Does Satellite Have a Role in IoT?

denis-mediumBy Denis Sutherland, Director of Business Development, iDirect

One of my first experiences with satellite communications was 22 years ago connecting weather sensors to a central sever. Today, such a project would fall under the broad category of Internet of Things. But at the time, it was simply just using the right technology for the project—and that technology was VSAT.

Why did we use VSAT? You see, the weather sensors were located in war-torn Bosnia, where telecoms infrastructure was sparse. The task at hand involved collecting wind speed, rainfall, and other measurement data, which needed to be sent back to the Met Office in the UK for processing with other relevant data. From there, it was delivered back to the Bosnia headquarters in the form of weather forecast products for the RAF mission planners and pilots, allowing flights to be conducted safely.

This was indeed an early example of VSAT being used to collect data from “things” for purposes of making better decisions. And today, while the debate around whether satellite has a role in the Internet of Things continues to heat up, I look back on this as an early proof point that it certainly has a role—and a very valuable one at that.

The Answer to Satellite IoT

Recently I spoke the GVF Connectivity Conference, The question I asked at the recent GVF Connectivity conference was: “Is there a role for VSAT in IoT?”

One of the audience members asked a question about low powered radio networks on land. This limits the amount of opportunity for satellite on land to be aggregation points. However, that is not the whole story. In fact, the opportunity for the telecommunications industry is substantial.

The satellite industry knows that VSAT will always be good fit in mobility. Planes, ships, trains and even cars need satellite connectivity to achieve 100% coverage. We are starting to see business models that use IoT applications over satellite connections.

M2M/Internet of Things (IoT)

One good example is Rolls-Royce and its engine outsourcing and health management products. New business models such as these are great, but they challenge the way companies do business.

Leasing a product is one thing but you lose some control. The question becomes: Who uses the product? And in what context and geographical locations? These are factors that the vendor may not have considered.

Things like Big Data and IoT for sensor collection seems to help alleviate such questions. In the case of the Rolls Royce example, achieving faster access to the data, and thus action the use of cloud, and satellite connectivity to the aircraft, the company can remotely monitor and maintain engines with the same quality as if they were sitting right next to these “things” right in the factory. With this, they can have better visibility into the planes status than the airline themselves.

In this model, cloud computing has a role as well, working with satellite connectivity to provide a central location for the world wide collection of data. This allows for faster access to data, and therefore more immediate response.

Over the Top?

Will IoT be serviced Over the Top (OTT) by via dedicated providers? In the Rolls Royce example, they have little need to build satellite networks, but instead could use existing connectivity, running their services over the top of it. The satellite service providers achieve incremental benefits of more connectivity, and it drives the need for more data.

In such a business model, two questions emerge: Is the satellite industry providing the right kind of connectivity? Are the right business models and relationships in place for all vendors to capitalize on the opportunity?

As a technology provider iDirect is continually focused making sure we understand these emerging trends and adapt our technology to provide the best solution.  We have taken the view that data will need to be processed at the edge of the network in order to optimize it before transmission over the satellite.

It is why we are introducing a new Embedded Computing Series of satellite remotes that enable partners to couple market-leading iDirect technology with best-in-class software solutions tailored for a given market.

These remotes consolidate solutions that would typically require use of a multi-box configuration into a 1U rack-mounted form factor, reducing the hardware footprint, simplifying installation, decreasing points of failure and lowering power consumption. By adding extra processing power and memory to run approved software applications these solution remotes offer enhanced functionality and are ideal for applications in the world of Internet of Things.

So when the industry asks whether or not satellite has a role in IoT, iDirect is already providing that answer with a resounding yes.

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