The imperative to get ever more product out of diminishing resources is irreversible. No business is untouched by it. Investment and approval will only go to those businesses that are able to shepherd the resources they’re entrusted with—people, capital, and materials—in a way that is far superior to their competitors. In this scramble for ultra-high productivity, Big Data has become a most useful tool.


Big Data uses mathematically-grounded data analytics to help companies better manage their resources. The data analytics reveal patterns, trends, and associations among human and other interactions. The tool can be, and has been, applied to a range of different industries.


One big field in which Big Data has proven its worth is sales and marketing. The increasing complexity of the world makes it ever-more difficult for businesses to predict and manage consumer needs. The task of gathering knowledge and insight into consumer tastes, preferences, and decisions has been made even easier by the phenomenal growth of the Internet. Every search, query, and purchase a user makes leaves an electronic footprint—the kind of trace that forms the basis of data analytics. As Internet usage has gone up, so have the opportunities for using data collection to anticipate demand.


Recently, this cutting-edge technology has made inroads into one of the largest industries: oil. The oil industry is slow and quite reticent in adopting new technologies to drive its business decisions. Its leaders prefer to use methods they’re familiar with and can rely upon. However, the volatility in the market over the last few years has given rise to new thinking.


Oil prices across North America fell by more than half from 2014 to early 2016., and while there have been moderately successful efforts to scale back production in order to raise prices, as recently as this week we saw another steep drop.


Many in leaders in the industry have turned to data collection because they have been forced to find new ways to be profitable and competitive in an era of long-term depressed prices. They have embraced data collection and its related technology as a means of gathering the sound data needed to maximize production, minimize downtime, streamline operations, and prevent production and equipment failures.


Gradually, petroleum companies large and small have introduced a network of pump-mounted sensors and secure wireless devices to measure various performance points onsite. The data captured is analyzed, assessed, and used to make micro-adjustments that will increase efficiency and production.


This data-driven system can also be used to optimize the performance of each individual well in its environment. Knowledge of the geological dynamics beneath the well allows the operators to increase intensity at times of lower energy cost.
It has yet to be seen whether the methods and technology associated with this type of data collection will actually work long-term. Nevertheless, the leaders in the petroleum industry have, for the most part, advanced plans to make it a mainstay of production, performance, and resource management. As long as prices remain in the doldrums, all responsible executives are likely to stick with such data collection. It has already significantly impacted the industry and is likely to do so in the foreseeable future.