We are at a tipping point of exponential technological advancement. In the coming years, the internet of things will consist of a trillion sensors, all generating and sharing data. Machine learning and artificial intelligence are no longer science fiction; they are already automating and optimising operations. Digital technologies are driving cost efficiency, providing new revenue opportunities and changing business models. They have the potential to redefine the oil and gas industry.

But digitalisation is about more than technology. It is also a cultural change, about people and agile ways of working. We employ leading data scientists who unlock value from the data Shell has access to. They work in teams with other experts across our businesses to combine commercial acumen with technical and data expertise. They develop practical solutions, allowing us to learn and improve all the time.

What we see happening in the world today is an explosion of data leading to a radical transformation in information technology. According to the IDC there are 33 Zettabytes of data in the world, this is projected to grow to 175 Zettabytes by 2025. 90% of that data was created in the last 2 years. 80% of it will be unstructured by 2025. And this is transforming how we do our work. These vast data volumes make information more accessible and make algorithms much smarter.

These days our data is no longer about structured tables - it comes from drones, from blockchains, from IoT devices, from documents and of course from videos. In Shell, big data is not new – our robotic subsea inspection videos exceed 7TB, our land seismic surveys are up to 20 petabytes and our marine surveys range from 10-30 TB. To give you an idea of the scale here, a terabyte is about 500 hours of video. Each of our physical assets – from refineries to wind turbines - generate hundreds of thousands of measurements per minute.

There is now an expectation that this data can be processed in near real-time using cloud technologies – and we’ve been growing our capabilities rapidly in this domain. It is the companies who can harness these new data sources using machine learning technology and provide business insights who will be the ones that really make an impact. The ultimate benefit of digital technologies is how they influence decision making, driving business value. For Shell, this becomes critical – the world needs more and cleaner energy solutions.

What are the fundamental changes enabling digital transformation?

There are some fundamental changes in science and technology enabling this transformation. Although Digitalisation is not new, the technology has become cheaper and faster and the amount of data and connectivity is increasing exponentially, which makes the application of digital technologies ready to deliver at an affordable cost.

  • Cost:

    The price of sensors, data-storage units and processors have dropped dramatically in recent years.

  • Technical advances:

    Analytical techniques, computational algorithms and artificial intelligence now enable more information to be extracted from the vast amount of data gathered by digital sensors.

  • Computational power:

    The speed, number and memory of processing units have increased exponentially along the lines of Moore’s law.

  • Accessibility:

    The internet can now be reached quickly, reliably and wirelessly almost anywhere in the world. New 5G networks will open up even greater opportunities. 


Trust in the digital age

At the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden speaks on the need to gain public trust and the importance of transparency and ethical behaviour.

Thriving through times of unprecedented change

At the Baker Hughes Annual Meeting in Florence, Italy, Shell CTO Yuri Sebregts spoke on the common themes for addressing both the energy transition and digitalisation. This is a summary of the speech that was delivered.

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