Utilization of Satellites for IoT

By. Teguh Prasetya

Source: Technology vector created by vectorjuice – www.freepik.com

Satellite technology is getting higher, but the satellite altitude is getting lower. As a result, this turned out to be an opportunity for utilization that was unanticipated before.

As an illustration, the first satellite technology used globally all orbited at an altitude of 36,000 kilometers, in the category of geostationary satellites.

With this altitude, the satellite has the advantage that it can provide services with extensive coverage up to one country in Indonesia. The satellite supports many activities ranging from broadcasting, banking to internet access.

The use of the internet is increasing along with the digitalization era. The need for internet access has risen sharply. Everything is transformed from humans to machines to digital, which are all connected through the internet network. GEO satellites can serve the internet, but in some instances, GEO does not move.

The evolution of machine technology requires more than just the regular internet. Internet-driven objects (Internet of Things/IoT) need special satellites to support their operations, capable of delivering high-speed and low-latency internet.

IoT satellites can fulfill this need, which currently orbits in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). LEO satellites operate at altitudes ranging from 200 kilometers – 2,000 kilometers. IoT-only LEO satellites have been the talk of the town in the UK since 2013.

Based on the iotuk.org report, the IoT satellite market in Asia in 2023 reached US$292.4 million, an increase of 207.28% compared to 2013, which was only US$95 million. Most IoT satellites operate in sectors in the L Band.

The same report also mentions that IoT special satellites have many advantages: cost-effective, energy-efficient, global coverage, reliable and safe, high reliability, and non-real-time application.

The development of special IoT satellites costs more affordable funds compared to conventional satellites as they exist today. The same goes for development time. GEO satellites take up to three years to manufacture, while LEO IoT Satellites take only a few weeks or months.

IoT satellites can also serve billions of IoT devices worldwide as these satellites are constantly revolving around the earth. Regarding energy consumption, the IoT Satellite claimed to operate for more than six years.

The Iotuk.org report also mentions that the industry that uses the most IoT with satellite networks is the Security sector (30%), then Transportation (around 24%), and Cargo (17%).

Special IoT satellites are needed to serve all of Indonesia to support sensors located in remote areas, where no one is but rich in natural resources.

These resources need to be monitored and utilized with satellite-driven IoT devices. Several sectors such as gas and oil, forestry, plantations, and sea transportation also require services from this satellite.

Many potential sources must be monitored and controlled. The telecommunications infrastructure may not be there yet.

To serve IoT, Geostationary Orbit Satellites can fulfill, but they are expensive and take a long time to build. Meanwhile, for the LEO Satellite, the manufacturing cost is more affordable, with the manufacturing time being only a matter of months or even weeks.

As for the challenges, the allocation of a frequency spectrum is the biggest challenge in presenting a particular IoT LEO Satellite. Most LEO Satellites are in the L Band 1 GHz -2 GHz, but some use an ultra-high frequency (UHF) band of 443 MHz. These frequencies are also suitable for satellites.

IoT-only satellites are nothing new. Several countries have been assembling this satellite since 2017. Then, this year several special IoT satellite operators have commercialized in several countries.

Astrocast, a global satellite company from Switzerland, has a dedicated IoT satellite that is small in size and weighs about 5 kilograms. This satellite consumes 0.35 watts of power to operate. Astrocast satellites use the L-Band band, with a lifetime of over five years.

Next Swarm. A total of 72 of the 82 IoT Swarm satellites in orbit are currently operating commercially in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, some ocean areas. Swarm  IoT satellite weighs 400 grams.

Besides Swarm and Astrocast, there is also Skylo. This United States company owns two NB-IoT satellites and developing 75 more satellites to expand services globally. This satellite has a latency of 250 milliseconds with a data rate of 20kbps.

As mentioned that this satellite revolves around the earth. It’s about time; IoT satellite will serving Indonesia. Reportedly, several satellite players put Indonesia on their waiting list. Just wait for the time.