Vodafone and Inmarsat hang satellites over potential Internet of Things customers

Remote backhaul for rural millionaires? Not so, they say

12 Reg comments Got Tips?

Vodafone and satellite phone firm Inmarsat have inked a deal to provide backhaul for Internet of Things devices in far-flung corners of the globe.

According to this morning's Financial Times, the mobile network operator is seeking to expand into providing IoT connectivity for driverless cars, smart cities, smart farms and other IoT/M2M uses.

Oddly, the article emphasises how the traditionally astronomical cost of satellite comms seemingly won't apply here. Indeed, Inmarsat chief exec Rupert Pearce told the Pink 'Un: “On a driverless car, or a truck or an oil rig, an ultra-fast reliable and low-cost network is paramount.”

Apparently there is no financial commitment from either Vodafone or Inmarsat to the deal, though Pearce said if Vodafone made a success of its IoT offering, the “financial contribution” to Inmarsat could be “significant”.

A blog post by Inmarsat's Phil Meyers, titled “Cows and their part in the Internet of Things” sets out how Inmarsat is keen to get into LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Networks) backhaul tech and is also keen to get a slice of the smart farm market – no, don't laugh – such as ones where farmers have put what amounts to very long range RFID tags into their livestock.

“As LoRa networks can cover up to 700km2 in rural environments, this is an ideal solution for tracking cattle. Add a small tag to each cow (ear or collar) and the farmer can simply look at an app on his smart phone and see where each one is,” wrote Meyers. “He can also set up a geofence so that if a cow moves through the virtual barrier he receives an alert and can do something about it. This brings a couple of benefits: firstly, it may be possible to identify sick animals who are behaving erratically; it will also allow any theft to be monitored.”

Your correspondent's knowledge of farming is sketchy at best, mostly being drawn from the ill-informed BBC Countryfile programme, but this seems like a solution to a problem that thousands of years of human evolution and progress has already solved.

Perhaps IoT advocates ought to stick to M2M and smart cities instead. ®


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