Unbreakable: How Satellite IoT Networks Protect the Global Flow of Goods

Tarun Gupta
CPO and co-founder
May 4, 2021

In the last few months we’ve seen not one, not two, but three historic snarls in the barely orchestrated chaos that has come to characterize the global shipping, transportation and logistics industries during the COVID era. First, thousands of trucks were stuck in Dover, UK, at Christmastime, their drivers unable to get the COVID tests that France required for entry. In March, the Ever Given, a 1,300-foot container ship, was wedged in the Suez Canal for almost a week, bringing regional shipping traffic to a standstill. Meanwhile dozens of container ships queued in the waters off Southern California’s ports, jammed with goods as retailers and manufacturers tried to rebuild inventories depleted during the pandemic.

The moral of this harrowing collective tale? Over and over, the pandemic has laid bare the fragility of global supply chains, testing shipping and logistics companies’ abilities to pivot in urgent conditions. To best prepare for the unexpected, manufacturers and logistics companies can dramatically improve the efficiency and reliability of their transport operations with internet of things (IoT) solutions connected by a satellite, not mobile, network. 

Wireless networks are inefficient and risky

Spurred by the massive growth of e-commerce during the pandemic, industrial applications of IoT, such as shipping, transport and logistics, are growing rapidly. In logistics alone, the firm Research and Markets projects the global IoT market to grow at a 13.2% CAGR between 2020-2030, having attained a value of $34,504.8 million in 2019 and predicted to rise to $100,984.5 million by 2030. In the US, 80% of the total logistics activities are carried out through roadways, with 88% in the European region.

The majority of logistics IoT solutions rely on cellular communications, an inherently inefficient, high-risk approach because these wireless networks:

  • Are designed to serve people, not trucks or ships: In 2018, the most recent data available in the GSMA’s annual State of Mobile Internet Connectivity report, almost 300 million people connected to mobile internet for the first time, bringing the total connected population to more than 3.5 billion people, still less than half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion (2021). What’s more, only about 20% of the earth’s landmass has mobile network coverage, and none of its oceans. As a result, logistics companies using mobile-networked IoT solutions lose connectivity in mountainous, rural and other sparsely populated areas, putting drivers and cargoes at risk.
  • Have borders: Wireless communications companies are licensed to provide service within discrete geographies, requiring logistics companies to negotiate and manage multiple contracts to ensure continuous connectivity with IoT-equipped trucks as they traverse borders. How big of an issue is it? Well, with around 830 operators, Europe has 14 times as many operators as Asia and twice that of North America for every billion customers served. Even managing a half-dozen wireless service providers can gobble up inordinate amounts of administrative resources.
  • Are easily disrupted by natural disasters: For example, during California’s 2019 wildfire season, more than 350 cellular sites in northern and southern California were impacted by the widespread electrical grid shut-downs by utility PG&E, as well as wildfires burning across the state. Trucks driving in areas unaffected by fire still lost connectivity due to service outages.

Altogether, these pitfalls create a complex IoT communications environment with multiple potential points of failure—which, when combined with any of the transport curve balls COVID has already thrown, can wreak havoc on the global flow of goods.  

Skylo’s satellite network assures streamlined, uninterrupted service

Skylo Technologies provides a reliable, cost-effective platform that enables data communication via satellite (satellite-based tracking) for transportation and logistics operators. Its foundation is the Skylo Network, which leverages existing satellites available worldwide to deliver the world’s most affordable way to transmit data. 

The Skylo solution offers:

  • Unbreakable service through satellite delivery, eliminating the geographic gaps and potential service outages that can cause wireless coverage to fail.
  • Simplicity, as logistics, shipping and transportation companies can work Skylo globally, instead of a patchwork of hundreds of wireless service providers.
  • Consistency, with the Skylo solution transmitting data at predictably time intervals. This data can be easily consumed through the Skylo Data Platform, a data and analytics solution with customizable dashboards that enable organizations and operations teams to ‘sense and see’ their business activities in real time.
  • Convenience, with Skylo providing all components of a complete industrial IoT solution: Skylo Network, the Skylo Data Platform and the Skylo Hub, a purpose-built, extremely affordable ​wireless endpoint device ​to connect ​sensors, ​devices ​and ​machines. The Skylo Hub is an on-board ruggedized antenna that communicates seamlessly and securely, using existing 3GPP and 5G technology.  

Protecting people and goods

With the Skylo solution, logistics operators can not only track their shipments, but also have two-way communication with drivers and ship crews, even in the areas without a cellular network. Personnel can issue an SOS in case of emergency (theft, vehicle breakdown, health issue, etc.), speeding help to the scene. Furthermore, trucking routes can be optimized by communicating the latest information to the driver, making the entire value chain safer, more efficient and reliable. 

As thousands of drivers in Dover scrambled to get COVID tests in order to enter into France in December, Skylo’s analytics and two-way communication could have expedited testing and passage significantly, bringing them home for the holidays—a heartwarming bonus in the non-stop quest to keep goods moving smoothly throughout our pandemic-rocked world. 

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