Cost-Effective Satellite IoT: Filling the Gaps in IoT Connectivity

Laurent Vieira de Mello -
IoT Comes of Age
Illustration: © IoT For All

With an expected 5.2 billion connected devices by 2025, IoT is now a fundamental component of both government policy and corporate strategy. The ability to track, monitor, record, and analyze through an extraordinary array of hugely innovative sensors has already transformed many businesses and many industries. But, to date, the true power of IoT has been constrained by the limits of fixed and wireless connectivity. Only 15 percent of the planet is currently covered by affordable, accessible IoT connections.

If organizations are to truly harness the power and sophistication of IoT, connectivity needs to extend around the globe. It must be both affordable and accessible, and yet the only alternative to wireless networks has been satellite IoT at a price point that cannot be justified by the vast majority of businesses or use cases. That was, until now. Affordable, end-to-end technology models are transforming accessibility and unleashing unprecedented innovation that will totally redefine the power, value, and perception of IoT.

Driving Value

The post-pandemic economy has inspired an evolution in business drivers, with both private and public sector organizations increasingly focused on delivering value – to customers, employees, and the wider global stakeholder community. But how is that value measured, verified, or communicated in a world demanding rapid results and immediate decision-making?

After two years of disruption, businesses need to be able to achieve and demonstrate true innovation in supply chains that support new efficiency paradigms and deliver tangible shareholder value. Post COP26, environmental protection has risen up the corporate agenda, and companies must prove their sustainability strategies to avoid the risk of greenwash accusations. Agriculture is under enormous pressure to resolve the twin challenges of climate change affecting growing seasons and the estimated need to produce 60 percent more food by 2050 to feed a world population of 9.3 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The continuous connection of IoT has a key role to play in both enabling the required innovation and proving its value, quickly. From connected vehicles to industrial equipment tracking and environmental monitoring, increasingly sophisticated IoT sensors are already embedded within the global infrastructure. Yet with 85 percent of the world not covered by cellular technology, IoT is simply not an option for a vast number of organizations. Agriculture, for example, is desperate to embrace technologies that will reduce the need for widespread animal medication, minimize the use of chemicals, and enable effective responses to the challenges presented by a changing climate. Without complete, global coverage, the true power of IoT to enable fundamental change will never be realized.

Cost-Effective Satellite IoT

With the arrival of low-cost satellite IoT (SatIoT), hundreds and thousands of assets can now be deployed cost-effectively around the globe to even the most remote and inaccessible regions. This is inspiring the creation of an extraordinary array of powerful applications that will accelerate change and deliver tangible value to businesses, individuals, and the environment. 

The compelling cost model, however, is just one part of the equation. While the pent-up demand for SatIoT solutions is significant, this is a new market for systems integrators and one that raises a new set of challenges as well as opportunities. By default, these IoT solutions are going to be deployed in remote locations – from mines to farmlands and ships to oil platforms – which means minimizing the need for human intervention and repair wherever possible to safeguard the business case.

Device size, power consumption, and reliability are priority concerns. Small-sized devices offering low power consumption are a vital component of the solution, as battery life is extended. What is the weight and cost differential offered by smaller antennas? What is the viable battery life? These are vital issues to consider before embarking upon a strategic SatIoT initiative. For example, combining good-quality battery technology with an intelligent approach to transmission extends the lifecycle of the IoT solution. Ensuring the device is only transmitting when the satellite is in range, rather than continuously, radically increases battery life, especially in applications that do not require constant information updates. 

Innovative Thinking with Satellite IoT

For integrators, access to cost-effective SatIoT is already inspiring new thinking and extraordinary innovation. The ability to work seamlessly with existing cellular IoT solutions, ensuring accurate tracking and monitoring as assets transit between connections, is transforming the visibility of global freight assets. In addition to improving efficiency and reducing the financial losses associated with product damage and wastage, this global tracking has an even more powerful potential: addressing the huge proportion of vaccines that are damaged, lost, or stolen in transit. SatIoT can not only provide confidence in the integrity of the cold chain, but it can also identify areas of elevated risk, allowing protection to be prioritized in the right areas and safeguarding this vital global resource.

Bidirectional IoT also has a significant role to play. The ability to send commands back to assets, rather than just receive data, is hugely powerful and enables an array of new use cases, including remote management of equipment. Farmers can command silos to release food, open gates, or manage irrigation systems, without the need for expensive and often hard-to-source human interaction. Utility companies can control water management systems in line with flood prevention strategies. With information seamlessly integrated with existing analytics, AI, or machine learning solutions, organizations have the power to not only use this data to improve understanding but to also immediately respond and use the new insights to inform timely commands to remote assets.

SatIoT: The Complete Solution

Low-cost SatIoT is opening a new world of IoT opportunities – from measuring pipeline flows, tracking migrations, to exploring new regions, and monitoring the delivery of food, water, and vaccines to remote villages. It is enabling organizations to confidently and rapidly assess the impact and improvement. Critically, it will play a vital role in supporting the next generation of value-driven business strategies, environmental change, and government policy. Systems integrators with an existing portfolio of cellular IoT solutions now have the chance to extend their reach, plug the gaps in IoT connectivity, and embrace the potential of IoT.

Laurent Vieira de Mello - COO, Astrocast

Astrocast SA operates a leading global nanosatellite IoT network, offering services in industries such as Agriculture & Livestock, Maritime, and Environment & Utilities, to name a few. The Astrocast network enables companies to monitor, tr...
Astrocast SA operates a leading global nanosatellite IoT network, offering services in industries such as Agriculture & Livestock, Maritime, and Environment & Utilities, to name a few. The Astrocast network enables companies to monitor, tr...