Opinion: Satellite M2M for remote comms
IoT and M2M
The names may change but the role of satellite communications remains the same. M2M is the hot topic in the telecoms industry. Its ability to monitor, track and manage assets and people is now widely recognised. But while M2M is the current darling of the big mobile providers, it has long been bread and butter for leading mobile satellite service providers. Gavan Murphy, director of marketing for EMEA and LatAm at Globalstar explains how users can get the best of both worlds with hybrid solutions.
M2M has already proven to be an effective way to optimise the remote management of oil and gas pipelines and can reduce or eliminate the need to send a crew to an inhospitable location. It is revolutionary for fault localisation, helping engineers more swiftly zero in on a problem that needs to be fixed, rather than expensively hunting what might otherwise be a needle in a haystack. Satellite communications, once perceived as expensive, dependent on equipment (and the weather), and too complex to integrate with customer applications, is increasingly the technology of choice for providers of oil and gas and other energies. Because of their ubiquity and hyperavailability, e ve n in e xtre me environmental conditions, satellitepowered M2M allows organisations to reach beyond terrestrial networks. They effectively bolt on extra coverage, reaching deep into remote and often hostile locations, as well as acting as back -up to mitigate against land and mobile network outages and overloading. Specifically, it’s the fleet of satellites traversing the globe in low earth orbit (LEO) that can deliver the most reliable service. It’s simple physics: with LEO, because the satellites are moving relative to the planet, there are fewer handoffs for calls or transmissions.
©OffComm News ~ Spring 20142014 ©OffComm News ~ Spring
Getting on with the job When a LEO satellite picks up a signal, it ‘hand delivers’ it directly to a gateway. As anyone who comes from a traditional telco background will attest, the fewer handoffs, the more reliably your call or M2M tracking signal will get through. And while geostationary players argue about the effects of weather, smaller LEO satellites are getting on with the job.
But the story is different in areas where mobile network coverage is patchy, or in geographies like North Africa, the Nordics and deep into the Eurasian landmass, where it is often non-existent.
For simplex M2M messaging, we can pr ac tic ally talk about complete transmission success ~ since more than one satellite is in range at every point. With our LEO network for example, at every point of a pipeline’s route, there are three satellites in range, ensuring ample redundancy.
Now we see great possibilities for hybrid solutions that combine LEO satellite with GSM & GPRS
Today’s oil and gas customers, as well as providers of alternative energy solutions and other players needing to communicate with staff remotely and track assets, all can take advantage of reliable, cost-effective LEO satellite services with small, user-friendly, lowpower devices.
The big GSM/ mobile providers have been loudly publicising their achievements and their capabilities in M2M ~ and with good reason. The large blue-chip players are developing M2M services, and forming heavyweight partnerships, with an eye on the virtually endless commercial possibilities and applications in areas with good infrastructure.
To stay connected from anywhere in these thousands of kilometres of terrain, as well as at sea, satellite communications is needed to complement mobile.
This dual approach takes advantage of low-cost cellular where it is available but ensures redundancy and reliability by complementing it with satellite’s incomparable reach. The key enabler is the chip in the device. If you develop a chip small enough, it can be very cost-effectively integrated in dualfrequency tracking and monitoring devices. Hybrid or satellite-only, the flexibility and usability of devices is critical. M2M devices need to be truly customisable so they can be programmed to ensure the right messages get to the right recipients in the most reliable and understandable way possible. So in our view, M2M is the latest label for what we have been doing for years. And this term may soon be superseded by the newer moniker, the internet of things (IoT). Thus, while the names may change, the role of satellite communications remains the same: A critical component for complete coverage.