Inmarsat and Actility have set up the world’s first truly global IoT (Internet of Things) network. Inmarsat’s satellite coverage has been combined with Actility’s Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technology.
There’s remote working and then there’s truly remote working. The former might involve taking a day or two out of the office, the latter can mean tracking livestock across hundreds of miles or monitoring water levels at a distant palm oil plantation. The good news for those organizations taking on remote work more extreme in nature: connectivity is coming.
Last year satellite connectivity giant Inmarsat partnered with IoT provider Actility, with plans in place to combine satellite technology with Actility’s ThingPark IoT platform. The aim was to deliver an integrated solution that could link Inmarsat’s wider connectivity to IoT services and devices through a single application. Now, the work has been done, and the result is the ability to deploy connected devices anywhere on the planet.
IoT solutions anywhere in the world, fast
The Inmarsat LoRaWAN network, powered by Actility’s ThingPark LPWA platform, is the world’s first global IoT network. It will allow businesses to deploy IoT solutions anywhere in the world, with cost-effective LoRaWAN-based connectivity on the ground and satellite connectivity as the network’s backbone.
Speaking exclusively with Internet of Business, Philip Meyers, Inmarsat’s director of innovation and digital partnerships, shed some more light on what businesses can expect from the new global LoRaWAN network.
Businesses with operations in remote locations might be able to access connectivity and set up solutions sooner than they think. “Thanks to the global nature of the BGAN [Inmarsat’s satellite-enabled Broadband Global Area Network] and the ease of installation of both the LoRa and BGAN hardware, we can deploy the network very rapidly,” said Meyers.
“Realistically, we would be able to go from initial introductions to setting up a proof of concept network on-site in just a few weeks – assuming, of course, that the sensors required for the solution are available. Once the proof of concept is in place we can iterate to ensure that we’re meeting requirements before commencing a full roll-out.”
Early applications for global LoRaWAN network
Inmarsat and Actility have stated three potential use cases of their new global network:
Asset tracking: Farmers in rural locals with little traditional connectivity will now be able to keep track of livestock in real time, and not just in terms of location. Movement, health and other key statistics of herds can be monitored, cutting costs and reducing the man hours needed to manage large groups of animals. An integrated system allows for alerts to be sent to ranch managers if an animal is at risk, behaving erratically or is nearing the perimeter of the ranch.
Agribusiness: Applied connectivity can lead to the smarter management of resources. Inmarsat and Actility cite the potential for their new network to help monitor water levels in reservoirs and soil moisture in remote plantations, combining the two datasets to ensure water is delivered to where it is most needed. This kind of strategy could also reduce the amount of land required for production.
Oil & Gas: Cellular coverage can be patchy at best on remote oil platforms. This can make it difficult to pinpoint potential failure points remotely and avoid costly downtime. The global LoRaWAN network could connect the platform to an upstream production site, which measures operational parameters and transmits them to a central control room.
“These three early applications are indicative of the industrial IoT market in general: businesses don’t need an off-the-shelf IoT solution for Agribusiness or Asset Tracking; they need a specific solution for a specific problem,” said Paul Gudonis, President, Inmarsat Enterprise. “Through our collaboration with Actility, we have the building blocks to tailor solutions for each specific opportunity, no matter where it is in the world.”
Heavy industry stands to benefit from global connectivity
Meyers, meanwhile, provided Internet of Business with further details on the potential applications of Inmarsat and Actility’s global network.
“We are already in advanced discussions with organisations from a broad range of industries and have successfully delivered a number of proof of concepts for customers in mining, oil & gas, agri-tech, transportation and aid & development,” he said.
“Heavy industries, whose operations tend to be in remote locations and beyond the reach of cellular networks, stand to be some of the biggest beneficiaries of our services and we can see huge potential in this space.”
The most obvious use cases involve some form of tracking, whether it’s an asset, an individual or a developing situation. Meyers pointed out that there are also benefits for the health and safety of workers. “There’s the potential to even develop a mobile health check, enabling businesses to ensure that their remote workers are still standing and to provide assistance in times of emergency much more quickly,” he said. “We’ve even seen a wearable that can monitor whether a person has fallen off an asset or down a ravine.”
It’s also possible that, although enabling businesses to operate in some of earth’s most unspoilt locations, Inmarsat and Actility’s LPWAN networks could have a positive environmental impact. As Meyers speculates, global connectivity could assist with “monitoring remote wild fires, enabling quicker resolutions for local authorities, or allowing many points of monitoring over large areas – for example, pollution monitoring over entire land masses.”