Shell Global Solutions has announced a partnership with Microsoft to accelerate industry transformation and offshore innovation in its upstream and downstream businesses.

Under the deal, Shell will use Microsoft Azure’s C3 Internet of Things (IoT) software platform to drive efficiencies in all sectors, from drilling and extraction to employee empowerment and safety.

Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning applications, the oil giant hopes to create substantial economic value across its entire business, and improve operational performance.

Shell executive vice-president for technology and CTO Yuri Sebregts said in a press release: “Digital technologies are core to our strategy to strengthen our position as a leading energy company. Our collaboration with Microsoft gives us a solid digital platform to make our core business more effective and efficient and supports our ambition to provide more and cleaner energy solutions through technology.”

Shell’s offshore innovation projects

Shell has been a core driver of digital innovation throughout the years, and has worked on projects such as subsea robotics in the 1970s and the development of RAM to process big data offshore in the 1980s.

The oil giant already uses some Microsoft tools to enhance productivity among its employees.

C3 IoT chairman and CEO Thomas M Siebel said: “Shell is demonstrating AI and IoT leadership in selecting C3 IoT and Azure for the Shell AI Platform. This will enable Shell to rapidly realise the vision of digital transformation across all lines of business, including upstream, midstream, retail and finance.”

Microsoft Worldwide Commercial Business executive vice-president Judson Althoff said: “As one of the energy sector’s largest and most prominent players, Shell’s wide-scale adoption of AI, machine learning and IoT technologies sets an example of how digital transformation can help the industry address resource challenges, improve asset performance and promote safety.”

Shell is also a reference customer for Microsoft Azure’s DevTest Labs, which provides developers with self-service access to virtual development environments.

Shell claimed that using DevTest Labs in collaboration with Microsoft Visual Studio Team Services has reduced the time it takes to set up software builds by 80%, according to Computer Weekly.

Shell IT chief technology officer said in a blog post last month: “In the past, our people would wait for days, if not longer, to get help creating VM [virtual machine] environments. They had no direct control over the process.

“Now, with the approach based on DevTest Labs, people can create and change their own setups on the fly. That gives them more versatility, more freedom, and more value to the company.”