but remote command centres can quickly analyse the information at the drill site and even control the drill bits on the rig thanks to IoE technology.

Shell has also worked with Cisco to provide a comprehensive secure network infrastructure across the business. “Our critical infrastructure is incredibly important,” said Matula.

He said Cisco provides real-time monitoring of the infrastructure, and provides systems to secure it as well, such as remote changes for patches as problems arise.

But its relationship with the networking provider has not always been perfect. Matula told CEO John Chambers during the keynote presentation that two or three years ago he was struggling with Cisco technology.

“We don’t need sales and marketing,” he said. “We need technology people to help understand Cisco technology and turn it into business outcomes and solutions which allow us to scale.”

Matula said Shell uses IT right across the business, from upstream drilling for oil to getting the products to its customers. “Across the breadth of the business, the intensity in which we use IT is incredible,” he said.

But Matula said failure has to be supported because not everything the company experiments with is going to work.

Over the next few years the company plans to concentrate further on automation, as well as fog computing, telehealth and robotics.


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