COMMUNICATION

Internet-of-Things is the next level of interconnectivity

By connecting everyday objects such as washing machines, refrigerators and home alarm systems to the internet, by enabling cars, ships, planes and even bicycles to communicate and exchange data with each-other, by allowing for 24/7 live monitoring of remote sensors and machinery humanity is forging its own future today. Without any doubt – IoT is the next big thing.

Adding a space segment to an IoT or M2M infrastructure makes the above-mentioned capabilities available everywhere at any time. SmallSat and CubeSat constellations are a vital part of tomorrows connected world.

Recent developments in antenna and communication technology have shown, that it is possible to receive signals from compact, battery powered transmitters in orbit. Multiple startups have proposed CubeSat constellations to address parts of the new market.

Kepler Communications (USD 21M), Hiber (USD 14.5M), Helios Wire (6M), Fleet (USD 4M) and dozens of other young companies have raised significant venture funding.

By connecting their assets and devices to a satellite powered network, customers worldwide, such as shipping companies, transport- and travel agencies, large- and small-scale farmers, state- and national park rangers, scientists and many more will be able to boost their everyday work. IoT and M2M will revolutionize the world as we know it. Satellite manufacturers like German Orbital Systems are the backbone of this fascinating development.

CubeSat constellations
are a cost-effective way to worldwide connectivity

Due to their compact size and mass, huge parts of a constellation can be deployed from one single launcher. Novel propulsion technologies allow for distributing the satellites in their orbital plane and for maintaining their relative position. This helps to ensure service availability parameters and has not been possible before companies like Enpulsion, ExoTrail or Morpheus entered the market with their innovative propulsion concepts.

While being much more cost-effective as their bigger counterparts, CubeSats still offer typical benefits of satellite-based communication. They can be used for encrypted data transmission via intersatellite link – allowing for maximum security applications. Combined with the 24/7 worldwide service availability offered by a satellite constellation this paves the way to a multitude of applications, highly relevant for most of us.

TRANSPORTATION, LOGISTICS & INDUSTRY

One of the core applications for IoT in Logistics and Transport is gathering positional and status data from assets and vehicles. Small, very energy efficient transmitters which can be powered from batteries or from solar arrays transmit data packages to a satellite in sight. To save power, in some cases the satellite sends a wake-up broadcast signal to trigger the transmission. Once received by the satellite, depending on the concept the data is either stored and downlinked during the next ground station pass, or transmitted via am intersatellite link. Ultimately, this will lead to a 24/7 availability of data from remote devices. While the transmission of telemetry from asset to user has already reached a certain level of maturity, bidirectional communication using CubeSat Constellations is the logical next step. This will allow to control remote assets, e.g. solar plants or wind parks from anywhere at any time and at unprecedentedly low costs. The data gathered from the devices will enable life-time analysis and dynamic demand responses and will contribute to a more sustainable future.

AGRICULTURE & ENVIRONMENT

IoT and M2M will also have a major impact in one of the oldest industries – in agriculture. Feeding the world becomes tougher from year to year and climate change – which can’t be denied – makes the problem even worse. Modern technologies have transformed agriculture already. Today, precision techniques, such as autonomous, GPS guided harvesters, precise, soil & location dependent irrigation and fertilization are state of the art. These techniques, nevertheless, require a high level of technical understanding from their users as well as very substantial investments and a good infrastructure. Hence, only a small part of the world has access to precision agriculture.

Low-cost CubeSat powered IoT constellations could help to bring precision techniques to emerging market countries as well as to the third world. Low cost sensor networks in combination with mobile applications will allow e.g. to control irrigation systems on remote fields in regions with limited connectivity. By doing so reducing the water consumption. Decision support tools based on soil data from in-situ-sensors will compensate the lack of knowledge and education and e.g. suggest farmers, which crop to select for a specific field.

WILDLIFE TRACKING

Climate change has terrifying impact on wildlife and nature. According to UNO, over 1M species could become extinct by 2050. Tracking wildlife can help to identify factors contributing to this development. The behavior of many species is still not understood completely, and chances are, that it might be too late soon. Today tracking animals or birds is possible but complicated and very time consuming. New developments in the field of low power data transmitters will allow to track large numbers of animals of different sizes by receiving the data with CubeSats. Mapping migrations of animals, birds and even insects on a global scale and at affordable costs will change our understanding of nature.

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