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Total spent a week at the Las Vegas CES, meeting, listening to and learning about the digital movers and shakers that will play a part in transforming the company.
"CES showcases the power of innovation to solve global problems and improve lives around the world," said Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the event organizer, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) when the 2019 CES ended Friday, January 11. "The passion, ideas and business connections at CES," he added, "make this the most significant global tech event – and the most inspirational week of the year."
Total and Four Start-Ups Specializing in AI at the 2019 CES
It was an inspiration for this year's more than 180,000 visitors and 4,500 exhibitors, one of whom was Total, which exhibited at the Paris Région Entreprise stand alongside partner start-ups specializing in artificial intelligence. "Total supports and mentors lots of start-ups," pointed out its CEO Patrick Pouyanné. "A company such as ours has a responsibility to help a certain number of small businesses exhibit here." Total also took its Executive Committee along for "Innovation Week," so that they could soak up the latest trends in digital innovation. "At CES you can see 50 companies and explore innovation in two days. It's important for a company such as Total to pay attention to what's going on and check out the technology trends. We learn from it and constantly ask ourselves whether what we see and hear could be useful for us and help us build the Total of tomorrow," summed up Patrick Pouyanné.
"5G will change everything – 5G is the promise of so much more than what we have seen from wireless technology," said Hans Vestberg, CEO, Verizon during his keynote. It is a major leap forward in connectivity that has Total's CEO thinking. "5G will support much faster data exchange and make the Internet of Things (IoT) more active. One conclusion I want to draw is what 5G means for Total. What kind of program do we need to launch? How do we make the most of new 5G technology at our production sites, for example? Those are the kind of things I'm thinking about."
Although the new 5G connectivity standard has yet to take final shape, the technology is promising. Besides supporting connections – 10 Gbps, versus 10 Mbps for 4G – the network's speed and responsiveness will set the stage for the emergence of the Internet of Things (IOT), self-driving cars, augmented reality, telemedicine and many other applications still to come.
"AI will prove data is the 'world's greatest natural resource,' enabling revolutions from smart cities to health care, transportation to robotics," said IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty in her keynote. It's hard to picture any field doing without AI in the future. From ordinary chatbots to medical diagnosis, self-driving cars and the management of financial flows, this technology born in the 1950s is growing exponentially.
It is already a concrete goal at Total, whose Chief Digital Officer Gilles Cochevelou hopes to "succeed in our big artificial intelligence project in partnership with Google to unlock the value of geosciences data. It's a serious challenge!" Their agreement calls for developing AI programs that can interpret subsurface images (computer vision), especially seismic ones, and automate technical document analysis (natural language processing). Doing so would produce higher-quality oil and gas field exploration and evaluation results for Total engineers.
At CES, Total also presented four AI-specialist start-ups it partners with: DCbrain, eSoftThings, Fieldbox.ai and Uavia (see here + video). "Working with them via open innovation is one way to drive our digital transformation," stresses Michael Offredi, Total's Digital Ecosystem & Innovation Officer. "All offer solutions based on today's new artificial intelligence technologies." FieldBox.ai offers a data analytics platform that helps industry boost productivity and predict failures. DCbrain is the Waze of energy networks, displaying gas and power flows in real time and optimizing them. eSoftThings, specialized in miniaturized wireless communication systems, has developed a smart energy metering platform for homes. And Uavia provides connected, autonomous drones for real-time, remote aerial inspection of production facilities. They are win-win partnerships with businesses that are a good fit and offer both a fresh eye and agility to a high-tech company that provides a fantastic testing ground for experimentation and innovation. "The whole idea is to help our businesses adapt to the specific work style and approach of start-ups," says Michael Offredi.
Proof, if any is needed, that Total has taken digital on board and invested in the digital transition of its operations. Both financially – "R&D and operational projects combined come to around $400 million a year" says the CDO – and by finding more and more opportunities to work with innovative start-ups.
"The digital transition is a fundamental shift that affects all organizations and, at Total, all our business segments, from upstream oil through marketing and our internal work processes. Today lots of businesses and professions have embraced digital transformation, boosting operational performance, cutting costs, enhancing industrial safety and creating new businesses," says Gilles Cochevelou. His CEO seconds the notion, convinced that "digital is a major driver of Total's performance!"