This is the real power of cognitive computing – helping us make better decisions by analysing the masses of data, information and reports from around the world that our teams of engineers could never hope to digest."
Neil Gregory, Reliability Engineering Manager at Meridian Energy

In the high-stakes global energy industry, knowledge is power. Whether it’s finding commercially viable oil fields, the next source of renewable power or looking for ways to make existing power stations more efficient and sustainable, successful energy companies must think and act quickly to gain a competitive advantage.

That’s why energy companies such as Woodside, Australia’s largest independent energy company, are using cognitive computing to empower their employees and equip them with deep expert knowledge acquired by the company over the past 30 years.

The stakes are high in the energy industry - from human lives to environmental safety to shareholder results - and if employees tap into the right data, faster, then insights can not only provide a competitive edge, but also lead to safer and better decisions across organisations.

Cognitive computing or artificial intelligence has the power to reshape entire industries. It can transform the way organisations think about their data and how they respond to the needs of their employees, customers and stakeholders. Cognitive computing offers companies a way of interacting with technology more similar to humans and it continuously learns from previous interactions, gaining value and knowledge over time.

IBM NZ Energy

The technology is designed to act as the ultimate trusted adviser, helping solve difficult problems and make the best decisions based on more knowledge than any one person could ever hope to possess. The goal is to build machines that enhance our ability in the workplace to use data and engage with technology to make better decisions, increase productivity, scale expertise and, ultimately, improve outcomes.

IBM’s Watson platform is helping Woodside tap into their millions of documents, instantly serve up relevant insights to their engineers, and do it all in language engineers speak and understand.

Woodside plans to put Watson to work in other areas of the business including human resources, legal and exploration. Cognitive computing is the essential next chapter in knowledge management, says Shaun Gregory, Woodside’s chief technology officer and senior vice president.

“Data science, underpinned by an exponentially increasing volume and variety of data and the rapidly decreasing cost of computing, is likely to be a major disruptive technology in our industry over the next decade," Shaun Gregory says.

“Our plan is to turn all of this data into a predictive tool where every part of our organisation will be able to make decisions based on informed and accurate insights."

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Neil Gregory, a reliability engineering manager with more than 20 years of experience in the energy sector, says cognitive technology can serve to complement and improve existing analytics technology such as predictive asset management systems.


Engineers at Meridian Energy rely on analytics to identify changes in the condition of turbines, generators, transformers and other key equipment.

By monitoring plant readings and inspection reports, as well as taking into account historical data, analytics can provide early warning of potential maintenance issues and enable better management of New Zealand’s power-generating infrastructure.

With cognitive systems, energy companies will be able to accurately predict adverse changes based on recognition of patterns in the plant data. If asset performance data were then combined with consulting industry reports and engineering journals, it could help energy providers make better maintenance decisions. Neil Gregory believes that in the near future, plant asset data will even be shared internationally as like-minded industries collaborate to increase the useful life of their assets.

“This is the real power of cognitive computing – helping us make better decisions by analysing the masses of data, information and reports from around the world that our teams of engineers could never hope to digest," Gregory says.

“I see cognitive computing as the ultimate decision-support system that enables engineers to deliver the most appropriate maintenance strategy for the business.

IBM NZ Energy

“Asset monitoring generates vast sets of disparate data for engineers to interpret, but we're only scratching the surface in terms of how we use that data. With the help of cognitive computing we could better evaluate a situation in the context of all relevant and often seemingly unrelated data, and with the expertise of the engineers, determine the best course of action to ensure New Zealand’s power plants run efficiently."

Neil Gregory says having the foresight to plan for new technologies is one of the keys to success. Businesses that are prepared for the arrival of cognitive computing will have a head start on their competitors.

“Cognitive computing has so much potential, but it’s important all business stakeholders have a clear vision of the business results you want to achieve," Neil Gregory says.

“Businesses need to start thinking now about how cognitive technology could change their industry in the future."


Welcome to the Cognitive Era

A new era of business. A new era of technology. A new era of thinking.

The Cognitive Era brings with it a fundamental change in how systems are built and interact with humans. Cognitive solutions are already unclogging city traffic, improving emergency services, making food supplies safer and improving customer engagement. But this is just the beginning. It's time to outthink what is achievable.

Visit IBM NZ
IBM and the IBM logo are trademarks of International Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide.