Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) has successfully tested its Ground-based Internet of Things (IOT) technology, MiOTY, via its GEO (High Orbit) satellite, according to reports. In addition, Swarm, a US satellite start-up, has had enough success building a fleet of satellites dedicated to the Internet of things that it was recently bought by SpaceX, Mr Musk’s US space transport company. According to Michael Koziol, associate editor of the IEEE Spectrum, all of this shows that the Internet of Things and satellites are in some ways a better match for each other.
1，Satellite iot is the last resort of connectivity
For many, the term “Internet of things” brings to mind smart city achievements, such as street lights with traffic cameras and air quality sensors or connected devices in one’s own home. A natural question is, why have you never wanted to use satellite to connect to any of these devices? The answer is no. These are pointless attempts.
Yet the satellite-based Internet of Things (iot) network industry is still booming, even though in many ways, like satellite broadband, it is a last resort for those who have no other connection options. “Before we get into why people are so interested in making satellite-based iot work, it’s important to reiterate one very important point: don’t try to make a satellite iot connection work when you have Wi-Fi handy,” Kozier said.
Swarm’s CTOBen Longmier said: “We even tell our potential customers about this, and sometimes we lose a few. We always say, look, if you have Wi-Fi and a phone, you might as well use this, no problem.” Florian Leschka, system design team manager at Fraunhofer IIS, says, “As long as you have a Terrestrial infrastructure, use that. It’s always cheaper, it works better and it’s easier to control.”
But in both cases, Longmire and Leska point out that satellites are perfect for the Internet of Things.
2，two cases, suitable for the selection of satellite network connection
The first case may be more obvious, if terrestrial infrastructure is a better option no matter where it exists, then a satellite connection to the Internet of Things network is well suited to providing services where terrestrial networks do not exist or cannot exist. When one considers tracking devices on cargo containers crossing the Pacific, for example, there is no 5G network, and the only way to monitor containers from China to California is via satellite. The agricultural network and the network for monitoring environmental health also fall into this category.
The second scenario is where ground infrastructure coverage exists, but must span multiple networks between points A and B. This happens most often in logistics areas such as trucking. Truckers travelling between several European countries, for example, often have to pay multiple operators along the way to ensure continuity of service.
“In this case, we found that customers would plead with us: ‘Please let us use your services,'” Longmire said. ‘We were in the mobile business, but the bad thing was that we had to cut all the mobile business, and we just didn’t want to deal with the logistics.” Many Internet of Things networks fall under what Leska calls “smart metering.” Devices on these networks regularly transmit small chunks of data, such as status updates, measurements, and so on. While these devices work perfectly over cellular networks or Wi-Fi, there are a number of wireless standards that are specifically designed for iot networks.
More importantly, these standards, while designed with terrestrial networks in mind, are well suited to satellite networks. Swarm, for example, uses LoRat communications technology in its satellite constellation. Fraunhofer’s engineers also recently demonstrated that Mioty can transmit between LEO (low orbit) satellites, and importantly demonstrated that iot technology doesn’t even need to be adjusted to work.Leska says mioTY via satellite works right out of the box.
3, the Internet of Things low power consumption, anti-interference is the satellite quality
These iot technologies tend to have some common features. They are designed to be low-power, so the batteries on the iot devices don’t consume too much power with each transmission. They also tend to be long-term to reduce the amount of other infrastructure needed when deploying large-scale iot projects. And they are usually highly anti-jamming, because if there are dozens, hundreds or even thousands of devices transmitting information, the information cannot be confused with each other. As a trade-off, they typically do not support high data rates, which is a fair concession to the smart metering requirements of many iot networks.
These are also qualities that satellites need. Not only does the lower power transmission not deplete the onboard power supply any time soon, but it also alleviates the need for a larger, bulkier power system for the satellite in the first place. The need for long-range signals from satellites should come as no surprise, since even satellites in the lowest low-Earth orbit are still 160 kilometers above the ground. Different layers of Earth’s atmosphere (and conditions such as rain) can wreak havoc on signals at that distance.
Advances in satellites are simply accelerating the opening of possibilities by putting Internet of Things technology into orbit. Chief among these advances was the CubeSat revolution, which narrowed and standardized satellite structures. “We designed all the satellites when we had four people, and by launch we had about 10 people,” longmire said. Five years before we started, that would have been impossible.”
More advances are likely to be made to lower barriers to entry for the satellite Internet of Things. One possibility is optical communication. Switching to lasers would free new and existing operators from the need to acquire expensive radio spectrum. “I think getting spectrum is one of the hardest parts of running a space communications business,” longmire said. If we had known from the start how difficult it would be, we might have chosen a different business plan. I’m not sure about that.”
For now, even getting the Internet of Things into space isn’t enough to fully overcome some obstacles. But if the space-based Internet of Things network continues to generate interest, that interest could also be the impetus for the eventual removal of these barriers.
The satellite Internet of Things may lead to a wider range of connectivity coverage
The satellite Internet of Things can complement the ground Internet of Things. In some special situations, such as the sea, the desert or the ground base station construction is difficult, using satellite Internet of Things is really a good choice. At present, there have been many companies at home and abroad in the research of satellite Internet of Things, or has been commercialized, such as China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation “Xingyun Project”, Swarm company built satellite network. As the number of satellite iot projects continues to increase and applications will become more common, one can expect even greater connectivity in the future.