Myriota promises satellite IoT from matchbox-sized device

ExactEarthAustralian startup Myriota is commercialising technology developed at the University of South Australia designed to provide two-way communication via satellites for IoT applications from a device the size of a matchbox that will be able to run for several years on a battery.

The company was spun off from the University in November 2015 with a $2m investment from Canadian low earth orbit satellite operator ExactEarth whose polar orbiting satellites it will use for the space segment of the service.

Myriota CEO, Alex Grant, told IoTAustralia that the company hoped to deploy its first terminals in trials in mid 2016. “We are having a lot of conversations with customers about trials and initial deployments by year end, and we aim to have a full commercial service in early 2017,” he said.

He described the company’s key technology advantages as being its low-cost, small form factor, low-powered device and its ability to use low-cost microsatellites and minimal spectrum resources. “We use a very simple communications waveform in order to make the devices very low cost. All the complexity is in the ground station where we have to separate out all the transmissions received from thousands of devices in the field. That is a very complex task.”

Entry level service $1-$2 per month

He said the company was aiming for an entry level service price of $1 to $2 per month depending on the number of messages. “We have not finalised our pricing structure, so that may not be how we sell capacity to our users. There will be some customers with 1000s of sensors so we may do some packages.”

Myriota will offer two services: a one way inbound service where the device will send a few hundred bytes of data when it can see a satellite, and a two way service that will allow for the exchange of data in real time during the window of 10-15 minutes as each satellite passes overhead.

“That service is getting a lot of interest for industrial control applications where you may want to read a parameter from equipment in the field and then set some other parameter based on that reading” Grant said.

He added: “We are aiming to stimulate new applications by being able to offer this at a low price point and having a user terminal that is flexible and that has an applications processor that can run some lightweight applications.”

Not only for remote areas

Although the company’s initial target market is remote areas beyond the reach of cellular networks, Grant said he believed it could be cost competitive with other solutions, and was attracting interest because of its ability to provide an end-to-end service.

“Our initial target is remote area where needs are not being met but time and time again we are finding interest where the convenience of a simple system that works anywhere is attractive. The nice thing we can offer is the ability to support the same type of application but without the need for any terrestrial infrastructure. … We find people in marginal areas who have to jump through hoops to get coverage are approaching us. And at the price points we are talking about we seem to be competitive with some of the cellular solutions.”

Myriota’s initial focus is Australia, but Grant said it was already attracting interest from other countries. “The end game is a global service but as a startup we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and stretch ourselves too thinly.”

ExactEarth’s satellites have a 90 minute orbital period. They are in polar orbit so a location at the pole can see each satellite every 90 minutes and a location at the equator only once every 12 hours because the earth rotates relative to the orbit of the satellite. ExactEarth already has 10 satellites in orbit and is will have payloads on Iridium second generation of low earth orbit satellites, Iridium NEXT.

Grant said Myriota was confident that it would have more than sufficient capacity on ExactEarth satellites. “We believe we can support hundreds of thousand of terminals if not millions in the first few years and we could use other satellites if we needed to. Very small nanosats and cubesats are coming and we expect those would be capable of providing capacity.”


 

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