Canada’s a huge country, so to be able to unite the country through communication satellite technology or to be able to observe it through remote sensing technology from space is a natural fit for a country like Canada.Marc Garneau
The Internet of Things (IoT) is now moving at full speed and is expanding its reach to a myriad of industries exponentially around the world. If you work in Canada like I do, there are many places that IoT cannot reach due to the vast rural and remote locations found in this country. Within modern cities, connectivity is not a problem. Urban and suburban markets are well covered with a variety of connection types available from either public or private networks.
But, what do you do everywhere else? How do you connect? There is an emerging trend for IoT over Satellite.
As Elon Musk rapidly deploys his Starlink LEO satellite network worldwide, users are starting to ponder what might be possible with these high speed, broadband, ultra low latency connections. The barrier to taking advantage for Starlink for IoT applications is it is far more data rate then is normally required for IoT and the costs are prohibitively expensive to absorb as a result of this mismatch in applications versus the connection.
For Starlink to fit this use case, we need a Starlink mini node version that can connect with far lower data rates into tricky locations. It all needs to be battery and / or solar powered too. It must be cost effective too.
To fill this gap, and optimize the fit, a new type of satellite is not emerging. An IoT satellite offering.
Industries such as agriculture, smart grid, oil and gas, pipeline monitoring, small vessel tracking, transportation, retail and so forth, all need continuous access to an IoT service. Satellite IoT devices facilitate this remote access to provide reliable and business-critical communication. Satellite IoT solutions overcome connectivity issues related to minimal cell coverage and no landline connectivity.
Cellular services used to manage remote assets and operations come with a few challenges. As cellular solutions are based on the demands of connecting people, rather than objects, they often do not provide ubiquitous connectivity, especially in areas where the population is scarce.
Many enterprises operate in remote areas where cellular connectivity is limited, and have thus sought out alternatives to cellular connectivity, especially in technologies for IoT. One such solution is satellite-based IoT services – a strong alternative whether you compare satellite vs cellular or satellite vs LPWA networks.
LPWA (Low-Power Wide-Area) networks are a new type of non-cellular protocol, and were developed to satisfy IoT applications that require long range, low bit-rate and low power consumption. Despite their rapid adoption over the past decade, LPWA networks still face challenges due to fragmented regulations and a lack of global connectivity. This is a challenge that modern satellite solutions are able to overcome with relative ease.
Satellites have unique advantages to connect IoT assets, offering truly ubiquitous coverage which can reach objects with limited or no access to terrestrial networks. It is highly reliable with guaranteed SLA’s and delivers a consistent service across the coverage. Combining satellite technology with terrestrial IoT will be the key that professionals need to ensure connectivity to their assets, no matter where they are.
While it is true that satellite technology is the ideal complement to terrestrial IoT networks, past adaptations were not designed for IoT and therefore were more expensive and complex than other solutions. Today, satellite for IoT has never been more affordable, available and accessible.
Through a variety of satellite based IoT connected solutions, IoT connectivity via satellites provide organizations around the world with the ability to:
- Dramatically Extend Their Reach Beyond Terrestrial Networks
- Make More Informed Decisions with Real-time Access to Data
- Optimize Operations and Reduce Costs by Increasing Efficiencies
- Protect Critical assets and Equipment Through Global Tracking and Monitoring
- Generate New Revenue by Unlocking Opportunities in Remote Areas
A number of highly visible new space initiatives, backed by some of the worlds internet billionaires, are challenging the existing satellite industry. Their marketing is great, American style, but is it really a game changer for the satellite industry? For rocket and satellite manufacturers maybe, but the business cases for the satellite operators are not very convincing yet.
When looking for a transition in the satellite industry there is no better place as in the satellite Internet of Things (IoT) market. Where satellite voice, broadband IP connectivity and broadcasting are suffering from heavy competition, lower prices and dwindling margins, the satellite IoT market shows healthy profits and the prospect of strongly growing revenues in the coming five years.
A recent update on the satellite IoT market shows that the hype on IoT and the satellite based IoT connectivity market has not faded and that its forecasts are still looking strong:
The global market for IoT focused satellite services, focused on end-device connectivity hardware and the annual connectivity fees charged, is forecasted to grow to US$ 5.9 Billion in 2025, after taking off in the 2021-2022 period.
This implies a massive tripling or quadrupling of satellite IoT/M2M devices and applications in the next 5 years. By 2025, some 30.3mn Satellite IoT devices are expected to be deployed globally, growing at a CAGR of just under 40%. It is clear that satellite IoT will bring a massive change over the coming years to the world in general, the IoT industry and to the satellite industry in particular.
Truly global IoT connectivity, something that only satellite can offer, will change environmental monitoring, agriculture, public infrastructure management and anything related to wide area remote sensing. The availability of low cost, low power global connectivity will increase the total number of connected sensors and with that data-points in a variety of global environmental, societal , industrial, agricultural and logistical applications increasing the accuracy of data-based forecasts and trends.
In the end, these are all just connections, albeit valuable connections. What we really need is to make sense of the data coming from these connections. So, we must have artificial intelligence in the form of machine learning and deep learning neural networks to make sense of this tsunami of data from Satellite IoT devices. Edge Computing will also be essential for store and forward functions and derived data calculations that are sent back to the cloud from the cloudlets at the downlink locations. A holistic and intelligent solution is necessary to wrap around the Satellite IoT connections.
This will cause the satellite industry to change as well. Incumbent satellite providers will be pressured by a new wave of startups that are leveraging the recent advances in smaller satellite technologies providing low cost, low power connectivity. Incumbent satellite providers are in a good position though to meet that challenge, with their networks up and running, and IoT focused customers could be a nice way to improve their margins, especially when compared to the increasingly cut-throat broadband and broadcast satellite market. For that they might even absorb one of the new LEO players.
A new nano-satellite space internet network is going live soon. The company behind it is Hiber and, its flagship customers like the British Antarctic Survey and EduClima. Hiber’s IoT network could aid a range of industries such as manufacturing, logistics, agriculture, environment and energy.
One of the ways in which Hiber is truly distinctive is its global perspective – their network touches every corner of the globe at least once a day, in every continent in the world. A key differentiator is that similar providers have to use changing frequencies across different territories, meaning they often are not operating 100% within the law. We have the use of one global standard – this means Hiber’s customers can use the network with minimum interference knowing that they are conforming with local regulations the world over.
Equally important is that Hiber endpoints are low-cost and low-power. The Hiber service starts at just a few euros per year which is over 30 times cheaper than current satellite providers. Their low costs are helping democratize IoT capabilities – many use cases that were not previously affordable are now possible. In terms of power usage, they are currently comparable with the likes of LoRa and SigFox, meaning their customers can sync their devices to the Hiber satellites using minimal energy. This low energy capability allows battery and solar powering for locations where AC power is not available.
The Canadian-based firm, called Kepler Communications, is scheduled for space on two SpaceX Falcon 9 launches to deploy several satellites for the “Internet of Things” (IoT), to connect devices ranging from kitchen appliances to shipping containers to networks.
Kepler plans to launch 140 satellites in total for its constellation, and to complete the third phase of deployment by 2023. While that is a small number compared to SpaceX’s planned Starlink satellite constellation of 42,000 vehicles, there is so much demand in this field that there likely will be plenty of place for everyone.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been recognized as a key driver of 5G wireless communications. However, there are many use cases such as monitoring of remote areas, Internet provisioning to under-served or disrupted regions, or intelligent global transport management, which require a more global, scalable, flexible, and resilient solution.
Only about 25% of the World’s landmass is served by cell towers. The rest of the land, and all of water mass, have no coverage. To enable massive machine to machine (M2M) connectivity, in remote and rural areas, coverage needs to be available beyond cell towers.
The rising demand for higher bandwidth and the increasing data traffic across various business sectors, coupled with congestion in networks, are some of the drivers substantiating the need for network evolution. Moreover, rapid technological advancements in 5G satellite services in industries around the world are expected to drive the market.
Satellite IoT is about to disrupt Canada like no other technology. Canada is a gigantic country geographically speaking, but with Satellite IoT, it gets very small, very fast, and very affordable, when we connect disparate endpoints into an harmonized artificial intelligence driven federated network solution.M.J. Martin
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About the Author:
Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 20 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.