Statoil’s CIO Sonja Chirico Indrebø on the lessons learned from applying sensor technology across a range of environments.
The impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) is fast being felt across all industries and consumer markets, but within the oil and gas industry it is far from a new phenomenon. Norwegian energy giant Statoil has been utilizing sensor technology for decades, providing SVP and CIO Sonja Chirico Indrebø with some early — and deep — insight into the challenges and potential alike. And that extends to both the deployment of sensors and dealing with the vast amounts of data that they generate.
“What I’ve learned is that unless you have a strong plan of what you’ll do with sensor data, it won’t necessarily bring you value,” she explains. So while the method of data collection is important, for Indrebø “it’s all about finding that needle in the haystack” – and knowing what you’re looking for before data collection starts.
Planning what data to collect and how it will be exploited also makes it easier to disregard the mass of irrelevant data. For instance, most of the data picked up by Statoil’s seismic sensors is just noise, which must be filtered out in order to get to the data nuggets. Indrebø emphasizes that the underlying analytics architecture must be capable of evolving to take advantage of new opportunities and to avoid becoming stuck in a “data rut.”
Environmental monitoring of its plants is just one example of the evolution in Statoil’s use of IoT and related data. “It shows how IT can do things differently” by finding new opportunities that complement the company’s sustainability goals, she says. And with its sustainability agenda now linked to every part of the business, IT is well-placed to support such efforts, given its underpinning role in delivering technology to all facets of the organization.
As Indrebø acknowledges, “it’s very easy for IT to tell the business what to do [with new technologies], to say, ‘we have something cool, why don’t you adopt it?’” But the IT team at Statoil works to show some best practice in data management itself before pushing it out to other business lines.
For instance, it has applied IoT technology by building its own Hadoop cluster, which is fed by information security data, including data gathered by security sensors. “We have an enormous amount of logs and systems that produce information, so we’ve gathered all these together as our own big data pool to experiment with new ways of doing things,” says Indrebø. For example, “We’re seeing forensic queries that used to deliver 400,000 responses within a second now delivering 8 million responses just as quickly.”
The range of environments involved in Statoil’s business may provide a wealth of new opportunities for IoT-generated data, but it can also complicate the provision of workplace solutions. Indrebø has to consider how to deliver IT services and support industrial activities that take place within on- and offshore plants, refineries and wind farms, as well as more standard office environments. The challenges stretch from trying to streamline office services by experimenting with a dedicated app store to ensuring that technology equipment in the industrial environment is blast-proof.
This means that, as CIO, Indrebø can rarely opt for a standard solution that is applicable across the entire company. “You have to make it fit for purpose,” she says. This points to an agile approach to new technologies. And while Statoil may have been an early adopter of IoT, the company feels it needs to “experiment and test to understand what could be the next big thing.”