Not Far Apart: Data Lessons From The Energy Sector

By Julie Parker
President, Tellus Geospatial, LLC (Edmond, OK)

Julie will present as part of a multi-speaker session titled “We Are Not Alone: Lessons Learned From Other Industries” on Thursday, October 20, 9:30 a.m. at the PrecisionAg Vision Conference. For more information on the event, visit

The world’s energy companies have garnered a reputation for being technologically advanced, and certainly, to a significant degree, they are.  However, the technological sophistication they possess is not evenly distributed across their enterprises, nor does it permeate all levels (and sizes) of organizations.

It may surprise you to know that many oil field operations are often carried out today with the same rudimentary methods used decades ago.  Why?  Perhaps the search for an alternative has not been a priority for the end user or their organization. Or maybe options have been implemented, yet fell short of their intended results, and so the old method or technology remains in use.

Regardless of the cause, I would argue that the factors affecting successful widespread technology adoption in my industry also apply to the agriculture industry.

My perspective on the issue of technology adoption stems from a decade of experience creating and deploying geospatial technologies within the energy sector.  Through successful and unsuccessful attempts, I have found the geospatial technologies that have been the most widely adopted in my industry and taken up because they met the following conditions:

1)    The technology solved a real problem that needed solving.

2)    The technology targeted the right audience, whose needs were well-known and understood.

3)    The technology was created, tested, and continually refined through real-world experience.

4)    The technology fit within the end user’s ecosystem (environment, workflows, equipment, existing technology, etc.)

5)    The technology was quickly learned and used by the intended audience.

As I learn more about the agriculture industry, it appears to me that we in the energy business share many of the same challenges relating to technology innovation and adoption.

For example, we struggle with deriving useful, practical knowledge from the inundation of data streaming in from machinery and field sensors, weather, soil, and chemistry data, and real-time feedback from field operations.

And we hear that big data could be the answer.  We have various systems providing data and repositories storing it and we spend a lot of time managing and massaging it to get the information we need when and how we need it.  And we see that standardizing our data collection methods, platforms, and data could be the answer.  We have sales people and technology/industry experts showing us all manner of solutions aimed at making our jobs easier and more efficient and our lands more productive and profitable.  And we wonder which of them are merely solutions in search of problems and which of them could be the answer.

Undoubtedly, the road ahead for both our industries will continue to be paved and extended by technological innovation.  Our role as providers of food and energy for a growing world will require that we internalize the success factors above and use them as mileposts along the way. In so doing we make the case for “problem-driven” industries within which the promise of technology is realized through a relentless focus on solving the real problems of the intended targets of innovation.