Connectivity on the move is a hot topic for the satellite industry and in the final blog of our Enterprise series, we examine the requirements for land mobile connectivity. As demand for connectivity spreads everywhere, the ability to connect whilst on the move, no matter where a vehicle happens to be, is pushing those who perhaps had never considered satellite before, to make it a key part of their connectivity portfolio.
Markets that require land-based mobility are numerous and diverse. There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the potential for satellite and connected cars. The sheer number of automobiles and the nature of their use makes connected cars a less immediate match for satellite. But what about the many other land-based transportation and machinery that is used in business on a daily basis?
Land Mobility Challenges
Enterprise markets comprise one of the best use cases for satellite, mitigating the key challenges to connectivity on the move. For enterprises that operate fleets of vehicles or heavy machinery, there is an increasing reliance upon cloud-based services. The cloud allows easy access to their company tools and is accessible anywhere, bringing a new level of efficiency to businesses but, without a connection to the cloud, it is useless.
Vehicles are constantly running in and out of cellular coverage. We’ve all experienced the frustration of being cut off from a phone call or being unable to load a webpage because of a patchy cellular signal or being in a remote area. However, for businesses operating commercial fleets of vehicles or machinery, loss of connectivity equates to loss of profits.
It’s for this reason that satellite is increasingly being recognized as a solution to the need for ubiquitous connectivity. A solution that is able to flip between cellular and satellite technology in a completely seamless and automated way, will eliminate the blackspots and deliver a high level of user experience.
Satcom gains traction in land mobility markets
There are several markets that operate in remote areas of the world that are already benefiting from the addition of satcom solutions. These include the construction, mining, and agricultural sectors that are very often located in very remote regions, away from the reach of terrestrial connectivity and with patchy cellular connections.
Connected farms are increasing in number as farmers become aware of how connectivity can help them in the face of multiple challenges. Today, they need to do more with less as the amount of arable land is depleting yet the population is growing and still needs to be fed. They are facing the very real impact of climate change with extremes of weather conditions and need to make important decisions in a timely manner. Connectivity is helping them to become better informed and more precise with their farming techniques. Satellite solutions have found their place on board tractors, harvesters and other farming vehicles.
Farm vehicle manufacturer John Deere is just one example of the way in which land mobility sectors are turning to satellite to enable more efficiency. Deere is using features such as its AutoTrac satellite steering technology that enables GPS-driven precision to reduce overlap and fuel consumption. The technology is also used to connect machinery that precisely places fertilizer and herbicides in exactly the right place to avoid wastage and therefore make less impact on the environment.
In the mining and construction sectors, satellite technology is aiding operators of large fleets of heavy machinery and vehicles that are located in regions not covered by terrestrial connectivity. This ensures that there is always a connection and gives them exceptional visibility of their assets and their health. The operator can easily manage productivity and assess how each vehicle and their operator is performing on-site. The use of sensors on board the vehicle can also enable preventative maintenance so that potential mechanical problems can be flagged up before they become an issue. The use of autonomous vehicles can also be monitored using a satellite link which can be used to give commands. Safety and security, a priority for any site, can be more easily monitored, as can regulatory compliance and aspects of sustainability such as fuel consumption. Satellite is a constant requirement because it can guarantee the connectivity needed to enable these features.
A multi-orbit future needs the right modem technology
Modem technology is going to be pivotal to enabling this satellite revolution in land mobility sectors. The coming of multi-orbit constellations will necessitate a coming together of LEO, MEO and GEO capabilities into a single modem, perfectly synchronized, so that the end-user experience is completely seamless. The modem simply switches between orbits, finding the most suitable satellite link at the time, and hands over to cellular coverage where it is available. These multi-orbit modems will be based on virtualized platforms that leverage software rather than hardware and that can interface with a 5G core. This will enable a whole new level of flexibility for the user, who can update the devices easily and cost-effectively.
At ST Engineering iDirect, we are already on our journey towards virtualized platforms and software-defined modems that allow for migration to the cloud. Our work with cloud service providers such as Microsoft Azure and organizations such as DIFI, demonstrate how we are making strides forward to implement the processing transformations and new digital interfaces that will be necessary to make this a reality.
Flat Panel Antenna (FPA) advances
As with modem technology, advances in FPA technology will also be critical to the success of satcom-based land mobility. Traditional parabolic antennas are unsuitable and non-aerodynamic for the land mobile market. Big developments in FPA technology and lower pricing are driving increasing adoption and creating a boost in popularity. Therefore, it’s critical that FPA developers such as Kymeta, partner with us to ensure that the right modem technology is integrated into the FPAs which together will help to unlock the massive potential that lies within this sector. FPA technology is also a major size consideration. In the Satellite IoT market we work with our partners to offer compact, lightweight IoT terminals fully integrated with our Evolution, Dialog and Velocity platforms option that are ideal for applications such as precision farming and fleet management.
So does the potential for satellite in land mobility markets live up to the buzz? We think it does. For further information on how we can help you to realize your enterprise ambitions in land mobility markets, visit our website.