Nano-satellite service aims to bring IoT to 90% of the world without a network
Having launched its first two nano-satellites into orbit in late 2018, Hiber’s IoT network went live and has been used by customers since early February.
The company reports it will be providing internet connectivity to the 90% of the world lacking a network, and at a “significantly” cheaper price than existing alternatives. So, will its technology bring changes to a wide array of industries?
Jeremy Cowan, editorial director of IoT Now, talks to Coen Janssen, director of Business Intelligence at Hiber to find out more, ranging from powering tech-for-good projects in third-world agricultural and environmental sectors, to the ramifications for the energy, logistics and insurance industries. Can it push global IoT’s capabilities to the next level as its backers suggest?
IoT Now: What is the IoT ‘value chain’ – and how is it currently unfulfilled?
Coen Janssen: The IoT value chain has the primary objective of the customer finding a solution to the specific problem they want to address. For example: how can I use connected tech to monitor groundwater levels globally in order to generate data and analytics that will help us cope with the effects of climate change?
The customer will consult a solution provider who will have to select the required connected tech sensors from an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM); they will have to source connectivity from a connectivity provider; and they will need to identify appropriate online data platforms and business intelligence tools. The solution provider will then have to combine all of these moving parts into an end product for the customer.
One of the biggest gaps in the value chain as it exists today is that there is no global low-cost and low-power IoT connectivity solution. This prohibits use cases which exist outside areas connected by regular networks, for example if they are in remote sites or in areas of the world lacking stable connectivity.
IoT Now: You mentioned that the value of IoT connectivity stands at roughly US$4 billion ( €3.5 billion). How do you arrive at that figure and can you provide any evidence?
CJ: McKinsey, BCG and Bain have published several research papers regarding the market size of the IoT. Although the total monetary ‘impact’ of the IoT is expected to be in the trillions, the total IoT market itself could be anywhere between €300 billion and €800 billion.
Connectivity is about 10% of the value chain, which reduces the market size to anywhere between €30 billion and €80 billion. The last step is to assume that 90% of the market takes place in the 10% of the world that is already connected, resulting in 10% of the market requiring the service of new space companies like Hiber which provide global connectivity. Therefore, our current market estimation is between €3 billion and €8 billion.
IoT Now: You have identified 20+ customers in a variety of industries ready to go-live with the network. Can you give us examples?
CJ: Absolutely. We’ve seen a host of different companies from logistics, agriculture, transportation and environmental sectors all sign up to the network, which went live in February 2019. Some of our pilot customers include:
The British Antarctic Survey which will be using Hiber to communicate with the most remote, unmanned measurement stations on the Antarctic tundra. This is more cost-effective than current communication solutions which also have a negative impact on the environment as people have to make semi-regular visits to areas that are sensitive to human contact.
EduClima, a Dutch not-for-profit project, which is teaching smart farming techniques to children in developing countries to help them prepare for the consequences of climate change.
Ovinto, which monitors the transportation of hazardous goods in unpowered transport units around the world, ensuring their location is always accounted for.
Sensoterra, a low cost soil-moisture measurement tool for use by those involved with conservation, agriculture, horticulture and landscaping.
We anticipate that close to 50 customers will go live in the next few weeks.
IoT Now: What are the regulatory constraints to providing full IoT coverage? How best can the industry deliver IoT collaboration across international borders and network frequencies in space?
CJ: In short, there are two essential steps: Organisations providing connectivity first have to file for frequencies at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) level (a United Nations body regulating the spectrum) and secondly at the local level, for example from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US.
There are also unlicensed frequency bands, however these tend to differ per country and are not always allowed to be used for communications to and/or from space. With several new space companies aiming to provide global connectivity, regulation and approval processes tend to work against the speed usually expected from startups. However, It is Hiber’s policy to operate in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, at both the national and international level, making it the safe bet for long-term global IoT connectivity.
Jeremy Cowan was talking to Coen Janssen, director of Business Intelligence, Hiber.