According to IDC’s new IoT spending guide, Internet of Things (IoT) solutions will be primarily driven by the manufacturing, process manufacturing and transportation industries, accounting for nearly a third of total worldwide spend by 2023. In industry, IoT has become the tipping point towards long-term, sustainable success, allowing for deeper integration of application and function across platform, device, and capabilities. However, there remain concerns around connectivity capability for IoT to truly deliver on what it offers and promises.
Billions of devices connected to millions of networks provide the foundations of Industrial IoT (IIoT) and, according to research giant Gartner, IIoT gateways are transitioning from simple devices that bridge OT and IT networks to intelligent edge computing systems that can learn. Sean McCormick, Managing Director of Globalstar Africa, believes that the growth of IIoT requires industries to focus on building networks that allow for more extensive communications capabilities than those offered by traditional cellular networks.
“One of the biggest challenges that mining and industrial companies face when relying on cellular communication networks is that a cell tower has a relatively short range,” says McCormick. “Wide cellular networks need many towers to cover cities and this is expensive, demanding investment into infrastructure that is either not readily available or cost-effective. This is further complicated by remote rural areas, mountains and other geographical challenges that affect communications capabilities.”
For mining and industrial organisations, this lack of reliable communication across vast rural landscapes is a challenge, particularly considering that most productive sites are out of the range of traditional and cellular communication networks. IIoT needs reliable and open channels of communication to ensure real-time capability and ongoing functionality. This doesn’t change just because the landscape is complex and the infrastructure limited. Communication is critical in ensuring that assets, employees, and sites are constantly monitored and maintained. This is also essential in many industries that must frequently monitor sites and infrastructure as part of regulatory compliance requirements.
Industry and mining play an important role across the entire African economy. Mining is one of the country’s largest economic exports and the African continent contributed to 6.5% of the world’s mineral exports. The need for reliable communication is essential to ensure seamless operations throughout the sector and to allow for managers or relevant employees to take advantage of what IoT can offer. This technology can improve efficiency, ensure competitive capability, and provide ongoing safety and security for employees and sites.
“In the past, organisations have had to install private terrestrial radio systems across multiple test stations, or they’ve had to work within the constraints of cellular networks, both of which are expensive to install and maintain,” says McCormick. “There has long been a need for technology and connectivity that bypass the traditional challenges and offer communication channels that are accessible, reliable and capable of spanning significant distances.”
Mobile satellite devices allow for organisations to establish solid communications channels regardless of remoteness or geographic location – land, sea, or air – as long as there is a line of sight. As most mining sites are based thousands of kilometres from their corporate headquarters, this depth of communication is invaluable. It not only ensures the ongoing safety of employees but allows for the consistent management and monitoring of remote assets. Satellite is also a lot easier on the bottom line – it doesn’t require that the organisation invest in costly towers, the technology is capable and cost-effective, and implementation uses the infrastructure provided by the satellite communications company.
“Satellite was once considered one of the most expensive forms of connectivity due to the cost of satellite equipment and the need to launch the satellites into orbit,” says McCormick. “These costs have come down significantly, turning this powerful communications technology into an affordable and reliable solution for IIoT. The Globalstar STX3 satellite transmitter has been reduced to two thirds of its original size, is low cost and low on power consumption, making it the perfect device to be integrated across a wide variety of applications from liquid petroleum gas tanks to pipelines to meters to cars, boats or sea containers, and so much more. Application is only limited by imagination and requirements.”
Globalstar’s satellites provide coverage over more than 80% of the Earth’s surface, eliminating the need for towers and delivering communication that extends far beyond the boundaries of cellular. These satellite solutions ensure consistent and reliable communications that enhance the capabilities, potential and growth confidence of IIoT. Globalstar provides the fastest and most reliable MSS network on the market, ensuring its customers a competitive edge in the IIoT space.
“The tools and technologies we provide ensure reliable, real-time communications across multiple sites and geographic locations, maximising the potential of IoT applications,” concludes McCormick. “With convenient devices operating over a modern satellite network, IIoT can continue its rapid growth and fully recognise its potential on the African continent and within the industrial and mining sectors.”