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The Internet of Things (IoT) is a rapidly growing technology already connecting billions of devices around the world. These devices collect and transmit data about their environment, which can be used to improve efficiency, safety and productivity. Satellite networks are often linked to delivering global broadband connectivity, but they will also be an integral transport medium to ensure seamless and global IoT networks.

While IoT networks are leveraged globally across a wide range of industries, many encounter connectivity limitations due to their lack of access to terrestrial networks — primarily cell towers or fiber networks.  

This is where satellite excels as a key enabler for IoT. By providing reliable and secure connectivity to devices in remote areas, satellite is helping to make the use of IoT a reality in a wide variety of use cases. Even in less-remote areas, satellite can be an important part of the connectivity ecosystem, where it works alongside terrestrial networks to create better coverage and increased resiliency. For mobile applications, that means being able to move data from Point A to Point B with one affordable system.

Adding artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) creates a Smart-IoT platform where the collected IoT data can be optimized in real-time to create actionable intelligence. Advances in low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite systems and chipsets that support both terrestrial and satellite connectivity will revolutionize the Smart-IoT sector.

How will satellite-powered IoT and Smart-IoT systems be used? Some examples are below:

Satellite for asset efficiency

Careful tracking of assets is essential for efficiency in almost any industry. For fleet management, connected sensors as part of a Smart-IoT network can lead to a variety of positive outcomes:

  • Improved fleet efficiency: Collecting Smart-IoT data on vehicle location, fuel use, driving behavior and more can improve fuel efficiency by optimizing routes in real-time or reducing fuel consumption.
  • Increased driver safety: IoT devices can help monitor driver behavior for signs of fatigue, distraction or aggressive driving.  
  • Reduced vehicle downtime: Monitoring vehicle health with connected devices can help identify potential problems before they cause a breakdown, reducing downtime to keep fleets running smoothly.

Specifically, in the farming industry, fleet management practices can be applied to agricultural machinery. Close monitoring and management of agricultural properties can ensure assets are not overused, thereby ensuring the efficiency of the farm and equipment.

Ensuring universal access to basic needs

Satellite-powered Smart-IoT networks can aid humanity in many areas such as:

  • Remote access to healthcare: IoT can help realize the full potential of healthcare wearables and the critical role they play in patient monitoring and recovery care.  
  • Better sanitation and access to clean water: In remote and rural areas, deployment of satellite-connected IoT sensors can help measure and monitor water and soil quality to improve hygiene and ensure universal access to clean water.
  • Improved education and student engagement: IoT devices can break down geographic and mobility barriers by enabling teachers to create personalized learning programs using connected whiteboards, IoT sensors for smart campus management and even wearables to monitor student health and activity levels during physical education classes.

Increasing economic efficiencies in remote areas

IoT can enable connectivity and real-time data collection from various devices and sensors. IoT connectivity and data-driven insights can empower businesses in remote areas to make informed decisions, streamline operations and maximize productivity, leading to increased economic efficiencies.

  • In sectors like agriculture, IoT devices can monitor pesticide and chemical usage, soil moisture, weather conditions and crop health, allowing farmers to optimize irrigation, minimize resource wastage and improve yields.  
  • In the energy sector, IoT can facilitate smart grid systems, enabling efficient energy distribution and reducing power losses.  
  • IoT can also improve logistics and supply-chain management by providing real-time tracking and monitoring of goods, optimizing routes and minimizing delays.  

So how will LEO networks enable IoT and Smart-IoT capabilities anywhere? It comes down to these intrinsic attributes:

  • Global coverage: IoT devices can be connected anywhere in the world.
  • Reliable connectivity: Constellations with thousands of satellites are inherently more reliable, and much less susceptible to failure from weather, war or natural disaster.
  • Low latency: LEO satellite networks offer low latency, critical for applications that require real-time data transmission.
  • Enhanced security: Smart IoT networks like the one E-Space is building can be operated in a peer-to-peer configuration, virtually eliminating the use of the internet for data transmission, reducing key security issues.

Satellites will continue to play a vital role in IoT by extending connectivity to areas where terrestrial networks are limited or unavailable. Unlike terrestrial IoT, satellite IoT can provide global coverage, making it suitable for applications in all environments including remote, rural and maritime environments. And with more advanced satellite IoT systems underway, like the one E-Space is developing, end users will gain greater scalability and flexibility, allowing them to connect even more devices across a wider geographical area without the need for extensive infrastructure development.

Amy Mehlman

Amy Mehlman is vice president, Global Affairs and Stakeholder Relations at E-Space. She is responsible for leading collaboration with international and domestic governments, partners and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to secure market access and establish international policies around space sustainability.