Access and Feeds

Satellite IoT: Enabling Ubiquitous Tracking on Ground and Sea

By Dick Weisinger

Compact, low-power, low-cost IoT sensors make it possible to collect in-the-field data to measure almost anything, like machinery usage, air and water quality, climate, and other environmental data. Sensors though are only one part of the picture. The trickier part is being able to collect and receive the sensor data.

Some IoT devices can communicate to each other via technologies like bluetooth, low-power radio, and actuators. Transmitting data with cellular is also an option that can work well, but cellular strong signals are typically limited to population-dense areas.

For many IoT use cases, satellite receivers provide an effective alternative solution for aggregating data collected by IoT devices. Satellites can enable real-time retrieval and provide almost ubiquitous coverage. A major impediment of satellite receivers has been the cost, but recently SpaceX and other commercial operators have deployed large numbers of satellites, and usage costs are falling. SpaceX plans to ultimately launch 42,000 or more satellites.

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite systems can collect data, typically in the low-frequency spectrum. Many of the new satellites being launched are very small and weigh just a few kilograms. This enables satellites to be able to track objects almost anywhere, ground or sea.

Tamara McCleary, International branding expert and Thulium CEO, said that “initially the strongest play for satellite telecommunications companies is in providing data transmission solutions in areas terrestrial communications companies have weaknesses in coverage. In the future however, it will become more and more critical to demonstrate how mobile satellite communications are a better choice over a wider footprint.”

Luis Jimenez-Tunon, group executive vice president, data business of Eutelsat, said that “there are many places not covered by cellular. Those places are a lot more common than people think because [carriers] deploy for people and not for territory. It’s also a good backup solution for applications requiring greater resilience. Use cases include tracking assets for [asset performance management], alarm or security systems, gateways for Sigfox base stations, agriculture applications, solar plant monitoring, traditional SCADA applications, pipeline gas monitoring, environmental applications, etc.,”

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