Satellite Internet of Things (IoT): the future of networking

Discover how satellite communications can support IoT networks, ensuring resilient and reliable connectivity to almost any location on the planet.

Light rising from a city landscape representing IoT signals beaming up to a satellite network

Summary

  • Many businesses are making the digital transition to Internet of Things (IoT) - and Industrial IoT (IIoT) - based technologies to improve operations, efficiency and enhance productivity.
  • This article explores how satellite communications can facilitate IoT in new places and sheds light on the immense potential and benefits satellite-enabled IoT has to offer for the future.
  • Whether you’re looking to learn more about IIoT or are considering satellite services that support IoT devices, read on to discover the incredible possibilities they can deliver.

The meaning of the word “Smart” has changed dramatically over time. As the capabilities of technology have evolved, so too have our lives, allowing us to achieve far more with less input.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the enabler of “smart” in today’s world, and this technology is having an impact on nearly all facets of society. Usually when referring to IoT, we think of technology designed for consumer convenience: smart speakers such an Amazon Echo, smart light bulbs, thermostats and home security. However, IoT is much more than just a collection of smart devices that help us with our domestic lives, it also covers the rapidly expanding ways that businesses are using the technology.

Businesses across most industries, such as Agriculture, Energy & Utilities, Aviation and Maritime have either embraced or are embracing Industrial IoT (IIoT) technologies to help improve operations, and efficiency and enhance productivity. One of the challenges when you take IoT out of the home, and indeed out of the city, is connectivity becomes more problematic. With only 10% of the world’s landmass connected by cellular or fiber connectivity, satellite becomes a critical connectivity method for enabling Industrial IoT.

By using satellite connectivity to connect IoT technology, new complex capabilities and solutions become available to businesses and industry. 

What is the difference between IoT and IIoT?

At its core, IoT refers to a network of physical devices, vehicles, appliances and other objects embedded with sensors, software and connectivity that enables them to collect and exchange data. Because these devices are all connected through the internet, they can communicate and interact with each other without the need for human intervention. The emergence of IoT can be attributed to the convergence of several key factors, including:

Advancements in connectivity

The development of high-speed internet connectivity, along with wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G/5G, has provided the foundation for connecting a vast array of IoT devices.

Size and cost reduction

Today’s sensors are often very small, which makes them more affordable to produce while still maintaining or increasing the ability to capture and transmit data

Storage and processing capabilities

Cloud and edge computing technologies have facilitated the storage and analysis of enormous amounts of data generated by IoT devices, enabling real-time insights and decision-making.

Smart devices, everywhere

Smart devices and the spread of smartphones have created a culture of connectivity, driving the demand for interconnected devices and services.

These factors have paved the way for the rapid growth of IIoT as part of Industry 4.0.

IIoT simply refers to the integration of IoT devices and technologies such as interconnected sensors, devices, machines and systems in an industrial environment, for the collection, analysis and exchange of data.

Organizations can go on to use this data-driven approach to enable real-time monitoring, automation, data analytics and much more to streamline processes, reduce downtime, improve overall productivity and unlock new opportunities.

How do satellite connectivity and IoT work?

Satellite IoT refers to the integration of satellite networks and IoT devices to enable seamless connectivity and data exchange.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how it works:

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Firstly, IIoT-enabled devices such as sensors, trackers and monitoring devices need to be equipped with satellite communication {modules/terminals}. This allows the given device to be directly connected with a satellite in space, bypassing the need for a complete terrestrial infrastructure.

The IoT device then collects data from its surroundings, such as environmental conditions, equipment performance, or asset tracking. This is then processed and packaged for transmission.

Using selected frequencies and protocols, the device transmits the packaged data to the satellites above. Once received by the satellite, this data is then relayed back down to ground stations located on Earth. It is then forwarded to the intended recipient such as farmers, energy operators or fleet managers to be processed, analyzed and visualized through cloud-based or local systems.

Examples of IIoT and satellite connectivity

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Satellite Communications and IoT in Agriculture

The agriculture sector is facing several challenges globally – a rapidly growing population, unpredictable climates, international conflicts, and supply chain issues to name a few.

To meet these demands and address these issues, the way in which we cultivate land and supply food across the world needs to change. This is where the integration of satellite communications and IIoT can support the industry to help meet those challenges head on.

By utilizing IIoT, farmers and agricultural companies can achieve much higher levels of precision, efficiency and sustainability in their practices, in real time. This is especially the case across large farms and plantations, where it can be difficult to constantly monitor crops over hectares of land in remote locations.

Optimizing crop yield

The IoT devices farmers use are equipped with sensors that can collect data on a number of environmental factors, such as soil moisture, temperature, humidity, and other crucial parameters.

This ability to monitor crops with greater accuracy allows farmers to optimize resource allocation, reduce waste, improve crop yield, minimize environmental impact and ultimately maximize profitability.

Livestock management

With the emergence of wearable IoT devices, farmers can monitor the location, health and behavior of livestock in real-time, tracking loose livestock and their vital health signs, as well as detecting anomalies and receiving early warnings of potential diseases.

Satellite-enabled IoT devices also enable farmers to remotely monitor their livestock’s well-being, optimize feed management, and ensure timely intervention when necessary. As a result, livestock health is enhanced, productivity is increased, and operational costs are reduced.

Satellite Communications and IoT in Energy

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With global production and supply challenges, along with an international push to become more sustainable, energy companies need to reassess how energy output and consumption can be efficient, green, and economical.

The energy industry has embraced satellite communications and IoT to change the way energy is generated, transmitted, and consumed. This integration can bring forth numerous benefits, including enhanced operational efficiency, grid management and renewable energy integration.

Remote asset monitoring

Assets such as solar farms, wind turbines and oil rigs can be effectively monitored remotely through satellite-connected IoT technology, collating data on equipment performance, energy output, and environmental conditions, as well as controlling these assets from a central operational base.

Smart grid management

With utility companies increasingly moving towards smart grids, where electricity distribution and consumption can be effectively managed, companies are looking to monitor and automate reclosers, manage advanced metering infrastructure and address other aspects of the smart grid. Satellite connectivity can power this as well as aid workforce safety.

Connecting remote workers’ wearable smart cameras with reliable and secure satellite communications optimizes the performance and safety of the workforce in the field. For security surveillance, video over satellite can validate any alarms that are triggered and provide additional information via high-quality video.

It also empowers energy providers to manage and monitor their grids more effectively. Real-time visibility into energy consumption patterns, voltage levels and demand fluctuations allow energy providers to balance supply and demand, detect faults or outages, and improve energy distribution.

Satellite communications and IoT in Transport

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The transport industry is undergoing a transformative shift with the adoption of satellite communications and IoT, redefining logistics, fleet management, and passenger safety to make transportation more efficient, secure and sustainable.

Fleet tracking and management

Real-time visibility significantly enhances safety and fleet management by accurately identifying where transport assets are at any time, understanding fuel usage, and providing feedback on whether drivers are adhering to safety procedures, as well as broader driver behavior.

With an increasingly complex global supply chain, the extra visibility IoT offers – tracking items in real-time – allows organizations to understand and manage optimal transport conditions so quality can be tracked for even the most perishable items, such as foodstuffs or medicine cold chains.

Passenger safety and experience

Safety is the number one priority for public modes of transport and satellite connectivity allows for enhanced safety measures, such as remote monitoring of vehicle conditions, driver behavior analysis, and emergency response systems.

What satellite IoT can do for you in the future

Some of the most valuable data points are in the most hard-to-reach places.

Satellite communications can help knit together the needs of an IoT deployment by ensuring resilient and reliable connectivity to almost any location on the planet, addressing the gaps in the fragmented 3G, 4G and 5G cellular networks.

To understand how satellite communications is already enabling the IoT world, check out our ELEVATE program—bringing valuable IoT partners together in one place to help you find the next smart solution for your business.