Interconnected Internet of Things icons over a city.
Image: metamorworks/Adobe Stock

During the December 2022 IoT Tech Expo Global event in London, connectivity leaders addressed solutions for international Internet of Things systems.

More than 100 speakers were present at the IoT Tech Expo Global to discuss IoT and 5G, cybersecurity and the cloud, blockchain, AI and big data, and edge computing. Companies that participated included Huawei, Rolls-Royce, Vodafone, Amazon Web Services and Verizon.

Connectivity took center stage at the event. 4G, public and private 5G, Bluetooth, and low-power Wi-Fi are the most popular technologies for industries operating business-critical IoT devices.

But, what happens when IoT solutions need to go global, for example, IoT devices tracking logistic shipping assets as they move around the globe? Or when IoT devices need to monitor fishing activities and marine resources? How can IoT devices connect when they are operating beyond local networks?

In this report, we dive into global IoT connectivity solutions with Alexandre Tisserant, CEO of Kinéis, and Axel Meiling, telco architect of DBOS (Digital Oxygen), as they explore innovating and disrupting satellite and mobile solutions.

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Satellite IoT: Connectivity from space

IoT and industrial IoT connectivity has come a long way. However, most solutions leave out many international business case needs. Tisserant said during the event that only satellites can connect IoT devices that are moving through remote areas, crossing oceans and far from any terrestrial network coverage.

From agriculture to mining and supply chain management, tracking and monitoring assets is fundamental for a wide range of sectors and industries.

SEE: How to choose IIoT software: Must-have features for any business (TechRepublic Premium)

“Even individually, these assets are very valuable and sensitive for the whole industrial process and need to be secured,” Tisserant said. “Tracking these assets and monitoring their transport conditions in a secure way is essential for a successful mission.”

The gaps and deficits of terrestrial networks

While terrestrial mobile networks provide connectivity to more than 95% of the global population, there are still blindspots, according to the International Telecommunication Union. Furthermore, international roaming can be expensive and has many technical problems that can interfere with the proper performance of IoT devices, such as delay, high latency and localization of content.

By 2030, over 70 billion devices will be connected and the next generation of IoT needs to integrate seamlessly, no matter where the device is located. The challenge involves building a robust, reliable and inexpensive global IoT network. Satellite connectivity can help IoT become global, move beyond network constraints and expand when needed, Tisserant says.

Satellite IoT: Technology and business case

Tisserant explained that satellite connectivity for IoT monitoring and tracking devices can help global fisheries establish better security while monitoring ocean environments and fishing quotas. In the same way, scientists can use IoT devices to manage national parks, enhance smart agriculture, and modernize global land and ocean logistics of goods.

“From deserts to oceans (satellite IoT) can work everywhere; there are no blind spots,” Tisserant added.

Tisserant explained that satellite connectivity can also cover indoor spaces by pairing satellite technology with on-ground terrestrial networks. The satellite solutions Kinéis provides require no hardware or installation. In contrast, building private 5G or 4G networks can be expensive.

The company’s system is built on the ARGOS system — a global satellite-based network that has been collecting, processing and disseminating environmental data for more than 40 years. Tisserant announced the launch of 25 new nano-satellites to expand the ARGOS network. These new satellites will be dedicated exclusively to providing IoT connectivity.

SEE: Get an Internet of Things education online (TechRepublic Academy)

“We have devices that can connect terrestrial and satellite networks,” Tisserant explained.

Using this solution, a company can track and monitor assets inside a warehouse and throughout international logistic journeys using the same service. Additionally, these new IoT devices do more than just GPS positioning. They can be equipped with sensors, track humidity, temperature, status of the cargo, and connect to other devices like cameras and scanners.

The IoT devices send data to satellites’ constellations just like any mobile cell tower. The data is sent through the company’s network and then sent to the final users through the platform. Data can also flow both ways from the devices; for example, a fishing fleet equipped with these IoT devices could receive weather warnings or other alerts.

The IoT devices can be recharged or connected to small solar panels for continual operation. The size of the device and battery usage are essential to provide autonomy to the system.

Telco-cloud technology for global connectivity

Companies operating IoT systems across borders also struggle with mobile routing and roaming. DBOS presented a breakout-as-a-service solution for home-routing.

Mobile operators worldwide use roaming and routing to provide continual mobile services to customers traveling to other regions where their networks do not operate. For example, the European telco Orange has agreements with AT&T to provide French users services while in the United States.

Similarly, mobile companies worldwide collaborate to expand the reach of their customers traveling or operating aboard. But, mobile routing presents several challenges and problems for the end users.

The problems with mobile routing

One of the biggest problems of mobile routing is latency. When devices go international, data is moved from the new destination to the original network back home. This causes delays and high latency.

Continuing with the example above, an Orange customer in the U.S. will connect to AT&T. Still, because AT&T does not have the essential information to provide access to the internet to use (such as the account balance), it relays the request back to Orange through gateways. This back-and-forth of data causes significant delays.

On the other hand, the same customer in the U.S. might experience login problems and misconfigurations due to location and IP. These problems, which frequent travelers are well aware of, have become a real challenge for companies operating with IoT systems beyond their borders.

Meiling gave the example of a company based in the U.K. that provides health security access in China. The company had created a system with local IoT scanners in China that verified COVID-19 health passes. The QR scanner relayed the information back to London, where the system either approved or denied access.

SEE: 6 ways to reduce your IoT attack surface (TechRepublic)

Meiling added that due to high latency and delays, the system failed to grant rapid access and prevent people from grouping during pandemic days. The QR code request data went from China back to the U.K., where the British mobile provider moved it through the local public internet.

“If you have thousands of people waiting in line to access certain areas, this will cause a problem,” Meiling said.

Customer experience and IoT performance are also affected by mobile routing. Services, languages, configurations, content localization and internet access can all be affected by roaming.

Dynamic cloud breakout: Low latency, IP and localization solutions

There are several solutions for mobile routing; the first is to wire-up gateways worldwide — an extremely high-cost investment project with a poor return on investment. Another solution is the standardization of global 3G, 4G and 5G routing, so local networks handling global traffic demands could provide connectivity to international users.

But, none of these solutions have been widely adopted, mainly due to complexity and costs. DBOS presented a new alternative that requires no standardization or hardware investments.

“What we did is build a gateway on top of a cloud infrastructure,” Meiling said.

Using the Google Cloud Platform, the company provides its users with local breakout points. The company leveraged GCP’s global infrastructure, which has over 100 locations spread throughout America, Africa, Oceania, South East Asia and Europe. When operating abroad, users can access the internet through these Google cloud locations.

“No hardware; everything we’re running is in the cloud, and you can access everything through one API (application programming interface),” Meiling explained.

DBOS is now servicing more than 28 international locations and planning to expand rapidly. DBOS also allows users to choose which location to break out.

DBOS and similar cloud mobile breakout solutions can have significant economic savings for IoT companies. Compared to the traditional routing solutions, these technologies have lower latency, can avoid location misconfiguration and IP errors, and improve performance.

As more IoT devices and businesses require faster and better worldwide connectivity, satellite and mobile innovation are poised to disrupt bilateral roaming agreements and traditional telco solutions. Whether operating locally or around the world, IoT devices require rapid performance, low-power connectivity, reliability and low latency.

Connectivity solutions that can be rapidly rolled out, have unlimited parallel session capabilities, high area of coverage and big data capacity are the future of the global interconnected IoT world.

Check out the previous event report from IoT Tech Expo Global 2022, with a look at the future of IoT and smart connectivity.

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