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Remote Data Ecosystems: Moving Data
This article is the third in a series about what it takes to deploy a fully functioning remote data ecosystem for your organization. Anywhere you have assets in the field, whether it’s machinery, people, tools, light vehicles, or specialized equipment, those assets are generating information that could be valuable or critical to running a successful and efficient operation. Over the past few decades, connectivity and communications systems have improved to the point that there is no longer an excuse for not having that kind of information at your fingertips when you need it.
Unfortunately, a lot of people in decision making roles don’t have the expertise to set up a data ecosystem, and they rely on technology partners, who often take advantage of the knowledge gap. GSE believes in transparent business relationships, because well-informed customers and partners make better long-term decisions. For that reason, we have created this series to make sure everyone understands the functional components of a data ecosystem, and how a technology partner like GSE can help you build the one that best suits the budget and needs of your organization.
Part Three: Moving Data from the Field
Doing business in the digital age means moving information anywhere anytime without communication delays. It means being able to know anything about your business in real time, without the need for human reporting. It means automating processes that used to take hours. The key component to everything that can be done with software, AI, and other powerful business tools is the availability of information. When your company operates in the furthest reaches of the planet, where cellular networks don’t exist, you need a partner that can help you move information to and from those locations affordably and reliably.
Understanding your Options
Moving data requires a network that is available where your connected asset operates. In many cases, terrestrial cellular networks like 3G, 4G, and 5G are available for most of the assets in a company's ecosystem. For remote data ecosystems, which this series focuses on, it is almost always going to be the case that moving data will require a satellite network. It’s no secret that moving data to and from remote locations requires satellite networks, and that the intentionally convoluted nature of the industry makes it incredibly expensive to do so. With middle men in every transaction, and companies specializing in hardware, airtime, or specific manufacturers and service providers, it is difficult to truly assess the cost of satellite IoT and remote data movement.
One of the greatest pain points in the satellite industry is a lack of clarity about the way to create a truly mixed solution. When it comes to moving data from the field, neither IoT consulting firms have the expertise in satellite, nor do satellite consultants have the expertise in remote IoT. With three major networks offering a variety of data plans, the intersection of "right hardware, right data plan, right network" becomes increasingly harder to pinpoint. The reason is that in most cases, companies need to track dozens of different data sources, and the correct network, hardware, and plan might be different for each.
The hardware you choose dictates the network options available to you, which in turn dictates the data plans available. In the same light, choosing a network provider limits the plans and hardware available to you. Choosing the least common denominator ensures all data will move correctly, but will almost always result in higher costs than necessary. A true solution will allow you to stipulate the connectivity option for each of your connected data sources, and nobody can provide that kind of solution outside of GSE.
Major Networks in Focus
Comparing the major satellite network options comes down to a few key factors, and those are:
- Network Coverage: where do you need to move data? Each network offers better or worse performance in certain regions than others.
- Data Needs: what information will you be moving from the field, and how frequently will you be sending it? If you haven't read part 2 of this series, you need to. Your data demands have a tremendous effect on the network options that are available to you.
- Hardware Options: following on data needs, sometimes the data you need to move requires you to use hardware that is only available on certain networks.
- Airtime Cost: if your budget is the limiting factor, and you need to get as much data as possible for as little money as possible, your solution architect needs to know that.
- Ease of Use: some solution sets and products require installations, management, and maintenance that can be complicated. If your organization is low on the technology tolerance scale, it might limit your options for networks to those with user friendly products.
Iridium is the only network offering truly pole-to-pole service coverage. Their LEO network delivers similar performance to Inmarsat, with better functionality 60 degrees above and below the equator, in canyons, and when on the move. Iridium's premium service and coverage is the priciest option, with airtime and hardware costs outstripping their major competitors in nearly every comparable product offering category.
GSE works with Iridium to deliver its GSatMicro product line, as well as its MCG-101 terminal.
Inmarsat is another global network that competes with Iridium primarily in the maritime and equatorial regions. Because its network is Geostationary (the satellites are positioned higher up, and move in tandem with the earth's rotation), it can offer more consistent connectivity for terminals on the ground that are likewise stationary. Inmarsat struggles to deliver reliable connectivity near the poles, and where line of sight is easily disrupted (canyons, etc). The pricing plans for Inmarsat airtime are also lower than Iridium.
Globalstar is the leader in price-conscious solutions, and is the only airtime provider that is fully vertically integrated, offering hardware, airtime, and software in a single product purchase. Globalstar has carved its niche with adventure markets as a consumer product, and has recently begun to offer its price-conscious and user-friendly approach to the IoT market. Globalstar's primary limiting factor is the reach and performance of its network, as it has less coverage area than its primary competitors, and network reliability is strong, but less than that of Inmarsat and Iridium.
GSE works with Globalstar to deliver its GSatSolar Series product line, which includes the GSatRancher for cattle tracking.
Thuraya is a regional service network that is one of the only options for delivering solutions in certain parts of the Middle East and Africa. Argos is a service operated by CLS, which offers specific solutions targeted for the research and wildlife segments. There are also other regional networks like Ligado, or specialty services like those operated by companies that leverage different network infrastructure to deliver hybrid services or LoRaWAN products. Most of the time, Satellite IoT will employ one of the big three networks.
GSE Can Help
GSE is the only company in the satellite realm that can deliver a complete solution with a mix of any major satellite data networks. This means customers aren't limited to specific hardware, software, or bound by rigid airtime packages. Instead, they enjoy a plethora of choices, tailor-made to their requirements.
As always, the best advice we have for you is to reach out to us directly, and let us help you understand if you have the data strategy that is best for your business, and then how you can invest in the right hardware solution to bring that data strategy to life.
The next article in this series will dive into the data processing components of a remote data ecosystem. Because GSE offers industry leading software (GSatTrack) that delivers data visually, it has a vested interest in developing tools that transform raw data into actionable insights. The next article will focus on GSE's expertise with firmware that can be the difference between gathering data and not gathering data, and also on the ways in which GSatTrack transforms location data into powerful visuals and convenient alerts and notifications. These articles build on each other, so we’re excited to have you along for this educational journey.