The nodding donkey was invented nearly a century ago, and it’s still hard at work in the oil patch, virtually unchanged, pumping oil out of the ground.

The promise of oil and gas in the future is to actually start using the data that we have, and then acquire more of it and use more of it,” said Ashok Belani, executive vice president of technology at Schlumberger.

Data in the oil and gas industry has never been organized in the way that company like Google or Amazon would do it.” And for all the recent progress, “We are in inning one of nine.”

So several companies, including Norway’s Statoil ASA and Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp., have hired Biota Technology to help them identify the most bankable parcels. By comparing microbes in rock samples to those from oil produced in the area, Biota can map out choice draining spots and, according to founder Ajay Kshatriya, boost a well’s output by millions of dollars.

“It’s a whole new data source for an industry that’s never looked at this before,” said Kshatriya, an engineer who used to work in biotech. “New technology innovation is now existential. It’s not a nice-to-have to create a couple more points of profit margin. It’s, ‘If we don’t get more economic, our field is out of the money. So we need that technology to remain competitive.’ ”