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Communication and Information Technology


Communication and Information Technology (CTI) plays a major role in supporting productivity and economic development for many countries. Therefore, KACST is keen on developing advanced CTI technologies in areas that are important to the Saudi market.


CTI is considered an important area and a key motive to enhance productivity and economic growth for many countries. CTI is seen as an enabler for other technologies. As a result, KACST has worked on developing advanced communication and software systems and conducting research in various areas related to CTI. KACST has established lab facilities to conduct research in computing, communication and electronics.

Over the years, KACST has built its capability in the electronics area especially in designing digital and analog chips and also in designing electromechanical systems. KACST is working on designing electronics subsystems used in communication and control systems. Moreover, KACST is working on projects related to optics especially in laser, fiber optics, and thermal imaging applications.

In addition, KACST conducts research and development projects in areas related to computer networks, Internet of Things (IoT), software development and data analytics for different types of data including text, voice and image. It employs for such projects high performance computing facilities. These facilities are also available for users from outside KACST.

KACST has recognized the importance of Big Data application and its role in enhancing the quality of decision making and also in achieving development goals. As a result, KACST has worked on developing  Big Data technologies aiming at building and developing an integrated smart platform for big data analytics. This platform is composed of tools and software for data analytics and it also has applications built to serve the needs of decision makers in various sectors. Additionally, this platform has visualization tools used to communicate the analysis outputs clearly and efficiently.


The goal of this research effort is to develop the technology for fabricating compact, low-cost, and power efficient millimeter-wave radar imaging systems for autonomous vehicles and robotic platforms operating at Y-band (~ 240 GHz) frequencies. The autonomous navigation of land vehicles in urban and highway environments is a highly anticipated development that is expected to revolutionize ground-transportation systems. Obstacle avoidance, path planning, and target detections are very challenging tasks, especially in complex environments, and cannot be accomplished using a single sensor. High resolution radars with polarimetry capabilities can provide information such as the distance to the obstacle, its size, rate of approach, and some level of target identification in dark and inclement weather conditions that is not possible using other existing sensors. The work in this project is divided into three tracks as follows:

  • Building continuous wave radar for target detection and classification.
  • Studying the electromagnetic waves scattering from different objects at 220 GHz.
  • Design and microfabrication of circuits operated at 220 GHz.

EMMAD 2 is a device about the size of USB flash memory stick. It is compatible with the systems of the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. EMMAD 2 is designed to conduct operations of Public-Key Infrastructure (PKI) such as producing and saving digital keys and use these keys in email encryption and signing. When using EMMAD 2 with PKI, users can prove their identity such as National ID, and digital signature to underlying services, enabling them to securely perform transactions.

EMMAD 2 also includes special software features which were developed by KACST that allow the user to encrypt data inside EMMAD’s token. EMMAD2 can be plugged into any personal computer or laptop via the USB port, with no need for any additional readers or specific extensions.

EMMAD 2 is certified by the U.S Federal Information Processing Standard, FIPS 140-2 for fulfilling the security requirements for cryptographic modules in level 3.

The objective of this project is to develop a mobile computing device suitable for the Saudi market. The development process goes through a deep market study and survey to conclude the best customization and optimization for Saudi Market needs. It also covers the price factor to reach a minimum of 20% off the price of competitor high-end devices. The most complicated part of this project is the chipset SoC which does the main functions of the tablet. It is also considered as the number one highest cost of any tablet BOM. The software can play an important role in tablet performance regardless of the hardware specifications. Hence, the project covered the design of all the different parts of the tablet, including industrial, mechanical, software and hardware designs. Building such technology from scratch can help to speed up technology transfer and the know-how process.

Currently, the final mechanical design has been completed along with the industrial design that includes the exterior look and feel. The blue color has been chosen for the general theme. Metal has been used for the build to give a solid and luxury feeling. The logos of KTAB at front and the chromed KACST logo at the back have been defined carefully. All software layers from drivers to android operating system to applications have to be studied precisely to be able to fix any bugs encountered during the design and integration stages. Hardware parts should be targeted a high-end tablet. Therefore, the MSM8939 Qualcomm chipset platform was chosen as the best option to use in KTAB for coding and learning process to examine the design limits in order to be able to make any future hardware design modifications and IC/sensors changes. The achieved activities included the determination of final specifications and features of the KTAB tablet. The infrastructure was partially completed by setting up servers and tools required for the design process. Multiple discussion sessions have been conducted with partner’s expert team to finalize directions. In addition, after a few samples, KACST labs will be prepared with all testing equipment required to review the tablet’s functions and power for the final CE certification and its local equivalent. These tests will be performed once the DVT (Design Validation Test sample) and EVT (Engineering Validation Test sample) are received.

Advanced defined networking technologies have become familiar and mature elements of research in modern wireless networks. Despite the abundance of solutions proposed in the academic community, which are based on a sophisticate theory of network optimization and cognition, the practices of wireless networking often diverge from utilizing these solutions and techniques. Today’s networking solutions for first responders, vehicular networking, locality-based gaming, are far behind the promise of mobility, simplicity, affordability and efficiency originally envisioned as the “ad hoc wireless networking paradigm shift.” And surprisingly, this is in face of two decades of important wireless networking research breakthroughs such as network coding, MIMO networking, and interference alignment.

Software defined networks are networks that can be controlled and structured by reprogramming. These networks can be separated between data routers and network management devices to improve performance. The application of software-defined networks in the wireless world is a major challenge and will help an external controller, that can manage and control the network, exploit the relationships between the observed protocols and network performance. This will improve local or end-to-end communications network, programmatically defined external control of network, data collection of network nodes available, the application of various automated learning techniques, including neural networks and deep learning techniques. The cognitive engine will be able to infer the future behavior of the network and make basic protocol to improve network performance decisions.

In this project, the team studied a mobile wireless network and predicted the movement of the nodes as variable network operators. The team also studied network behavior by simulation, and then designed techniques to address the lack of performance due to mobility. In the second phase, a software defined network test-bed was created. It consists of fully mobile nodes. This project will expand on prior work and address the problem of high wireless demands in high density areas in a comprehensive framework from foundational theory to simple deployable practices. Results obtained through this work will lead to better, more reliable network access in high-density areas and during high-demand periods, such as during special events or emergency situations.

Following the success of the current KACST project, EMMAD 2, which is compatible with the Saudi Ministry of Communications and information technologies systems, and has been used widely by the Ministry of Defense, other organizations have shown an interest in the product. This led to further improvements on the product, such as the addition of important software features and work on the product logistics, such as its size and cost. One of the goals of this project is to make a compact version (using different hardware), of the current EMMAD 2 product, that is cheaper to manufacture and smaller in size, and has improved and additional software as requested by current or potential clients. The project also includes integrating EMMAD 2 with security products previously produced by KACST.

The goals of this research project are to develop and demonstrate circuit techniques to enable single-chip CMOS processing for vehicular radar. Circuits will be developed for the 24 GHz and 77GHz frequency bands. Prototype devices will be fabricated in 40nm or 65nm CMOS and evaluated. The scope of this project concentrates on using circuit techniques for three main parts of radar design: wave generation, transmission and detection, and processing of the baseband signal. For the processing baseband signal, a custom designed analog-to-digital converter (ADC) will digitize the down-converted received radar signal.

The work in this project is divided into three tracks as follows:

  • Waveform generation: phase locked loop circuit will be used to generate two waves at different bands.
  • Radar waveform detection and amplification: power amplifiers, mixers, and LNAs will be designed to achieve good performance at higher frequencies.
  • Analog-to-digital converter: both sigma-delta and pipeline ADCs will be considered for this task.

Satellite communications play an important role in the development of new communication applications in Saudi Arabia and around the world. The most important elements for satellite communication are antennas.

The multi-array antenna technology has the ability to create and electronically beam radiation waves in different directions without moving the antennas. The technology of phased array antennas is still in its infancy stage. There are several methods to take advantage of recent developments in phased array antenna technology and how it affects the performance, energy consumption cost, and how easy it is to connect to satellites.

The project aims to transfer and localize the Ka-band electronic self-guided phased array antenna technology in collaboration with the best research groups at the University of California, San Diego, specializing in Phased-Array Antenna technologies. The project also aims to strengthen the skills of KACST’s researchers in the design and construction of similar devices. One of the applications of this project is to enable and facilitate satellite communication where the final product is characterized by high speed radiation guidance and a scanning angle of radiation ranging from ± 45 cm. The project consists of two main parts:

1. Design and simulation of the 8-channel integrated circuits responsible for directing and receiving electromagnetic waves. These circuits include the wave amplifier electronic chips, the Receive Equalizer, the Phase Shifter, and the Electronic Control Module. All designs and simulations have been completed and the chips will be manufactured for this part of the project for laboratory testing.

2. Design and construction of multi-layer (10 layers) high-bandwidth (10 GHz) radio frequency reception. This part of the project also contains the design of the Wilkinson power divider to distribute power evenly over radio reception units. Most of the designs for radio receivers, including the Wilkinson power divider, have been completed in preparation for the manufacturing and testing of the phased array antennas.

The two parts of the system will be integrated once the design and test phases are performed, creating the final prototype. This prototype will then be tested to measure all system variables such as rate gain, scanning angle, beamforming, and other characteristics.

Large-scale antenna systems, also known as massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) systems, are considered one of the main technologies to improve spectral efficiency, necessary to satisfy the explosive growth in demand for wireless services in next generation communication systems. Together with the push towards higher frequency bands (e.g., millimeter-wave) and small cell architectures, massive MIMO can greatly enhance the wireless communication capacity to improve quality of service via enhanced channel gain and multiuser diversity gain, while eliminating user interference. This project will investigate three subtopics of interest:

  • Channel estimation for time-division duplexing (TDD) massive MIMO systems.
  • Distributed massive MIMO optimal array design.
  • Limited radio frequency (RF) chains.

There is a need to improve the use of available radio resources, which requires not only increasing the spectrum efficiency but allocating better spectrum. The team has focused on the  resource allocation algorithms and control interference in heterogeneous networks which leads to more complex network scenarios. It is expected that the next-generation networks will be a network of intensive cells operating in the same frequency range. The performance improvements, based on the physical layer technologies, such as modulation, multiple antennas, was an important factor in the past, and it will continue to play an important role in the next generation albeit at a lower level. Developing techniques for estimating the channel downlink in a multi-input-multi-mass output system is a challenge because of the large number of antennas available at the main station.

The team aims to investigate novel semi-blind channel estimation schemes as channel estimation is beneficial for time-division duplexing (TDD) systems (for both uplink and downlink), making it an effective solution to the challenging pilot contamination problem. In addition, studying the trade-offs of different sub-array divisions and location patterns will provide useful guidelines for system deployment. The hardware complexity of massive MIMO necessitates consideration of architectures with lower complexity, so this project will also look to see if it is possible to reduce an RF chain by exploiting the low dimensional channel property in massive MIMO systems.

The main objective of this project is to create high performance 2D vertical tunneling transistors with high current density and high current gain, which could potentially be used as high cut-off frequency (fT) and oscillation frequency (fmax) RF transistors. These transistors could also be made in flexible and transparent formats. High current density is required to obtain high performance RF tunneling transistor. In this sub project, either growing thin tunnel oxide (SiO2 thickness is about 1~2nm) or using effective tunnel oxide (such as MgO and Gd2O3), is planned, to utilize for gaining high current density. The preliminary results show that using ultrathin SiO2 as a tunneling barrier leads to an improvement from 10 mA/cm2 to 100A/cm2 in tunneling current from the emitter electrodes. The team of this project will focus on improving the contact between 2D materials and metal electrodes, which is regarded as one of the key areas in promoting the practical application of 2D materials in various electronics.

There are 3 sub-topics in this project as follows:

  • Energy barrier engineering for improving current density: in order to achieve high current density, there are two alternative plans that may be adopted in tracking constraints. For the growth of ultrathin tunnel SiO2, rapid thermal anneal (RTA) is needed. The growth temperature and time is important for such a thin tunnel layer. Various conditions will be tested in order to determine the best quality of tunnel oxide for the purpose of high current density.
  • Contact engineering for semiconductor 2D materials: to investigate vertical transport between the 2D materials and bulk materials, vertical stacks of highly doped silicon (acting as an atomically flat substrate as well as an electrode), graphene (to eliminate the Schottky barrier) and metals will be fabricated.

Phase transformation for low base contact resistance: phase transformation from the 2H phase to the 1T phase will lead to changes in the vibrational modes and binding energy of TMD material. Therefore, Raman spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) will be used to verify the transformation. Vertical tunneling transistors with 2H-TMD materials as the base region will be fabricated and characterized to investigate the effectiveness of phase transformation in improving both the DC and RF performance.

For more than three decades computer hardware has evolved in a top-down manner. The number of transistors that can be placed on a chip, with a halving in cost, has increased exponentially, doubling approximately every two years. The top-down approach for miniaturization of circuit elements is now reaching its end and a revolutionary approach is needed for further improvment. It is anticipated that the future of nanoscale devices (below 100 nm) could well lie in the development of molecule-based electronics. The utilization of molecules as functional elements in molecular electronic devices (MEDs) is becoming an increasingly attractive research area given the fact that further size reduction of the circuit elements is turning out to be challenging with the conventional circuit elements. Miniaturization of electronic components will contribute to the development of more powerful supercomputers, as well as smart nanocomputers.

Molecular switches, namely, bistable Mechanically Interlocked Molecules (MIMs), have been explored as active elements in molecular switch tunnel junctions (MSTJs) for molecular memory applications. Most remarkably, these bistable molecular switches have been incorporated successfully into 160 kbit memory devices, demonstrating the promise that MIMs hold in MEDs.

Despite the significant progress, there are still challenges that need to be addressed in these devices regarding their reproducibility and robustness as a result of the disorder and lack of robustness associated with self-assembled monolayers and polymer coating. These challenges are addressed in this project by utilizing a class of nanoporous materials, namely metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), as a form of mechanically robust, crystalline scaffolding for the assembly of switchable MIMs in dense, ordered arrays. The incorporation of MIMs into MOFs could allow to address individual molecular switches repeatedly in a highly porous and robust environment which, in turn, will increase the efficiency of MEDs.

Advanced electro-optics and nanophotonics are enabling technologies for applications in communications, computing, manufacturing, healthcare, and energy. Progress in this field has the potential to generate new knowledge, promote economic growth, create new industries, and provide technologies for new applications.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has created a huge and growing demand for bandwidths on datacenters that, as a consequence, has resulted in sustained growth in electrical energy consumption. Even with the improved overall efficiency of electronic processors following Moore’s law, a more transformative improvement is required to increase bandwidth and reduce power consumption without compromising the growing data rates in data centers and metro communication systems. A consensus to achieve these future datacenter performance requirements is replacing metal interconnects by photonic link technologies due to its high bandwidth and low-power consumption. Indeed, there is a growing demand in cost-effective, complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-compatible photonic integrated circuits (PIC) for transmission and optical circuit switching with emphasis on datacenter and metro applications. This project focuses on one of the key components for PICs, an optical modulator for data modulation/switching with very high speed. Specifically, this project will design, fabricate and characterize a CMOS compatible Mach-Zehnder (MZ) modulator based on free carrier plasma dispersion effects. Since the free carriers’ effect is driven by capacity, it will lead to lower power consumption. Furthermore, since MZ configuration is non-resonant, it will allow the modulation of information on optical carriers in a wide WDM frequency grid.

High speed optical modulators, especially intensity modulators, are critical to the ongoing integration of optical components into a PIC. Due to their large nonlinear optical coefficients, materials such as GaAs, InP and LiNbO3 were among the first candidates considered for the realization of high speed devices. However, it has long been considered advantageous to realize optical modulation with higher bandwidths with lower power consumption in a CMOS-compatible material platform. In this context, ongoing research efforts will be focused on the design, fabrication and testing of high-speed modulators fabricated in silicon using CMOS. The results from this project will lead to more efficient optical modulators.

The aim of this project is to continue the ongoing cooperation program between KACST and MEMS Vision Corp. based in Montreal, Canada. The project will also provide advisory services and the training of highly qualified personnel from Saudi Arabia in the emerging and promising disciplines of micro- and nano-electromechanical systems (MEMS/NEMS), via the development of joint projects between the two sides. This will develop innovative and world-class competitive sensors, actuators and systems which can find applications in the oil, gas and aerospace industries.

This project aims to pursue the development of the following fully functional and characterized MEMS-based solutions:

  • High-end accelerometers and gyroscopes for inertial measurement units (IMU’s).
  • High-end pressure sensors. Initially, a high-sensitivity and high robustness barometric pressure sensor will be pursued, capitalizing on the excellent characteristics of the SiC materials.

The challenges in developing low-power spintronic devices based on spin-orbit engineering include:

  • Experimental control to the atomic level of interfaces, thicknesses, and compositions of magnetic and non-magnetic layers.
  • Theoretical understanding of the effects of materials choices and layer stack engineering, including spin-orbit interaction, band structure, and lateral confinements, on the magnetization dynamics and device behavior.

The focus of this project is on the engineering of spin-orbit interaction at interfaces, resulting in large voltage and current-induced torques on the magnetization. Based on the innovative material systems developed, devices utilizing their spin-orbit effects will be demonstrated and their performance will be assessed. State-of-the-art experimental facilities and theoretical techniques to address the challenges will be employed. Material stacks are developed using a two-chamber dedicated magnetron sputtering system with a capability of depositing up to 11 different materials without breaking vacuum. Device fabrication is performed at UCLA and CNSI’s state-of-the-art facilities.

The Internet of Things (IoT) system consists of several basic components:

  • Sensors and devices.
  • The communication network used by sensors to transfer data to points of connection.
  • A connection gateway with towers for data transmission.
  • Platforms for data collection and storage as well as data analytics and visualization.

This project embraces the creation of an IoT network that covers the city of Riyadh, with a low-power network technology that allows for the transfer of data repeatedly and limitedly, allowing for the use of a large number of sensors with energy saving. This allows the operation of sensors for years without the need to recharge their batteries. The cost of using the network is low compared to the traditional alternative that focuses on voice calls and surfing the internet and media. This makes the cost of its use is good for certain applications including smart meters and other applications that do not require the transfer of large bytes instantaneously and continuously.

In this project, both teams from KACST and UCSD, will collect and compare the environmental information for the regions of San Diego and Riyadh. The environmental information to be compared in accordance with the agreement is temperature, humidity, and the degree of pollution by calculating the CO2 ratio in the air. The system will focus on gathering information as needed in an interactive manner, with areas requiring measurement such as high density areas or traffic-intensive areas. This information is expected to be useful for urban planning and for measuring the effectiveness of environmental reform policies. In order to measure the health habits of the society by monitoring the daily activity rate, and based on the measured activity of individuals, it is possible to develop a community health index. The system utilizes applications in mobile phones to measure kinetic activity by collecting the number of steps. The aim is to target specific segments of society such as those with diabetes or triglyceride to encourage them to walk continuously.

KACST intends to submit a legislation that supports the use of open source of large and medium systems aiming to increase quality and decrease cost. Through open source, KACST’s intention is to support small and medium enterprises by enabling free access to quality software which enables technology transfer. The legislation intends to improve the private sector’s ability to compete by providing and committing to international quality standards. Therefore, KACST has recognized the need to amend the current government regulations to support the use of open source within the private and public sector. Currently, open source software is practically disfavored by many because of its lack of effective branding and misconception about quality. Yet, with legislation it would give open source a fair chance when competing with proprietary software products in the market. The legislation would also incorporate elements that demand certain level of quality from open source products and other closed systems, including proprietary products. Supporting open source software has great impact on technology transfer in the Kingdom. It will also allow talented software engineers to be exposed to a wide range of the most advanced software technologies with free access to its code.

Saudi government agencies spend a lot on enterprise resource management systems, incurring duplication of effort and cost, working with a closed system that is difficult to customize. Therefore, the national ERP initiative aims to create a uniform open source system which is low cost, customizable, and lends itself to continuous development. The system is going to allow for the use of a system warehouse that enables code sharing and reuse. KACST has great potential in this field and it has been commissioned by the Royal Court to chair a committee to study this issue with a number of agencies including the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The study concluded with several recommendations, including this project. KACST offers its expertise in the most advanced technology in software development and modeling to enable the development of a low cost ERP system with open source versions for public use. The technologies that KACST intends to use not only reduce the cost of development but also increase quality. By using automation techniques, KACST believes it can reduce the cost of developing large systems by half.

We currently live in an era where data is generated at a rapid pace, making it difficult for traditional databases and software techniques to process and store such data. Hence, this project aims at developing a big data platform that enables users to analyze their data and extract insightful knowledge that can lead to improved decision-making.

This platform will consists of multiple data extraction and transformation modules that can be used to transform data from its raw format into a format that can be easily understood by the subsequent components of the platform. In addition, the platform will also be equipped with different cloud computing techniques and parallel data processing frameworks that allow users to effectively process and store massive amounts of structured, semi-structured, geo-spatial, and/or temporal data. The platform will also contain several data processing techniques (such as machine learning capabilities, social-media analysis techniques, and simulation tools) that can help users analyze their data and visualize the results of their analysis in a variety of ways.​

Now a days, it is estimated that quintillion bytes of data are generated every day. 90% of the total data has been generated in the last two years, which tells us that our lives are surrounded by data. This project aims to build a platform that is capable of harnessing large-scale raw data to help the decision makers in forming a better future for the Kingdom.

The aim of this project is to develop an analytical suite that contains tools for managing and analyzing large-scale data. Those tools allow data scientists to build complex models such as computational and simulation models that scale for large data. Additionally, the platform allows the integration of several models to answer a larger complex question. Finally, the platform can generate the results in several forms such as reports, dashboards or even in geotemporal formats, which can help in the process of strategic decision making. These features help the stakeholders and decision makers to collaborate in tackling multi-disciplinary problems.