The IoT can help to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, but only with reliable connectivity.
IoT News caught up with Jat Brainch, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer at Inmarsat, to discuss how the company is using its next-gen communications network to tackle modern challenges.
IoT News: What are some of the key challenges of IoT deployments and how is Inmarsat helping to overcome them?
Jat Brainch: The undisputable benefits of IoT adoption at scale – efficiencies, increases in safety, and more sustainable practices – have the ability to make a major positive contribution to the world. Yet, to perform as intended, IoT solutions require ubiquitous connectivity that simply cannot be provided by traditional terrestrial networks.
Terrestrial connectivity is far from ubiquitous; roughly 10 per cent of the Earth’s surface has consistent access to it. Getting a cellular signal of any kind in many places (from farms in rural Australia, to oil fields in the Middle East, or mines in the Yukon) can be a challenge. And it is often at the remote edge that enterprises can find the most valuable data, with insights revealed only as data from multiple locations is collected, transferred to a central location, and analysed.
It is often in these remote places where Inmarsat connectivity is enabling satellite IoT, providing ultra-reliable connectivity for a range of mobile and mission-critical use cases through our global ELERA L-band network.
We provide a range of services, from Inmarsat DataPro (IDP) our low-bandwidth, non-IP messaging service, which is perfect for simple monitoring and automation scenarios, to BGAN M2M – our IP satellite backhaul service that is suited to more bandwidth-hungry tasks. We even offer a range of connectivity leasing services that help our customers define their own “virtual” networks so they can offer satellite-enabled solutions of their own.
Inmarsat is trying to do more to share the impact that satellite IoT can make to overcome some of humanity’s greatest challenges
A recent Inmarsat study, Can Space Help Save The Planet?, conducted by leading consultants at Globant’s Sustainable Business Studio, found that existing satellite technologies could save up to 5.5 billion tons of CO2 a year. Meaning, one-sixth of the total CO2 emissions currently estimated as necessary to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5°C by 2030 could be avoided or saved with the help of existing satellite solutions.
IN: How does ORCHESTRA differ from previous mesh networks?
JB: Inmarsat ORCHESTRA is developing fast – it will be the first communications network of its kind and will redefine connectivity at scale.
This unique, global, multi-dimensional, dynamic mesh network embraces multi-technologies, orbits, and incorporates terrestrial components into a service that is delivered seamlessly to our mobility, IoT, and government customers. It will provide the highest capacity and fastest average speeds for mobility worldwide, while featuring the lowest average latency of any network, planned or in existence.
In practical terms, ORCHESTRA will be a seamless configuration of our ELERA (L-band) network, best suited for IoT solutions; Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (Ka-band) network, our global broadband offering; terrestrial 5G; as well as targeted low earth orbit (LEO) capacity and dynamic mesh technologies, to create a single advanced solution for global mobility.
Our focus is the customer, and we will tailor the solution based on specific performance requirements.
IN: What current IoT deployment has Inmarsat enabled that serves as a good case study for what’s possible with satellite connectivity?
JB: We have a number of exciting satellite IoT use cases across the land verticals that I look after. These range from our work with smaller partners such as Farmbot, an Australian company that help farmers monitor and automate their water reservoirs, to our partnership with Cemig, one of Brazil’s largest electrical utilities companies, where Inmarsat’s BGAN M2M network underpins their energy network, reducing downtime.
We are proud of our record in helping our partners to grow, such as with Farmbot who started in Australia and who are now on a steep growth trajectory in the US under the name of Ranchbot.
Through our partnership with Insight Terra, we’re helping make mining safer and supporting the effective monitoring of mining waste globally.
Another example is our work with Rumo, South America’s largest logistics company. With Rumo, we provide the connectivity that supports telemetry and communications to giant locomotives taking goods through Brazil’s vast interior. Our connectivity helps Rumo to efficiently manage the locomotives operating on their network, so they stop and start less, helping them save costs on fuel consumption and reducing their carbon footprint.
IN: Recent modelling commissioned by Inmarsat found that the world could reach net-zero 10 years ahead of schedule by adopting certain technologies. What IoT applications will be key in that endeavour?
JB: This is the ‘Can Space Help Save The Planet?’ research that I referred to earlier.
IoT solutions – powered by ubiquitous satellite connectivity – will be key in the fight against climate change by enabling a sustainable net zero transformation across key sectors, including:
- Transport and logistics
- Agriculture, forestry, and other land use
- Energy systems – analysed as part of the report
Together, these account for approximately 60 percent of global emissions, and a considerable impact can be achieved in the short-term by leveraging satellite and IoT technologies and solutions that already exist.
Within these sectors, we can look at particular use cases that will certainly play a role in driving down our collective carbon footprint in years to come.
From a transport and logistics perspective, the implementation of fuel consumption monitoring and telemetry IoT systems can help airlines, maritime fleets, and land operators to optimise the way their assets move and consume less fuel.
In the agriculture, forestry, and other land use space, sustainable targets can be achieved through vehicle telemetry, water management monitoring, and forest fire monitoring.
Finally, energy systems can better achieve carbon reduction through more efficient extraction and distribution of oil and gas through well-head and pipeline monitoring.
The electrical utilities sector is already using IoT to monitor and automate their grid infrastructure so that there are fewer downtime incidents where engineers have to travel hundreds of miles. Again, this is a great example of the sorts of solutions that can help accelerate net-zero.
At the same time, we believe the reliability of the underlying connectivity backbone is absolutely fundamental to ensuring the adoption of these use cases continues to grow.
Inmarsat’s ELERA L-band satellite network is the backbone for mission-critical satellite IoT, as well as global maritime and aviation safety services, protecting the lives of millions of people every day. As more businesses use IoT for mission-critical use cases, the certainty and reliability of the connectivity link will become increasingly important.
IN: Inmarsat and the European Space Agency are developing a satellite terminal for UAVs as part of the Iris air traffic modernisation programme. How will the terminal help to safely integrate UAVs into commercial airspace?
JB: Yes, in January Inmarsat and the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that innovation firm TTP will be developing a compact satellite terminal for Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) as part of the ground-breaking Iris air traffic management modernisation programme.
The ESA Iris programme, led by Inmarsat, supports the ‘Digital European Sky’ initiative to deliver updated aviation infrastructure that will increase air traffic capacity in Europe, reducing delays and unnecessary emissions.
The multitude of new types of air vehicles, such as delivery drones and air taxis, that will soon be seeking access to the airspace, further accelerates the need for digital skies in Europe.
IN: Across the pond, the FCC is seeking input regarding its framework to facilitate collaborations between satellite operators and wireless companies. What are Inmarsat’s views on the current framework and such collaborations?
JB: We closely follow the Federal Communications Commission’s initiative to create a regulatory framework enabling a ‘single network future’.
Enabling and facilitating a customer-first and digital-first approach can benefit all players, helping to further democratise access to satellite communication technologies and, in turn, benefitting more communities, businesses, and the world.
IN: Finally, what will you and Inmarsat be sharing with the audience at this year’s IoT Tech Expo North America?
JB: At this year’s IoT Tech Expo, I will be talking about the sustainability opportunity across key industry sectors directly linked to the use of satellite connectivity and IoT solutions.
We will also be showcasing some of the incredible work our ELEVATE partners are doing and we will even have one partner – Ranchbot – on the stand with us, demonstrating their innovative water monitoring solution, which is built upon Inmarsat connectivity.
Jat and the rest of the Inmarsat team will be sharing their expertise at this year’s IoT Tech Expo North America on 17-18 May 2023. Check out Jat’s keynote on day two of the event and be sure to swing by Inmarsat’s booth at stand #240.