Who is SatIoT for? Tracking your bike, not browsing the web

By Doug Mohney | 17 February 2022

3 min read

Astrocast is dedicated to moving small amounts of data to and from those things as needed via satellite. The company’s IoT network uses a constellation of very small satellites, small antennas, and electronics to connect devices and little amounts of radio power for telemetry, telematics, asset tracking, and machine-to-machine (M2M) services. Because Astrocast operates a constellation of small satellites in Low Earth orbit (LEO), people sometimes believe the company is in the broadband business rather than in the IoT world.

Small is good for IoT

Little antennas and low power use make it easy for Astrocast to deliver affordable asset tracking, remote monitoring, and device monitoring anywhere on the planet, with a small battery capable of providing years of unattended operation. Some applications may be something as simple as keeping track of where your bicycle is or as complex as tracking thousands of shipping containers moving between ports around the world.

How small is small? IoT sensors use a simple patch antenna a few square centimeters in size, easily integrated into everything from cattle tracking tags to oil pipeline flow monitoring sensors. The Astrocast S communications module has a peak power consumption of less than 0.35 watts when it transmits a 160 bytes message — shorter than the length of this sentence. For many IoT applications, 160 bytes is more than enough information.

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The Astronode S, a compact surface mount module for highly integrated, battery powered IoT systems.

The combination of low-power and small data transmissions translates to lower-cost hardware for connecting IoT smart devices to the Astrocast network and lower costs for moving data from connected sensors out in the real world back to the cloud for analysis.

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Broadband = Big antennas, big power, big bucks

In comparison, the smallest LEO broadband antenna is the size of a briefcase with a surface area of several square meters and consumes hundreds of watts of power the moment it is turned on – not exactly something you can slap on the back of a cow. And that’s before you add the weight of kilograms of batteries the poor cow would have to carry around to establish a data connection.

LEO broadband satellite antennas also cost a lot of money, with the cheapest at around $1,300. They are very nice if you need to get your email on a tropical island because they can deliver hundreds of megabytes of information per second into a router. But LEO broadband services are too expensive for simply tracking hundreds of thousands of shipping containers and unnecessary for remote monitoring applications where devices only measure small amounts of data, such as water levels, temperature, and pipeline flow rates.

The right-sized tool for the right jobs

Some applications do need big antennas and lots of bandwidth, such as connecting a remote data center back to the cloud. But most IoT applications want an affordable, cost-effective solution capable of sending and receiving small amounts of data.

Astrocast’s answer for global needs, including telemetry, telematics, asset tracking, and M2M. It is an end-to-end IoT network with an inexpensive satellite network covering the globe, low-cost electronics to connect devices anywhere, and affordable data plans to bring data into the cloud.

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Taking IoT Assets further with Astrocast

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