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Satellite IoT – The Revolutionary Next-Gen Technology Solution

The technologically advances in building low-cost, low-power IoT terminals coupled with global connectivity offered by satellites is fueling the growth of Satellite IoT solutions.

Every year hundreds of satellites are launched throughout the world. These satellites are used in a wide range of applications from communication to navigation, from mapping to remote sensing and much more. With many devices being connected to the internet, the IoT market is booming. Satellite-based IoT solutions is the next game-changing technological evolution.

The technologically advances in building low-cost, low-power IoT terminals coupled with global connectivity offered by satellites is fueling the growth of Satellite IoT solutions. Satellites can offer seamless connectivity in remote locations not covered by mobile networks. This makes them ideal for variety of industries like agriculture, mining, logistics, fisheries, renewable energy, oil and gas etc. These industries increasingly use data driven analysis and forecasting solutions. Satellite-based remote connectivity allows them to get finer data through larger number of connected sensors. This gives them larger data points which improves the prediction and analysis, leading to increased productivity and profitability.

Sat-IoT Connectivity Solutions

There are 2 main connectivity solutions for Sat-IoT devices. The solution depends on the application requirement.

Sat-IoT Backhaul Solution

This solution is helpful when there are a large number of sensors or IoT devices present in a small area. For example, it can be used to transmit the data from a windmill farm where sensors are put on each windmill. The exponential growth of IoT devices has led to development of many low-power, low-cost IoT communication protocols and standards like LoRaWAN, SigFox, Zigbee etc. The IoT sensors can use these standards to communicate with Satellite IoT gateways installed in the vicinity. The Satellite IoT gateways can transmit the signals from the various sensors via a satellite communication to a central location for processing and analysis. This solution can also be used for communication from the central location to the remote IoT devices. This helps in two-way communication, remote monitoring and control of the devices.

Direct to Satellite Solution

This solution is ideal when the sensors are distributed in a larger area or in case the sensors are mobile . In instances of large-area distribution of sensors, data aggregation of multiple sensors cannot happen, hence each sensor has to directly communicate to the central control. Similarly, when sensors are continuously moving, they can’t send the signals via fixed gateways. They travel in remote locations where the mobile network connectivity is patchy and unreliable or non-existent. In such locations it is difficult to communicate with the central location. Here satellite based IoT solutions are used to establish reliable two-way communication with the central control.

As an example, it can be used for remote monitoring of smart farms which are spread across the state. The sensors connected to irrigation systems in each farm can communicate to a central control location directly via satellite. The direct to satellite solution can also be used for tracking, monitoring and control of moving assets like trains and fishing boats.

Opening the Satellite IoT Industry for private players

The Satellite IoT industry is developing innovative solutions to cater to the wide variety of applications in the industry. With the opening of the space sector to private players, many private companies are also entering the industry. Developing terminals and hub-side equipment is less capital intensive as compared to building and launching satellites. The private players are tying up with satellite operators to develop next-gen ground terminals and solutions. This is a win-win solution for all the stakeholders. The satellite operators can get better utilization of their spectrum, the private players are able to offer next-gen Sat-IoT and two-way communication solutions to their clients, the end users are able to get access to Sat-IoT solutions at a very affordable cost.

The growth of the industry has also benefitted strategic and government agencies. Over 2700 trains in India are now tracked on real time basis as part of the Real time Train Information System (RTIS) project. The two-way communication system has vastly improved the operational efficiency and punctuality of trains by establishing secure, reliable communication link between locomotives and central control stations.

For coastal security, the Government of India is encouraging fishermen to install Satellite based two-way communication systems operating on ISRO Satellite. When fishermen go out in deep sea these modems help in establishing two-way communication between ship and shore. They can be used to broadcast emergency alerts to fishermen, aid in search and rescue and even inform the fishermen about potential fishing zones. The Sat-IoT modules installed in fishing boats can help in real time tracking of the vessels and help enhance coastal security.

Government’s role and the roadmap ahead

India’s Policy think tank, NITI Aayog has announced govt’s priority to focus on five sectors including healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities, smart mobility, and transport. Given India’s size, Sat-IoT will be a complimentary technology to service many requirements that benefit from ubiquitous coverage. So far, ISRO has been the biggest satellite operator in India serving the strategic and defence requirements of the country. For large scale deployment of Sat-IoT, India needs to provide an enabling environment to private satellite operators as well as ground communication equipment and device providers. With large market size, more private players will be motivated to develop gateways, user terminals and hubside equipment.

The government can also incentivize ISRO and private players to launch satellites and offer services globally. This will not only help Indian companies to offer its services overseas but will also galvanize the Indian satcom ecosystem.

As part of the ‘Neighborhood First’ policy India ‘gifted’ the South Asia Satellite to SAARC countries. The satellite provides multi-dimensional services such as tele-medicine, tele-education, banking and television broadcasting. It also enables collection of real-time weather data and helps in observations of the geology of the South Asian nations. Apart from providing satellite connectivity, it gave a big boost to India’s diplomatic efforts in the region. Similarly providing end-to-end Satcom solutions to friendly countries would help serve India’s strategic, diplomatic and business interests.

With right policy framework and proactive government support India can become a net exporter of Satcom solutions to the world.

Source: Business World

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