Technology is moving rapidly, driven by innovation and accelerated by consumer experience and demand. The energy sector is no exception. The industry is facing an additional challenge: meeting the world’s energy needs while reducing carbon emissions. But how? One answer is through digital transformation.
About the author
Mariza Fotiou, Digital Factory Director, BP.
Driven by a need to change, many energy companies have publicly committed to reinvention, using technology to underpin their net zero ambitions. It is therefore imperative that digital solutions are always integrated effectively into the change. How energy companies are able to attract digital talent and place digital at the center of their business model will be key in making this reinvention a success. Digital capability is a vital ingredient in making a net zero carbon future a reality.
Opportunities for digital talent?
Digital roles were once perceived as a support function – enabling the ‘real’ work, however they are now central to the success of an energy company. Digital talent now holds the key to delivering the innovation required to meet both financial and environmental objectives.
There’s an opportunity for digital specialists to join energy companies, with endless possibilities to build out their expertise and contribute to a greater purpose. Data scientists can use analytics to assess the performance of initiatives aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Robotics specialists leverage virtual reality to improve the safety and quality of sub-sea inspection program. And artificial intelligence (AI) experts experiment with machine learning to identify and unlock new ways to model energy generation.
Digital is directly impacting the way energy is created through new technology and experimentation. In the wind energy space they are running AI algorithms on edge processors in real-time to undertake drone-based blade inspections. Earlier work required cloud computing resources to process data and is now running on significantly smaller edge computing resources. The aim is to produce actionable insights during data acquisition— eventually enabling real-time autonomous decisions, as well as developing a drone controller capable of learning and adapting to environmental real-time changes without supervision, using neuromorphic hardware.
This is the crux of digital transformation: bringing these skills and new technologies into a business to enable transition. Combining internal robust engineering knowledge, software development and data engineering working in an agile way, energy companies empower digital specialists to innovate and find new solutions that will deliver a low carbon future.
Data, the future of energy?
Data lies at the heart of digital transformation. This is the core of a digital strategy, and the way data is collected, stored and used directly impacts decision making. Constantly increasing the capability to combine data from across the business and through analytical integration, an energy company is able to modernize business workflows through automation and AI, radically improving productivity and business outcomes by providing end-to-end insights.
Data is being used in many dynamic ways to improve work processes. Digital specialists build predictive analytics applications by applying artificial intelligence and machine learning to production surveillance to prevent the breakdown of planned work, automatically reducing effort for the end user and lowering maintenance costs.
Another instance of leveraging data is the creation of digital twin applications. A digital twin is a dynamic software model of a physical asset that relies on data to understand its state, respond to changes, improve operations, and add value. Through the use of intellectual assets, we systematically codify our know-how and empower the energy sector to increasingly drive key operation decisions. A digital twin application is used to help visualize how an asset, such as a wind farm, is working. The results of this modelling are then applied to make sure that things are running as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
Thirdly, there is the smart utilization of Internet of Things (IoT) to deliver new business value leveraging established IoT and edge analytics capability. This includes the ability to deploy sensors where additional data is required, along with powerful data analytics platforms. Data plays a huge role in improving the way we produce the energy the world needs in a sustainable way. How data is collected, managed and used to inform business decisions will be the key differentiator in advancing the energy transition – few industries offer this opportunity for impact.
What does this mean for digital talent?
To bridge the digital talent gap, energy companies are re-skilling their staff by teaching software engineering languages and other digital skills that are needed for this industry evolution, however, this isn’t enough. There’s an increasing need to hire the best digital talent on the market to enable the speed of transformation required to feed the world’s demands while transitioning to more sustainable needs.
For digital specialists, the opportunity for innovation and discovery at an energy company is immense. The sector is evolving, and digital talent is the key towards realizing a low carbon future.