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  • Tim Kannegieter

Space: The new frontier for internet of things connectivity

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

A window of opportunity of opening for those who can take early advantage of a new generation of nano-satellite technology that will solve the key issue of guaranteed global connectivity for companies developing smart products. Genesys is working with the leading satellite player Myriota, to develop a white-label product that will allow original equipment manufacturers to develop commercial products for a wide variety of use cases.

Nano-satellites are set to disrupt the communication landscape for internet of things (IoT) devices. However, like much of the IoT, the range of emerging satellite technologies is confusing for newcomers to smart product development. The technologies must be compared not only to traditional cellular LTE-based options but to the new generation of terrestrial-based low-power, wide-area-network (LPWAN) technologies.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology trend delivering a tipping point of affordability and capability, enabling the development of products and services not previously viable. This characteristic is true of the new space-based technologies that will enable sensors in remote locations to transmit small packets of data at an affordable price. The technology is suitable for a wide range of applications, including global tracking across supply chains, environmental monitoring, maritime operations, defence applications and asset management for utilities.

LPWAN technologies, such as LoRa, Sigfox and NB-IoT, have greatly expanded the reach of cellular LTE-based options, filling in blind spots and bringing down the price point for data plans. Despite the increased capability these technologies bring, it only takes one customer to have a connectivity problem for the value proposition of the new product or service to be undermined.

Traditional satellite technologies have long existed to provide full coverage in remote areas but traditionally have been only affordable in a small number of use cases and requiring significant powering arrangements.

In recent years a large number of companies globally have been developing satellite options specifically targeting the IoT market of low-power and low-data-rate devices. Virtually every developed country in the world has several start-up companies challenging the status quo with new technologies developed from the ground up to address the IoT use case.

The challenge for product developers is understanding the technical and commercial differences between the many satellite options

The challenge facing commercial product developers is understanding the technical and commercial differences between the many options, as well as picking winners in this new space race. Key factors include energy consumption, frequency and compatibility in different countries, bandwidth and latency of communication, directionality, reliability of packet transmission, security, and the type of business model including the cost of the chipset and messaging.

In the middle of 2019, Genesys conducted an analysis of all the satellite options available in order to provide independent advice to its customers. We examined the new offerings from traditional players including Iridium, Inmarsat and Eutelsat, as well as SpaceX-Starlink, which are renting space on their big platforms to smaller players in the IoT space. These larger platforms offer high bandwidth and fast latency.

Another category of service providers are those operating a hub-based model. The hub model involves many IoT devices connecting to a hub, typically via a network like LoraWan. The hub then transmits data to orbit. This technology is suitable for well-defined clusters of sensors. Companies in this category include SatVUE and Australian company Fleet Technologies.

The technology that most excites Genesys is the development of direct-to-orbit modems

The technology that most excites Genesys is the development of direct-to-orbit modems that allow original equipment manufacturers to embed a direct-to-orbit communication capability in their products. This technology is suitable for a very wide range of use cases for devices that are isolated or moving.

There are a very large number of start-ups targeting this sector, including Hiber, Sigfox, Astrocast, Lacuna, Orbcomm, Kepler, eSat and Globalstar. However, the company that is most advanced in a go-to-market offering is Myriota.

Myriota is an Adelaide-based company that grew out of patented signal processing technology developed at the University of South Australia. There are a number of advantages of the Myriota technology relating to its advanced signal processing, security, and low power.

Myriota CEO Dr Alex Grant with one of Myriota's modules for direct-to-orbit communication from IoT devices

The company’s transmitter can be packaged compactly and can send multiple small (24Bytes) packets of information, using only as much bandwidth as you need for your application. Users access the data via standard APIs after it returns via a ground station.

Genesys was the first commercial developer in the world to receive the Myriota Dev kit. We set about creating a proof of concept and, having familiarised ourselves with it, made the decision to develop a white-label Global Tracker product. The product combines Myriota, NB-IoT and GPS to deliver a tracking capability that works anywhere – undercover and in remote areas.

A white-label product is one that can be customised by manufacturers to utilise in their own branded original application/use-case, while licencing the Genesys platform.

For our international customers, this product showcases the best of high-reliability engineering available in Australia. Unlike many other countries with large internal markets, Australians are used to developing products for operation in remote areas and across the globe, because of the nature of our continent and our global location.

For Australian original equipment manufacturers, there is an even more compelling reason. Myriota is a great example of an Australian company which is leading the pack in a highly competitive global market. Increasingly, we are seeking a return to manufacturing in Australia for high-technology products and Genesys believes companies like Myriota should be supported.

In addition to Myriota, Genesys is proud to be working with Circuitwise Electronics Manufacturing, another Australian company, which will be manufacturing our white-label products. This means OEMs working with us can proudly claim their products to be Australian made.

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