Swarm Technologies announces IoT hardware, service prices

Satellite IoT company Swarm Technologies announced this week its list price hardware and software via blog post. With a dozen new satellite in orbit, the company is in position to move out of testing and into formal production services.

The Swarm satellite modem, the Swarm Tile, is listing at $119.  It is designed to be embedded into a circuit board design and provide two-way low-bandwidth, low-power data communication.  Design and prototyping of the hardware were done in-house, with volume production taking place with contract manufacturers for scale.

Swarm data services are available for $5 per month through an annual subscription, according to the company’s blog post, with “no setup or hidden fees.” Data can be delivered to the Swarm dashboard/portal, via email – remember we’re talking small amounts of data – or to third-party applications via a REST API.  

The pricing is a bit higher than estimates given in January 2019 at CES, when Swarm CEO Sara Spangelo estimated a cost per device at around $3 per month with message costs as low as “a penny” for a 250 byte message.  It should also be noted that, like with all things, Swarm would likely have a lower price on services for large customers building in bulk for fleet use and/or large-scale worldwide deployments.

While Swarm says its “full satellite constellation will provide 24/7 network coverage for all points on Earth,” the company doesn’t detail how many satellites will compose a full constellation or when it expects to have all the satellites into orbit.  Swarm’s SpaceBEE satellites are 0.25U in size — about the size of a slice of Texas toast.

Last year, the company received an FCC license to launch a constellation of 150 satellites and initially planned to have them in orbit by the end of 2020.  COVID-19 disrupted launch schedules around the world, so it is possible Swarm may not have a full constellation until 2021. Swarm may have up to 21 satellites in orbit at the moment, according to a rough count using Gunter’s Space Page, with the newest 12 satellites launched into orbit in early September onboard a long-delayed Arianespace Vega rideshare.  Another block of 24 satellites are slated to be launched by the end of the year onboard a SpaceX rideshare mission from Florida.

The Swarm blog goes on to emphasize how its services are cheaper than “legacy satellite providers” and “often 1/10th the cost of existing satellite solutions.”  Applications and companies Swarm suggests could use its service include the usual verticals of agriculture, vehicle tracking and telematics, maritime and fishing, energy, and logistics.

Among Swarm’s 200 plus early access customers is the Ford Motor Company’s Autonomic connected vehicles division. Exactly when and where Swarm tech will show up in a Ford F150 or other auto is an issue for speculation at this time, given the long-lead times necessary to insert new tech into vehicle lines.

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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