It’s in everybody’s mind, it’s the buzzword for quite a while now – The Internet of Things. We understand that machines become more and more intelligent and that our refrigerator will soon place its orders without asking us and the sleep tracker will call the emergency center if we have a bad dream. It’s true, all these things are coming and we feel somehow helpless because our rational mind understands little about what is driving these developments and we don’t see ourselves wanting a refrigerator with his own mind.
What is behind this process towards intelligent systems, self-driving cars, smart watches, more and more sensors in all kind of equipment and machinery? It is our deeply embedded desire to rebuild what we already can, but lost in the evolution of mankind. Now we are rebuilding our lost abilities with technology and we make money with it and we feel that our world becomes better and better and in many ways it does. There is no stopping of the technology trend in the near future and it drives worldwide economies, national interests and is in the focus of our children’s education.
The aspect I want to look at in this article is the communication between these billions of intelligent devices and the role of satellites linking them to each other. Well, to make it clear from the begin on, IoT means these devices are linked through the Internet and the internet as we know it is mostly based on a terrestrial infrastructure. What is the role of a satellite in this relationship then, one might ask. It is true, satellites are playing a minor role for the IoT so far. They are mostly used to cover remote areas of this planet with no cell phone coverage or other wired connections. We have to look at the advantages satellite communication has over traditional technologies to find application suitable for space technology in our live. One aspect of opportunity is the fact that today’s networks consist of a multitude of carriers, providers and only partial compatible communication standards. New satellite companies aim to overcome these hurdles of incompatibility and offer not only global coverage, but also compatibility between different networks.
Satellites can reach mobile vehicles as cars more reliably then GSM networks. We all experience this when we us our GPS bases navigation devices in our cars. Heading into a future of driverless cars will open new opportunities for satellite based communication. Vehicles can be globally tracked and guided by computing their signals through satellite-technology. In fact, developers are making sure satellite-based solutions can be easily integrated into hybrid networks that combine fibre, wireless networks and satellite to best serve the IoT sector and customers at all levels. The hybridisation of communication systems is the new future and that is where satellites will play their new role when it comes to applications in the field of IoT. Leading think tanks like the Fraunhofer Institute are developing solutions which serve many possible approaches for future applications. New satellite start-ups are trying to close the gap between expensive space technology which exist right now and a new “cheap way” of doing it. It’s all in the minds of young enthusiastic engineers who only see opportunity and no borders which hold them back. This is the driving force which isn’t stoppable and satellites are in their minds, because they represent the excitement of outer space and that’s where our long term future may be found.