Connecting the Unconnected

‘Connecting the World from the Skies’: Using technology to shrink the world

Long at the forefront of digital transformation in the region, Aramco continues to find innovative solutions to an increasingly dynamic world.

‘Connecting the World from the Skies’: Using technology to shrink the world

Even given today’s technological advancements, some 2.7 billion people still don’t have access to the global communications network. Businesses such as Aramco seek connectivity solutions to address challenges that are critical to the supply of energy to power economies around the world.


To showcase a variety of technological solutions to these complex challenges, the International Telecommunication Union and the Communications, Space and Technology Commission (CST) of Saudi Arabia hosted the International Forum “Connecting the World from the Skies” recently in Riyadh. 


Aramco was a strategic partner and diamond sponsor. 


The three-day forum began with a high-level discussion featuring Yousef A. Al Ulyan, Aramco’s vice president of Information Technology, and other policy makers and industry leaders, who highlighted opportunities for the energy sector when delivering connectivity. 


Powerful connectivity in remote areas 

Many Aramco facilities are in remote and harsh environments (onshore and offshore) where ground networks do not exist. Al Ulyan shared the company’s long history of digital transformation. 


“To support these facilities, Aramco has been using a variety of satellite solutions to overcome business challenges since the 1980s,” he explained.


With the rapidly increasing number of remote sites, Al Ulyan said: “We’re planning to connect numerous remote sites using low Earth orbit (LEO) based technologies by 2025.” 


Aramco is expanding space capabilities through selective investments and collaborations, such as: investing in OQ Technology to provide secure Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity in remote sites; collaborating with OneWeb to provide high speed LEO communications; and investing in “Alteia” to provide artificial intelligence geospatial object detection solutions. 


Additionally, Aramco is setting up a space center in LAB-7 to support local space entrepreneurs in developing solutions.


Groundbreaking partnerships for LEO satellites are expected to play a pivotal role in providing space technologies that are 10 times faster than current market solutions, even in the most remote terrain.


Al Ulyan also highlighted the importance of cybersecurity: “Running cybersecurity at Aramco has made it an area of increasing attention to me. Cybersecurity is an essential element for the whole ecosystem from the satellites, ground stations, all the way to the devices connected to the infrastructure. Security by design is what I call for in every venue with our partners and suppliers because one breach is considered a life-threatening danger, a catastrophic disaster and a loss-of-profit risk.” 


Leveraging new space connectivity

Ibrahim A. Al Thuwaiqeb, Aramco’s IT Engineering Department manager, said: “Emerging space technologies will play a vital role to overcome connectivity challenges for remote and nonstationary Aramco operations such as drilling rigs, seismic crews, and offshore facilities. We will leverage the new space connectivity capabilities to accelerate digital transformation at these facilities, striving to improve operational efficiencies and to enhance safety, security, and quality of life at remote areas. 


“The LEO satellite capabilities in particular are gaining traction in the telecommunications industry, and were recently piloted by Aramco’s IT, in collaboration with the CST as well as some of the global space technology providers,” Thuwaiqeb added.


By connecting our physical assets over space, Aramco can collect data from remote sites and generate more accurate and actionable insight, driving efficiencies and the ability to respond to challenges in real-time. Enabling massive flows of real-time data from connected devices will enhance a variety of critical operation sites, from remote drilling to exploration and marine operations. 


Saudi Vision 2030

In line with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Aramco’s partnerships with OneWeb and OQ Technology will help boost Saudi Arabia’s localization efforts and rapidly grow the space industry by building the skills of a modern workforce. 


Aramco’s IT efforts are also focused toward globally standardized and highly secure advanced telecommunications solutions — such as 5G over satellites — which were demonstrated in collaboration with OQ Technology. The deployment of these new solutions will enable and enrich applications across many industries and help solve connectivity challenges to unlock the potential of IR 4.0 technologies. 


Caption for top photo: Yousef A. Al Ulyan shares his views during a high-level discussion that kicked off the three-day event. 


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