What Can Satellite Telematics Do For You?
Let me say more about our development project using satellite technology.
Our project will soon be ready for trial – and we will be inviting users to be involved.
We are building the system for boats as the first use case as we know there are often electrical related issues arising that get in the way of enjoyable sailing.
New Generation Satellites
Using the new satellite services enables a practical low cost and low power monitoring system to be installed that can alert boat owners when problems need attention.
In recent years there has been a rapid increase in the number of satellites in orbit and services provided. Did you know there are about 4,500 active satellites with two-thirds of these launched since 2020. Many of these are in Low Earth Orbit – between 200 - 1,500km altitude and orbit period of 90 minutes. The advantage of LEO is lower cost to launch small satellites but needing more satellites to provide continuous service.
For service users the results are lower cost hardware to send data and lower message cost. As a developer we are seeing more providers competing and reduced time to market for applications. We are particularly interested at present where small message size is the focus. These are well suited for continuous monitoring without taking a lot of power.
In our case we have been testing the service from Swarm Technologies, and you can see their transmitter mounted on our circuit board in the picture below. With a small antenna this can transmit data to the satellite and then on to us for analysis and display in an application dashboard on your phone or computer
For boat owners a satellite service can mean better reliability than cellular for sending data in the marine environment. The alternative is cellular service but these networks can have geographic dead zones. Even within a marina it is possible for rigging wires to block signals or for a cell site to be overloaded by many users. Roaming between countries may also be problematic.
Why Do Boats Need Telematics?
An example problem with electrical systems on boats is battery low voltage or deep discharge due to lack of charge power. Often boats will take power from the marina but these can become disconnected or trip offline. Unless a reset is carried out the boat batteries will eventually discharge.
Problems can escalate as equipment onboard also fails due to lack of power affecting bilge pumps, heating or cooling, etc. The effect of discharge on batteries can be dramatic resulting in reduced service life or in the worst case the battery failure.
Boat owners also have an interest in checking boat location and recording tracks with a GPS record. Although navigation equipment can record this information, these are usually powered off when no one is onboard and may not have the means to transmit to a phone application.
Boats going to remote locations or deep ocean journeys will also appreciate the ability to transmit data remotely via satellite at low cost.
Electric Boating On The Horizon
Any boat owner visiting a boat show will recognise the rise of electric propulsion. It’s clear that demand for electric propulsion is growing dramatically with many products on offer and a lot of interest from boat owners.
There are choices of electric inboard or outboard motors, and boats of all types constructed with electric systems. Without going into a deep discussion of the merits, the attractions of electric propulsion are no emissions, clean (no oil/fuel) operation, reliability, and convenience.
We expect that remote monitoring of and access to the status of the propulsion system will be vital to ensure reliability and performance. With a large investment in the value of the battery packs it is important to keep the battery pack charge status optimal and ready for when the boat will be used.
For the marine industry electric propulsion creates new opportunities and challenges. Marina infrastructure will likely need upgrading, and the skill set for servicing will adapt to these new products.
It’s our view that data will be increasingly critical for the reliability and long service performance of these expensive power systems.
What Else Can Remote Telematics Do?
I’ve discussed the application of low cost satellite services for boat monitoring, there are also a wide range of other possibilities that are possible such as marine sensing, infrastructure monitoring and environmental applications. If you’ve ideas let me know and I’ll cover these in a future post.
We will soon have a limited number of units available for trial. If you are in the UK and interested to be involved drop us a message to find out more.