Reinventing IoT connectivity in remote areas Business News

Astrocast is a Business Reporter customer

Connectivity is at the heart of society and business. In cities and many rural areas, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity is an essential part of everyday life. It enables buildings to be “smart”, vehicle fleets to be monitored and data from wearable medical devices to be sent to doctors.

But Internet connectivity does not easily spread everywhere. There are vast desert, mountainous and maritime areas inaccessible to the Internet and the IoT. And yet, these places still require communications: for example, to check the proper functioning of equipment in remote regions of the world or to follow the position of ships as they cross the oceans.

Satellite communications

Even where the communication cables do not reach, there is always communication. IoT can be transported over terrestrial networks using terrestrial technology. But there is a downside. Cellular technology relies on communication towers, which can be expensive, difficult to build and maintain, and prone to natural disasters or technical failures. And while long-range radio doesn’t need such a dense network, it still needs internet towers and faces other issues like intermittent connectivity and a lack of global standardization.

Satellites are more useful for global communications because they provide almost total global coverage, far wider than terrestrial networks. But satellites are expensive to build, launch and operate. Therefore, traditional satellite communication is expensive – too expensive for many IoT applications.

There is, however, a low-cost satellite solution that may be suitable for IoT applications: Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. It takes less energy to place a satellite in low Earth orbit because, requiring smaller antennas, they can be smaller than geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) satellites. Due to this cost advantage, LEO satellites are used for many communication applications.

Introducing Astrocast

Astrocast is a company that takes full advantage of LEO satellites to provide global IoT service. Founded in 2014 by former students of EPFL in Lausanne, and employing more than 80 people, Astrocast is the leading Swiss satellite operator. Astrocast is also the only new space satellite IoT (SatIoT) player to build and operate its own satellite network.

Astrocast uses nanosatellites: satellites weighing less than 5 kg and the size of a large shoebox. These are less expensive to launch than conventional communications satellites; a normal satellite is the size of a truck and very expensive to put into orbit. Astrocast’s nanosatellites are equipped with propulsion and deorbit functions that give operators control of the entire network should communication requirements change, as well as the ability to avoid (admittedly unlikely) collisions with space debris.

Astrocast has spent seven years developing this technology, which enables businesses to connect with equipment and vehicles in remote areas of the globe where cell phone coverage is unavailable – approximately 85% of the planet’s surface. .

Overall follow-up

Astrocast technology has many potential functions. For example, it can be used to track ships around the world. Freighters normally have tracking devices that only work when they are near a terrestrial network, usually when they are near the coast. However, most cargo ships do not operate close to shore and shipping companies must receive information on the status of their cargo at least once a day. The use of terrestrial networks does not allow this.

In contrast, Astrocast’s current constellation of 10 satellites can transmit four to six messages per day, to or from any point, providing an inexpensive solution to this problem. This is more effective than continuous communication for situations where you don’t need (or can’t be) there quickly, which is suitable for managing equipment in remote locations. Take the example of a water treatment plant in a remote location. Water filters will need regular monitoring, but not hourly. Sending someone to check the filters every day would be prohibitively expensive. Instead, nanosatellites can be used to carry out regular checks on the proper functioning of equipment, with people visiting the plant only when necessary.

Two-way communications

Another advantage of the Astrocast system is that it is bi-directional: you can send and receive messages, such as an acknowledgment that a message has been received. This is important because for many devices that operate on battery power in remote locations, such as a device monitoring a farmer’s environmental conditions, power consumption is a critical factor. With two-way signaling, automatic acknowledgment can prevent unnecessary messages from draining a remote device’s battery. This feature also allows commands to be sent to assets such as deploying security patches and software…

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This notice was published: 2022-03-08 20:18:16

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