Credit: NASA – Communication Network Around Earth

With the development and prosperity of space science and technology and the emergence of start-ups with innovative solutions, the demand for the development of Internet of Things (IoT) services has significantly increased and has become the talk of the technology developer community, especially among those related to future sciences. So, what is IoT? How does the space sector, with its sciences and technologies, contribute to IoT services and development?

The Internet of Things or what is known as IoT is a system made up of interconnected devices, mechanical and digital devices, animals, vehicles, equipment, and even people equipped with sensors and unique identifications (UIDs), which have the ability to transmit and exchange data over a network or other means of communication without the need for human intervention.

Organizations and companies increasingly use IoT in different sectors and fields to work more efficiently; better understand customers to provide improved customer service; accelerate, facilitate, and increase the quality of decision-making; and raise business value. For example, IoT capabilities and applications include monitoring the health of a patient implanted with a heart monitor, an animal with a transmitter implanted through a biochip, a car with sensors that alert the driver when tire pressure drops, or any other vital or man-made object that can be assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address and transmit data over the network.

An IoT ecosystem consists of smart devices that support the internet and use embedded systems, such as processors, sensors, and communication devices, to transmit data collected from their environments and take appropriate action accordingly. Communication between IoT devices and sensor data is made by an IoT gateway or other device, where data is sent for analysis locally or in the digital cloud. These devices do most tasks without human intervention, but people can interact with the system to set it up, provide instructions, access data, or for any other purpose. The IoT system can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to make data collection easier and more comprehensive, dynamic, efficient, and effective.

The importance of the IoT system is that it helps people and organizations live and work smarter and more efficiently. It gives companies a real-time view of how their systems work and provides an insider view of almost everything from machine performance to supply chain and logistics operations. It also enables companies to automate their processes, reduce labour costs, reduce waste, and improve service delivery, which makes the manufacture and delivery of goods less expensive and provides transparency in customer transactions. This has contributed to making IoT one of the most important technologies available in our daily life and the use of this technology will increase in various fields due to its ability to connect various devices, which in turn contributes to making IoT companies one of the pioneers of the market.

This explosive growth in IoT depends on comprehensive coverage and real-time connectivity, and today there is no single communication technology that can reach all regions and devices in the world while also handling the large number of connections required and the volume of data sent and received for various IoT applications. With 80% of Earth not covered by terrestrial networks, the need for satellite communications for the IoT sector to reach its full potential is inevitable. The Northern Sky Research organization (NSR) has predicted that the IoT sector will grow exponentially to an estimated value of $5 billion by 2025, and the total number of IoT devices connected to the internet by the middle of the next decade will be around 30 billion.

The opportunities for this field are enormous, and its expansion is due to the availability of the network and the cost, as more than two dozen new start-ups are pledging to reduce IoT satellite equipment prices and monthly service pricing by leveraging mass production in the market and using low-cost nanosatellite constellations to collect data from devices located in the most remote parts of the world or outside the coverage of cell phone towers. Swarm and Kepler Communications (Kepler), two well-known companies in this field, launched a large number of nanosatellites to provide real-time coverage of various IoT applications. In addition, many companies plan to launch nanosatellites into space for IoT applications where communication is not in real-time, as most IoT applications do not require it, and of the satellites launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) recently 90% have been to provide IoT services.

Credit: everythingRF-Satellite IoT

These companies are creating a new and evolving world; the current possibilities go beyond the existing applications of IoT and the boundaries of traditional networks. Primary uses of IoT applications from satellites include collecting data from vessels at sea, farms in Africa, or solar-powered vehicles in Antarctica and this development is driven by advances in satellite and battery technology that have changed the economy of space networks. There are two features that unite space IoT start-ups around the world which are their focus on building low-bandwidth data collection networks and reducing costs.

Start-ups can enter this field by launching one or two nanosatellites to attract initial customers and add more as revenues and demand increase. This creates a desirable market of satisfied customers who do not require real-time coverage of services. This sector is the future, and companies are accelerating their entry into it, especially by using nanosatellites to provide these services to various customers around the world.

Finally, we wonder, when will we see Bahraini start-ups working in the fields of IoT and space applications?

Written By: NSSA Aerospace Engineer – Reem Senan