Dutch satellite company Hiber will launch its first ‘HiberBand’ nano-satellites over the next few days, delivering connectivity to remote locations around the world.
The Dutch government-backed project claims to be the first truly global satellite solution and hopes to help bridge the digital divide that means 90 percent of the world is currently unable to use connected tech.
The start-up is run by the founders of JustEat, TreatWell and Booking.com.
Hiber has already partnered with projects that will educate the next generation of smart farmers in schools in Peru, Tanzania and Sri Lanka and will manage water resources by providing deep insight into global groundwater levels.
The British Antarctic Survey will also be using it to reduce its carbon footprint in Antarctica and learn more about the virtually uninhabited landmass.
Commenting on the satellite launch, Laurens Groenendijk, Co-Founder of Hiber said:
“It is beyond exciting to be the first company bringing full IoT-connectivity to the globe – as well as being the first ever commercial Dutch Satellite operator.
The commercial applications for Hiberband in the IoT-industry are limitless. We look forward to powering diverse projects, from tracking cattle to tackling climate change and more effectively growing crops.
Existing mobile networks and WiFi often fall short outside urban areas and wealthier countries, whilst traditional satellites that provide wider coverage are expensive and power hungry.
Therefore, many connected tech applications and services are currently unaffordable. For example, it is currently unviable for many farmers in third-world countries to monitor soil moisture to improve production efficiency and crop quality.
Hiber hopes to change that. Once fully operational, the nano-satellite will fly over the earth’s poles 16 times a day and the equator twice a day, providing the entire planet with the ability to stream data to and from connected technologies.
Using a process that is up to 20 times cheaper than existing global solutions, it transfers data from modems and antennas owned by customers directly to the nano-satellites. Data is then sent back to earth via the two existing satellite stations in Spitsbergen in Norway and Delft in the Netherlands.
The company hopes to launch dozens of the shoe box-sized satellites over the next 18 months to form a constellation of the connectivity-enabling devices.
Hiber is collaborating with Amazon Web Services, having just been named the AWS Commercial Launch Startup of 2018. Partnerships with IBM Watson and Actility also provide integration into existing cloud services.
The network will be commercially operational from early next year, serving more than 25 pilot customers. Hiber estimates there is a potential £3.5 billion opportunity for growth, as potential IoT projects are offered the connectivity they need to become viable.
The British Antarctic Survey, will be using the network to transmit data from remote measurement stations that are currently without access to satellite communications. The ability to stream data from the stations will result in more frequent information gathering at a lower cost and the strain on the environment will be reduced as visits are lessened.
Other customers include a Dutch company that will be bringing climate stations to schools in rural communities in Peru, Tanzania and Sri Lanka and Blik Sensing, which helps manage water resources by providing insight into global groundwater levels.
Internet of Business says
Constellations of nano-satellites will play a key role in making the Internet of Things truly global. Mobile networks, even low-power wide-area (LPWA) technology, will be hard pressed to reach the most remote or less developed parts of the world.
While Hiber’s launch may be small in scale, ‘NewSpace’ start-ups are appearing with increasing regularity, at a time when earth’s orbit is no longer purely the domain of state-level ventures.
Companies such as OneWeb are attracting huge investment, affirming the significance of the growing market. Big Tech is getting involved too, with Facebook planning to launch an internet satellite, called Athena, in early 2019.
Given the rocket technology behind it, Elon Musk’s Space X is amongst the best placed to succeed. It launched two experimental satellites earlier this year as part of a scheme that Musk says is about “rebuilding the internet in space”.
Whoever wins the connectivity space race, expect it to unlock further potential in the IoT back on earth. The prospect of truly global coverage promises to cultivate huge value and efficiency gains in farming, the supply chain, and many other industries, in locations that have historically been left in the digital dark.