Improve shipments with data and connectivity improvements


SpaceX booster rocket carries payload of Swarm mini-satellites into orbit, Jan. 24 (Swarm)

Posted on May 17, 2021 1:54 PM by

Tim Janssen and Ben Longmier

As the shipping industry is well aware, ship-to-shore connectivity poses a significant challenge. Land-based communication networks that most industries take for granted are no longer an option more than a few miles offshore. For half a century, satellite networks have been the answer. Companies like Iridium have found success by providing a way for freighters and yachts to keep their crew and passengers connected in the middle of the ocean. Their customers have high data throughput needs – such as real-time communications, whether doing business or calling in an emergency – and this is the demand that early satellite providers responded to.

Today, maritime use cases are much more varied. The Internet of Things (IoT) has revolutionized the ability to track ships and cargo, monitor crew safety, and collect critical weather data. In fact, a report from satellite company Inmarsat suggests that the maritime industry is more open to the adoption of connected IoT technologies than other large sectors like agriculture or mining.

New entrants to the satellite connectivity market are designing their business models – and their satellite constellations – around how best to serve low data IoT use cases, such as asset tracking. and remote sensor monitoring. British start-up Lacuna Space, for example, plans to launch 32 low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites for this purpose, and California-based Swarm Technologies has 93 orbiting satellites – and 57 more are planned – to connect commercial IoT devices on all continents.

One of the primary ways for new satellite companies to serve the maritime IoT industry is to reduce costs. Innovations in satellite design and lower-cost launch options have allowed new vendors to charge single-digit monthly prices per device. This is especially important in the shipping industry, where IoT devices typically need to be deployed on a large scale to be effective (a tracking device on each shipping container, for example).

More data points lead to better information. For example, Sofar Ocean, an ocean intelligence provider, deploys thousands of its IoT-enabled buoys along key shipping routes to collect hyper-local ocean weather data. The data informs Sofar’s predictive models for optimized shipping routes, especially in areas so remote that they are currently unmonitored. Until now, connecting these many sensors through traditional satellite providers has been prohibitively expensive, including high ongoing operating costs. But with new satellite solutions, Sofar can keep connectivity costs low while increasing the number of sensors they can afford to deploy in all oceans.

New satellite solutions also retain – or sometimes add – other features that can benefit IoT use cases. Fleet Space Technologies integrates state-of-the-art computing for IoT applications that require real-time data analysis. Swarm offers GCM AES256 encryption to add an additional layer of cybersecurity, as well as two-way data transfer to send commands and then resend data from remote devices.

Another synergy between new satellite companies and IoT applications is that speed and innovation is in their DNA. Maritime IoT technologies are advancing rapidly and satellite connectivity options are keeping pace. Companies that are revolutionizing the maritime IoT space now have access to a connectivity infrastructure aligned with their rapid operating models and technological innovations.

Advances in maritime IoT technologies and the satellite networks that support them are already making data more accessible and affordable than ever in the world. With real-time data connectivity from coast to coast, the industry is now armed with the tools and information needed to define common standards to further accelerate the adoption of connected IoT technology. Organizations such as the Digital Container Shipping Association (DCSA) have compiled a set of standards governing everything from remote monitoring of refrigerated containers to tracking and tracing, all with the goal of improving the visibility of the shipping chain. supply, reduce losses and create a shared intelligence network in the industry. . Meanwhile, hardware makers like Samsara and Blackberry are developing cellular asset tracking products for terrestrial use.

Thanks to newly affordable satellite communications networks, the dawn of globally available asset tracking is now here. Critical data points gleaned from new technologies ensure that maritime transport – responsible for transporting 90% of the world’s goods – will be a faster, safer and more environmentally friendly business, with benefits for the supply chain. global supply and consumers around the world.

Tim Janssen is the co-founder and CEO of Sofar Oceans, which operates the world’s largest network of deep-sea weather sensors. Sofar’s mission is to provide unique information about the ocean to science, society and industries to support a more sustainable interaction with our oceans and our planet.

Dr Ben Longmier is the co-founder and technical director of Swarm. He was previously the founder and CEO of Aether Industries (acquired by Apple in 2015). At Apple, Ben led an aerospace R&D effort for several company goals. Prior to working at Apple, Ben was a Tenure Track Assistant Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan. Ben holds a doctorate in engineering physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA-JSC.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.

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