Solving The Internet of Things last 500 km problem
We have all heard about how the internet of things will change life as we know it. Having our world instrumented with a multitude of sensors will unleash a torrent of data about our environment, the things we use and how we live our lives. The truth of the matter is that the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution has been a bit slower to develop than the pundits would have predicted.
To some extent this is just a normal technology hype cycle where the IoT supporters got ahead of themselves and it takes longer for industrial processes and manufacturing to accept the new changes. In some ways the IoT revolution has actually been faster, i.e. the smart phones that we all carry are in their own way a bundle of sensors that travel with us in our daily lives and report to the “cloud” on everything we do.
But (and here comes the gotcha) the adoption of IoT sensors in the “field” has been slow. In particular IoT sensors in agriculture, logistics and transport are a few key areas where there have been challenges. The challenge is that you just cannot guarantee ubiquitous coverage. For example, if you are a farmer and want to deploy soil moisture sensors in your field, you may not always be able to guarantee radio coverage over a hill. If you are a transport company you may not always be able to guarantee that your trucks have coverage on all the highways they travel and if you are a equipment hire company, how do you know where that generator you rented out last week has been deployed.
All the examples above need to have “guaranteed” connectivity where the sensors deployed for the solution can always communicate to the back end services collecting their data. Today customers use a variety of solutions, 4G data, WiFi, LoRa, SigFox and LTE-M. However, all of those solutions have coverage holes and cannot guarantee connectivity.
At Main Sequence Ventures we believe that a direct sensor to satellite solution is the answer to the connectivity problem. As such we are pleased to announce that we have co-led an investment round in Australian space communications startup, Myriota. The Myriota solution employs a very small radio transmitter connected as a part of your sensor that can communicate with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites orbiting at around 500 km. The data is beamed up and then sent back down to a ground station connected to the internet where you will then be able to access the sensor data from the Myriota back end services.
We believe this solution is one of the final pieces in the IoT puzzle, now as long as your sensor can see the sky it will be able to send its information. Also, as the Myriota solution is extremely low power it is now possible to build sensors that are powered purely from solar cells, eliminating one of the other IoT challenges around having to replace batteries in sensors, just imagine you have a couple of thousand traditional sensors deployed in your logistics company and currently need to change the batteries every 12 months, now with Myriota you don’t need to.