Satellites: A formidable option for IoT

For many, the word “Internet of Things” surely recalls intelligent urban endeavors, such as road lights with air-grade sensors and traffic cameras, as well as connected equipment in their own houses. And a very reasonable question is why would you ever want to link any of these gadgets via satellites? You don’t have the solution. There is no use in trying. For example, the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits recently stated that satellites could simply use its terrestrial IoT technology, mioty (massive IoT). In its goal to develop an IoT-specific constellation, Start-up Swarm had enough success than SpaceX has just purchased.

The terrestrial infrastructure is the best solution for any IoT network satellite connections that are not – or cannot – exist to supply services. Consider the use of shipping container tracking systems, for example, throughout the Pacific Ocean. The only method to keep a check on the shipping of a container is to ship it via a satellite from China to California. This category also includes agricultural networks and environmental health monitoring networks.

For example, where earthly coverage exists, the second category must transit numerous networks between A and B. This is usually the case with logistics such as trucks. For example, a truck driver that travels between many European nations usually needs to pay for several carriers along the route to assure uninterrupted service.

Many IoT networks belong to a category called “smart metering” by Florian Leschka, System Design Group Manager of the Fraunhofer Institute. The gadgets on these networks often convey little pieces of data—status updates, measurements, and the like. Although these devices can be perfectly well sent via mobile networks or Wi-Fi, a few wireless technologies specifically for IoT networks also exist. Furthermore, these standards convert into satellite-based networks, whereas they are created with terrestrial networks in mind.

In its constellation, for example, Swarm uses LoRa (low-power wide-area network). And the recent demonstration by Fraunhofer engineers that mioty (large IoT) can be transmitted to/from LEO satellites shows that the IoT technology does not even have to be altered to be used. Mioty functioned out of the box via satellite, adds Leschka.

These IoT technologies have some common characteristics. They are meant to be low power so that not every communication is exhausted by the batteries on IoT devices. They are also long-term, reducing the quantity of other infrastructure needed for the implementation of a large-scale IoT project. And they are usually quite strong against interference since messages cannot be disturbed by each other if dozens or hundreds or thousands of devices transmit. In general, they do not support high data rates as a trade-off, which is a fair concession to meet the intellectual demands of many IoT networks.