Nanosats at CES 2019: How Astrocast plans to provide IoT connectivity from space

Fabien Jordan, Founder and CEO of Astrocast, talks about the company's plan to provide cost-effective network connectivity for IoT devices in remote places via its global network of nanosatellites.

Nanosats at CES 2019: How Astrocast plans to provide IoT connectivity from space At CES 2019, we talked with Fabien Jordan, Founder and CEO of Astrocast, about the company's plan to provide cost-effective network connectivity for IoT devices in remote places via its global network of nanosatellites.

At CES 2019, TechRepublic Managing Editor Bill Detwiler spoke with Founder and CEO of Astrocast Fabien Jordan. Topics discussed include: IoT, nanosatellites, ways nanosat technology can be applied to the maritime industry and smart cities, and more. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Bill Detwiler: At CES, one of the big themes has always been IoT, at least for the last couple years. And interestingly, now we're talking about IoT in space. I'm here talking to Fabien Jordan, who's founder and CEO of Astrocast, a nano satellite and IoT communications network solutions provider. Fabien, tell me a little bit about Astrocast and what you guys are doing with these really cool nano satellites back here.

Fabien Jordan: That's the real satellite—that's the nano satellite. We launch them into orbit; we just launched one with SpaceX in early December. We're going to launch 64 of them, and this will help us connect assets everywhere on the planet. A good example is this machine here—it's a machine that purifies water, and this machine is installed everywhere on the planet, in remote areas. With the Astrocast system, we can help bring drinkable, safe water to people everywhere on the planet, and remotely control this machine.

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Bill Detwiler: So you were telling me that this is really helpful when you're in remote places and you don't have reliable radio communications. If you're working in field services, you can use the communication on the satellite to determine whether or not the Swiss Fresh Water's [who is the client here] water purification systems are working effectively, or if they need to be repaired. And then they can dispatch a technician out to the device and repair it, right?

Fabien Jordan: Yes, absolutely. It's important to understand that only 10% of the planet is covered by terrestrial networks, cellular networks. So 90% of the planet is not. You need to use satellites to connect assets in these areas, and this is what we do. These machines need to have replacements, they need to be maintained. And we can really help do this efficiently.

Bill Detwiler: What about the maritime industry? You were also telling me about this device here which is a buoy, right?

Fabien Jordan: There are many opportunities in the maritime industry. The fishing buoy is one of them. Each of these buoys is used to locate fish. It's connected through satellites already existing, but we are going to make it to allow this connection to be done at a very low cost. So it's disruptive compared to what is existing today.

Bill Detwiler: And you were also telling me that you're exploring a smart city application for this technology. Tell me a little bit about that.

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Fabien Jordan:In the cities we cannot really compete with the existing players; however, we can bring backup solutions. We discovered there are many applications where we can increase the reliability of a network by bringing battery-powered satellite solutions to an existing network.

Bill Detwiler: So it's all about redundancy, especially for emergency services or some type of critical infrastructure. This can be a backup in case, like you said, there's a power outage or some type of disruption. And you said you can do that and compete economically?

Fabien Jordan: Absolutely, yes.

Bill Detwiler: This is the actual satellite here—you have two of these in orbit right now. What are the plans for the future? How many do you think you'll try and send up?

Fabien Jordan: We have launched one. And we launch a second one in March [2019]. And then we have 20 signed up already to be launched between the end of this year and 2020. So with these first 20 satellites we can offer for service, and it's very exciting. We have a lot of customers waiting for this solution to be available.

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By Bill Detwiler

Bill Detwiler is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the ...