Shell is not in a position to ‘exploit’ data; kills analytics contract

An analytics firm that uses artificial intelligence to write English-language reports has revealed that its largest customer, Shell, has pulled the plug on its technology until it is “better placed to exploit the benefits”.

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An analytics firm that uses artificial intelligence to write English-language reports said its largest customer, Shell, has pulled the plug on its technology until it is “better placed to exploit the benefits”.

The three-year contract, worth up to $10 million (£6 million) allowed the oil giant to use Arria’s natural language engine to support decisions on the oil firm’s offshore platforms in the Americas.

In a statement the tech firm said the termination, “does not reflect the value it [Shell] sees in Arria’s technology, to which Shell has responded positively and which is demonstrated by the significant development work done to date. The directors of Arria understand that when Shell is better placed to exploit the benefits offered by Arria's technology will Shell consider re-establishing the relationship with Arria.”

Shell refused to comment on any contractual matters this morning and did not mention Arria in its financial results released yesterday.

It has previously discussed its big data strategies openly. Primarily an SAP shop, it announced that it would use the in-memory engine Hana to create a new well and reservoir facility management tool. It also signed a long-term contract with the German vendor to use Hana data analytics in the cloud until 2020.

Arria, which uses natural language generation technologies developed at Aberdeen University, counts the UK Met Office as one of its customers.

It allows the weather and climate service to write on-demand weather forecasts for the UK public. This month it extended the contract to provide forecasts that will stream directly onto the Met Office’s website and assess whether the technology is increasing its online traffic.

Analyst Anthony Miller at TechMarketView commented: “The company yesterday announced the loss of a contract with its largest customer, Shell, which has also resulted in the suspension of discussions for a critical fundraising. Management has therefore raised the flag on Arria’s prospects as a going concern.

“They say when one door closes another opens, but unfortunately the reverse is the case for AIM-listed Arria NLG.”