IBM and Shell partner for mining digital transformation marketplace Oren

The companies are touting it as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for matching digital transformation solutions with mining firms.

IBM and Shell have joined forces to launch a mining services marketplace, aimed at helping companies in the industry with safety, sustainability, mine planning, and operational efficiency.

Oren aims to accelerate the digitisation of the mining industry. It matches ideas or solutions from companies, including startups, with global mining firms that are looking for digital assistance. IBM said this would allow mining companies to speed up digital transformation initiatives.

“Oren helps to solve the pain-points for mining customers,” Shell VP of global marketing lubricants Carol Chen said during a press briefing. “Our vision for Oren is to be the go-to place for mining and many of the industry sector to truly drive digital transformation at scale.”

IBM said mining companies may not always have the time and budgets to invest in developing their own new tools to meet the challenges the industry is facing. Saskia Mureau, general manager of digital innovation at Shell Global Commercial, called Oren a “one-stop-shop” for “field-proven solutions” to bridge the digital gap.

Shell said it surveyed more than 350 mining businesses in preparing for Oren. It said it found that 80% of respondents said they had issues with embedding more automated mine solutions, such as self-driving haul trucks and remote operations centres into their operations.

They also had difficulty aggregating data to make “actionable insights”; possessed a lack of intelligent workflows due to “siloed organisational working”; struggled to improve sustainability; and also grappled with keeping employees safe while deploying autonomous technology, Shell said.

“One of the key things we found after quite a lot of research … is that the area of digitisation and bringing that to the mining industry even further, we’ve decided to focus on four areas and they’re all in the mine to port activity,” Nicoline Braat, partner at IBM iX Benelux, told media. “Because we strongly believe these are the biggest leaps we can make, and the biggest impact we can have, to start with.”

She said these are in the areas of “assets” such as solutions to improve predictive maintenance of equipment.

“Mining customers can benefit from many of the digital solutions used in the energy industry, for example, those that help manage operations safely and efficiently in remote locations. We envision Oren being the one-stop digital destination for the mining sector to access the best digital solutions and technologies, not just from Shell and IBM, but also from leading and emerging companies,” Chen added. 

“The next push in mining requires a new approach towards industry-wide technology platforms which requires new levels of openness, innovation, and collaboration.”

IBM also touts Oren as enabling mining operations to develop a “roadmap designed to deliver the interconnected mine of the future by creating connected solutions that integrate and leverage data, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, automation, and analytics”.

“It’s not just a site we’re providing here, we’re also helping with expertise, consulting support, to help them also build a roadmap of solutions to enable a full digital journey,” Braat added.

“This is also where we are looking to co-create with partners to innovate and bring those next solutions to bare.”

The marketplace will boast a “tailored search” function; and it will also possess a “searchable repository of best practice mining use cases” to show solutions in action in other mine sites.

“As the platform increases in use, mining companies will be able to extract insights related to technology trends applied in the industry and understand what areas the sector is investing in,” the companies said. “This will help them determine how their own digital transformation journey is progressing.”

Oren sits on the IBM Cloud, which last week rendered the websites of its users useless after an outage spanning many hours took even Big Blue’s cloud status page down.

There are currently 180 solution providers that are moving through the process of being onboarded onto Oren.

Mining platforms can exist on the platform for free, with Mureau calling this a “freemium” business model, with a number of add-ons they can pay for.

From a seller perspective, there is a fee to be hosted on Oren and they also pay a transaction fee when a solution is purchased. IBM and Shell take a cut of the payment.

The announcement from Shell and IBM follows EY earlier this month releasing a report on the status of cybersecurity in the sector, highlighting 76% of oil and gas CEOs are failing to measure cyber spend.

“They’re spending blindly and have no idea what they’re getting for their money,” EY said.

Among the points raised by EY was 72% of boards seeing cyber risks as “significant” despite 52% of them saying they don’t have the understanding they need to fully understand the risk and defend their organisations.

“This is due to a breakdown of communications between the CISO is trying to tell them and what they understand,” EY added.

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Asha Barbaschow