Hiber Global gets permission to launch IoT satellites

Amsterdam-based  Hiber Global has received permission from the Dutch Telecom Agency to launch its IoT satellites.  The company wants to launch up to 50 satellites to support global low-cost, low volume data IoT services.

Worldwide Internet of Things (IoT) services based on nanosatelites are flooding the market, with close to a dozen new entrants planning to change the market.  Hiber Globe says it will offer daily data pickup services for under five dollars a year.

“The starting point will be three Euros per year per subscription for the daily service,” Hiber Global Chief Financial Officer Coen Janssen said via email. “We sell subscriptions which are used by resellers and system integrators to provide a full solution for the end customers.”

Such low pricing is driving significant developer interest around the globe. “The first [developer] Hiberkits were sold out in a matter of days, which we did not anticipate,” said Janssen. “We are currently doing minor adjustments with the customer feedback and should be able to provide the newest version over the summer period again.”

Integration of HIberband with existing IoT devices will require some assembly; this won’t be a plug-and-play solution or simply routing data via a WiFi hotspot.  The Hiberband Low Power Global Area Network (LPGAN) modem is a compact, solderable SMT module, with a UART-based serial interface to talk to an application host processor and two connectors for Hiberband UHF and GPS antennas. Version 1 of the Hiberkit for Developers was priced at 199.00 Euros and included connectivity for one device, 5 years free service, modem, and antenna.

A Hiberband modem receives data from a connected sensor and waits until a nanosat passes over.  Data is transmitted to the satellite, which stores it until it passes over a gateway for transmission back to Earth. Once reaching a ground station and back to Hiber, messages are processed and stored for pickup by the customer or forwarded along to whomever owns the sensors.

Information goes through Hiberband as a one-way simplex transmission, keeping costs low but also ruling out a two-way connection.  A Hiberband modem message is around 1400 bites in total, including 1250 bits for the size of the report from a sensor, plus header information including the unique modem ID, GPS-based location, and time stamp.

Hiberband modems communicate from the ground to the satellite at 400 Mhz UHF. Satellite-to-ground station communication is handled in S-band frequencies.  Given the short amounts of data transmitted between IoT device and satellite,  data rates “aren’t that important to us,” Janssen said, with the message being sent upward “within milliseconds.”

Initially, IoT data will be picked up daily.  As more satellites are launched,  options for more frequent pickups will become available. Hiber has booked two launches for this summer, with each launch expected to put a satellite into orbit.  The first two satellites will both be 6U cubesats, with the size shrinking down to 3U for satellites 3 and onward, with the potential for scaling upward for more based upon customer need and funding.  Hiber has previously said it could scale up to 50 satellites.

To date, the company has raised over 7 million Euros in multiple funding rounds.  Hiber has announced number of pilot projects in the agricultural sector, with an expected 150 climate stations installed by partner EduClima by 2018 in Peru and other locations to improve crop yields while providing educational data to students.  EduClima is selling the climate data to commodity traders to finance the deployment of more climate stations, with an ultimate goal of connecting 1.3 million schools.  Green Valley Agro will start with 100 Hyberband modems in Tanzania, using a combination of data collected by soil, light, and rain sensors to advise farms when to water, fertilize, and protect crops.

Janssen wouldn’t say much about its go-to-market strategy beyond pointing to its trials and an Iridium MoU, but Hiber expects to be focused on one-way, low power, low cost IoT connectivity to benefit larger enterprises who can scale solutions as Hiber grows its network.   Hiber has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iridium for resale of its services, giving Hiber an established enterprise sales channel while Iridium is able to expand its toolbox with a low-power, low-cost IoT option to complement its real-time, low-latency network.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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