ABB announced the collaboration yesterday to combine its own digital offering, ABB Ability, with IBM's Watson Internet of Things' cognitive abilities to unlock new value for utilities, industry and transport and infrastructure.
The two companies hope to develop breakthrough solutions to help companies address some of their biggest industrial challenges in a whole new way including improving quality control, reducing downtime and increasing speed and yield of industrial processes.
These solutions will move beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to cognitive industrial machines that use data to understand, sense, reason and take actions supporting industrial workers to help eliminate inefficient processes and redundant tasks.
"The data generated from industrial companies' products, facilities and systems holds the promise of exponential advances in innovation, efficiency and safety," IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said.
"Only with Watson's broad cognitive capabilities and our platform's unique support for industries can this vast new resource be turned into value, with trust. We are eager to work in partnership with ABB on this new industrial era."
At Woodside, Watson ingested the equivalent of 38,000 Woodside documents, which would take a human more than five years to read.
This knowledge evolved into Willow, Woodside's cognitive avatar powered by Watson.
Woodside's employees can ask Willow questions in natural language, such as "what is the maximum weight of a helicopter landing on the platform?", and Willow will respond accordingly in less than a second by streaming data from the remote assets.
Watson helped reduce the time spent searching for expert knowledge by 75%.
Woodside chief technology officer Shaun Gregory said the productivity savings in the time spent by the company's current people has "more than paid" for both Watson and the analytics platform that is driven by the same horsepower that delivers Netflix via a partnership with Amazon and Accenture, to say nothing of the business impact.
He said that while oil and gas has generally been slow to adapt to such technology as it is handling dangerous goods, the uptake has been more positive among Perth engineers more broadly who used to spend 80% of their time trying to find data, now they spend just 20% and the rest on insights.
Woodside plans to push the technology out to field workers, including Karratha Gas Plant maintainers by the end of this year but first needs to overcome some logistical challenges, which can be as simple as reading devices in 35C sun.
"The value is in the use, not in any money we get in IP licenses. That money would be dwarfed by 100 extra tonnes of LNG," Gregory said.
Woodside also has a five-year corrosion management program, using analytics to reduce how much inspection it needs to do and make it more accurate when it needs to be done.
He said digital technology was not overly expensive compared to many things oilers spend money on, partly because of the approach to prototyping, which takes 2-3 days of testing with a couple of people's time.
Though that changes once the new tech is built out, even then it's much cheaper than it was even a year ago.
Gregory said Woodside's lurch head-on into analytics and cognitive architecture came from the top, describing CEO Peter Coleman was an "avid visionary on technology".
"The discussions I've had with him on what we should be tackling he's pushed us harder and faster than even I probably even planned," Gregory said.
"We had a five-year vision; he wanted it done in three."
IBM use case
Gregory said that in the cognitive field, Woodside leads all heavy industry, which was demonstrated by IBM's constant use of the Perth oiler as a use case to advertise the capabilities of Watson.
"I saw it first hand at their big convention last year where we had a stand on their behalf on what we did and it was full of representatives from all heavy industries looking at what we're doing and what was feasible," Gregory said.
On analytics, Gregory said Woodside was catching up to other industries outside heavy industries.
The idea for analytics, he said, came from a power company in Houston, a water company in the UK, in what they were doing in predicting failures and maintenance power usage.
"I thought we could do a whole lot of that and then some, because we have a lot of data already," he said.
"Their business case was they had to build out their data platform, whereas all we had to do was re-use the current data in a new way.
"Heavy industry has been a laggard in analytics, partly because we're handling a dangerous product so are conservative and don't want to be pushing the boundaries.
"Oil and gas hasn't been the fastest, but we know Woodside is leading in the cognitive area and in some cases in analytics in ways I've not seen it elsewhere.
"Then again, oil and gas often has an intellectual property curtain around things they're doing so they it might be there; I don't see it."