Growing use of Satellite for M2M and IoT

M2M communications via satellite has existed for more than two decades but is gaining momentum as prices of hardware and services become more affordable, and as the need to remotely monitor and control becomes more understood and demanded.

The Research and Markets’ report “M2M Satellite Communication Market 2014-2019 – Worldwide Market Forecast and Opportunities” predicts that the global satellite M2M market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.8% from 2014 to 2019. Many of the billions of M2M and IoT devices currently deployed are and will be accommodated by the terrestrial networks that cover only 10% of the world. The appeal of satellite services lies in the ability to extend M2M network coverage to 100% making it possible to run applications on a global scale.

The satellite M2M market began in the early nineties in the land mobile and maritime transportation sector to help manage large fleets of trucks crossing the continent, or to co-ordinate fleets of maritime vessels spread out over the oceans. The use of satellite M2M has since expanded and used in numerous sectors including oil, energy and utilities. It is also used in the security, corporate and government sectors for the monitoring of large numbers of assets and equipment at fixed locations spread out over vast geographical areas. Satellite M2M is utilized to collect data from global sensor networks for meteorology or environmental monitoring for activities such as bush fires and tsunami warnings.

Once thought of as expensive, dependent on equipment and the weather, and too complex to integrate with customer applications, satellite communications is increasingly becoming the technology of choice for wide spread M2M roll-outs. Satellite terminals available today operate on very low power, enabling them to run for long periods with minimal attention, or even with just solar power to operate. They offer easy installation with no specialised skills required and are also easy to maintain and support. With flexible airtime packages based on typical usage, satellite M2M can offer better value than many people realise.

Further possibilities are offered by dual mode solutions. These combine satellite with cellular and take advantage of low-cost cellular where it is available but ensures reliability by complementing it with satellite’s global reach.

SkyWave, an M2M service provider, sees companies using satellite to overcome remote monitoring challenges. Companies are able to receive a steady stream of accurate information about the status of their resources and infrastructure using satellite-enabled devices. SkyWave, who has seen much of its recent growth in utilities and oil and gas markets, has also noticed the increase in enterprise level use of these M2M technologies and a strong demand for smart and comprehensive Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) applications.

“Oil and gas and utilities and the demand for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) applications are driving a move toward more intelligent, more comprehensive remote monitoring applications to manage remote sites,” said Sue Rutherford, director of marketing at SkyWave.

SkyWave terminals operate over Inmarsat, a leading provider of global mobile satellite communications for M2M applications. The IsatData Pro (IDP) is a service that teams SkyWave’s range of terminals with Inmarsat’s global L-band satellite network to offer high payload and low latency with 99.9% network availability and a flexible solution for remote, unmanned locations. IDP’s low data rate service uses burst-mode communication and an IDP gateway for store-and-forward send / receive messaging.

One area that SkyWave’s IDP satellite communications terminals and remote monitoring applications are used is to address the challenging area of remote water monitoring. Utilities, governments, and industries look for ways to identify leaks, improve water efficiency, automate meter readings and control water quality.  The IsatData Pro is used to improve water delivery, regulation, analysis and emergency response by delivering alerts from remote water sites and reports from water monitoring installations.

The technology behind satellite networks has advanced considerably in recent years with satellite becoming an affordable option. The ubiquity and reliability of satellite M2M enables organisations to extend beyond the reach of terrestrial networks, even in extreme environmental conditions, reaching deep into remote and often hostile locations. Satellite M2M can also act as back-up to mitigate against network outages and overloading. Whether dual mode or satellite-only, the flexibility and usability of M2M devices is important. Customizable M2M devices can be programmed to ensure the reliable and timely delivery of the right messages to the right recipients. Satellite communications is a critical component for complete coverage of M2M applications.

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