The Operational IoT market continues to expand as organisations across the world imagine an extraordinary range of opportunities to leverage sensor technology.
With the arrival of robust, proven, cost-effective satellite connections, the true potential of these IoT applications can be realised. With estimates suggesting there will be tens of millions of satellite IoT devices in use by 2030, access to reliable, global coverage is now enabling new opportunities for systems integrators (SIs) across the world.
It is now time for SIs to build a business case for Satellite IoT according to Eric Ménard, Vice President Strategy and Business, Astrocast.
Satellite connectivity may have been available for years, but the market has been waiting for a satellite connection designed specifically for widescale IoT deployment. Many of the key target applications, from agriculture to supply chain, do not require the continuous or real-time communication associated with high-cost legacy satellite connectivity. These solutions play a critical role but they are too expensive and power-hungry to support a compelling business case for most Operational IoT deployments.
When a deployment may extend to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of devices, small differences in performance and lifetime will fundamentally change the return on investment (ROI). The business case becomes even more sensitive when extended to remote areas without terrestrial network coverage and require satellite connectivity. How can the sensors be deployed to remote locations cost-effectively? What is the cost of satellite transmission? How long must the battery last on a sensor to ensure the ROI is not compromised? Plus, how can the data be collected and used to drive tangible commercial benefits?
Even before exploring the technology, SIs need robust due diligence to ensure confidence in the business credibility and model of the satellite provider. Ensuring excellent satellite coverage, including across international water, is essential. Business longevity is also fundamental for deployments that could be in the field for a decade.
Proof of concept
Only once the foundations of a business case have been confirmed should an SI make the investment in a technology assessment. For many SIs looking to expand existing IoT solutions, speed of integration is an important consideration. From the quality of documentation to the availability of training, the way a satellite company works with its SIs to ease the integration of SatIoT into the existing IoT solution set can make a significant difference in time to market.
For the past few years, a number of innovative SIs have been testing the latest generation of cost-effective SatIoT connectivity to determine the viability and requirements of an industrial-scale deployment. They have built prototypes and invested in field testing. The process has highlighted the importance of ultra-low battery consumption to minimise the need for replacements in situ. Typically, a business case may only stand up if the battery lasts five to ten years. In some locations, the Satellite IoT solution can be integrated with a solar panel, overcoming the need for a dedicated battery.
SIs have also worked closely with SatIoT providers to optimise antenna design and ensure the antenna is both reliable and easy to integrate. A small, flat antenna may be essential but additional questions will arise specific to an area of deployment.
The availability of bidirectional connectivity also provides SIs with a future-proofed solution. Updates can be downloaded remotely to the sensors as required – for example, if a customer wants to change the frequency of data recording.