NASA, Cisco, and Woodside look to network edge on the moon

Using Cisco connectivity technology, Australian LNG company Woodside is collaborating with NASA on edge compute capabilities for use hundreds of kilometres offshore, towards even the moon in future.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Energy company Woodside is partnering with NASA and Cisco to trial network edge and robotics technologies that can be used to operate machinery in remote and harsh environments.

Western Australia-based oil and gas extractor Woodside provides 6 percent of all global LNG supply.

Operating two floating production storage and offloading (FPSO) facilities, it awarded Cisco after a competitive tendering process with the contract to provide it with collaboration tools and networking between Woodside's on-land offices and offshore facilities.

Webex provides the company with the capability to have video-call meetings with "no delay" no matter which facility workers are located at, Woodside CTO Shaun Gregory said -- but the customer relationship has gone beyond the norm and into the experimental.

"A lot of our facilities are hundreds of kilometres offshore in hostile areas," Gregory explained during Cisco Live 2019 in Melbourne.

"NASA is testing their remote capabilities before they go even further remote into space and beyond."

Woodside's collaboration with NASA, which dates back to February 2017, saw the latter company's Anthropomorphic Robonaut System loaned to Woodside for 60 months in Perth to explore more than 300 separate tasks across engineering, operations, and maintenance.

"Together, the two organisations will explore how the robotic technology could be used to improve safety, reliability, and efficiency in the high-risk and remote environments where Woodside operates," the companies said at the time.

"Woodside will contribute its advanced cognitive science technology, being developed in its Western Australian operations, and NASA will share its expertise in Robonauts that are already being used for simple, repetitive, or especially dangerous tasks in places such as the International Space Station."

Cisco then provides the network edge capabilities to allow Woodside workers to obtain the same bandwidth offshore as they would onshore -- towards even potentially network edge capabilities for NASA on the moon or Mars.

"We have a joint innovation centre at Curtin University, and that was where our partnership first started," Gregory said about Cisco.

Woodside has been focused on using technology, such as data, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence to drive its business forward, while also working with IBM Watson.

"We are installing a data-driven digital nerve system at our facilities that will provide insights to enable better decisions and avoid disruptions to operations," the company says.

"In doing this, we are harnessing technologies including smart wireless surveillance via sensors and robots, data storage, analytics, and machine learning."

The LNG company developed the world's first normally unmanned offshore platform, and launched its own innovation centre at Monash University in mid-2016.

At the time, Woodside contributed AU$10 million over five years towards the innovation hub to help develop and research materials engineering, additive manufacturing, and data science technologies.

Disclosure: Corinne Reichert travelled to Cisco Live in Melbourne as a guest of Cisco

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