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Low-cost wireless nano-satellite IoT gateway for SpaceX / Swarm Technologies

Country of Origin: Germany
Reference Number: TODE20211126001
Publication Date: 26 November 2021


A German SME has developed a wireless nano-satellite IoT gateway (SpaceX/Swarm) that is much more cost-efficient than conventional products (<10 EUR per month). It enables bi-directional communication and a 3-fold redundancy with one hardware unit. Autonomous operation with solar power supplies is possible. Commercial agreements with technical assistance with users (operators of sensor networks in agriculture, maritime, environment monitoring or others) are sought, also distribution partners.


SpaceX is the world's largest operator of satellite networks that provide Internet in areas where previously no or insufficient Internet connection was available. Among other things, SpaceX aims at establishing a global satellite network for the Internet of Things (IoT), based upon Swarm technologies. Up to now, around 150 of these LEO (Low Earth Orbit) nano-satellites are operating.

In order to facilitate a smooth transfer of data from sensor networks into the cloud via the satellite an interface, a so-called IoT gateway, is needed. IoT gateways can transfer sensor and actuator data to a public or private cloud in a targeted and secure manner. They therefore play a central role in the implementation of Industrie 4.0 and IoT projects.

A German SME, a pioneer in the field of IoT sensors, has developed a novel wireless nano-satellite IoT Gateway, that is much more cost-efficient than other solutions on the market (communication cost of less than 10 EUR per month per gateway). Due to the technology developed, gateways or sensor nodes can be manufactured at a fraction of the cost of conventional solutions. The gateway enables a 3-fold redundancy with one hardware unit for critical applications: Space X + LoRaWAN (Long Range Wide Area Network) + Sigfox. Fully autonomous operation of the unit is made possible by mini-solar power supplies. The form factor of the complete solution is smaller than the size of a cigarette pack.
The unit is based on a bi-directional very high frequency (VHF) communication channel with 1kbps, a maximum packet size of 192 bytes and maximum transmission time of 3.7sec. Security is ensured by means of Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256 encryption.
Delivery of the customer data happens via REST API (representational state transfer application programming interface) with a max. latency of 1 minute. A Global Positioning System (lat/lon/alt) has been integrated as well. Any kind of sensor with an analog output of 0V to 10V or 4mA to 20mA fullscale is supported. 2 digital inputs can be connected to dry contacts or other control units with an open collector output. 2 open drain MOSFET outputs (metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor) are able to control external devices. Wired data communication is possible via RS485 Modbus Remote terminal unit (RTU), Ethernet and USB-C interfaces. Autonomous power supply with 12V or 24V solar panel systems is supported via a wide range internal buck converter. Ground based wireless communication can be handled through the integrated SIGFOX and LoRaWAN transceivers and wireless M-Bus as well.

• bi-directional IoT satellite communication
• VHF Transceiver 2m Band @ 1kbps
• GPS Receiver integrated
• SRD (short-range device) / ISM (industrial, scientific and medical) Options: LoRaWAN, Sigfox, wireless M-BUS
• 4 Analog Inputs: 0V -10V, 4mA – 20mA
• 2 Digital Inputs / 2 Digital Outputs (MOSFET)
• RS485 Modbus RTU Interface
• Ethernet Interface / USB-C Interface
• real time clock with battery backup
• temperature / humidity / pressure sensor
• SD card connector for data storage
• power supply: external 5V / 0.7Apeak - 25V DC
• operating temperature range: -20°C to +50°C
• enclosure: Aluminium
• dimensions: 11.5 x 6.5 x 13.5cm
• Sat antenna length λ/4: 22cm
• GPS / SRD antennas: customer specific

Application fields include sensor networks for the monitoring of agriculture, environment, climate, energy grids, ground transportation and logistics, industrial IoT (IIoT) and remote alarm networks.

The German SME seeks commercial agreements with technical assistance. Partners can be operators of sensor networks using SpaceX and Swarm technologies. The partner should have an interest to integrate the technology described. The necessary know-how and customer-specific support will be provided by the German SME.

Also distribution partners are sought that act as sales intermediaries and deliver technical support to end-customers.

Advantages and Innovations

- Very low communication costs compared to other products on the market (<10 EUR per month per unit)
- Fast and reliable data transfer (bi-directional communication channel with 1kbps, a maximum packet size of 192 bytes and maximum transmission time of 3.7sec)
- Autonomous operation with mini-solar power supplies is possible
- Very small size of the complete solution (size of a cigarette box)
- Security is ensured by means of AES 256 encryption
- 3-fold redundancy with one hardware unit possible for critical applications: Space X + LoRaWAN + Sigfox

Stage Of Development

Field tested/evaluated

Stage Of Development Comment

The testing of the first pre-series gateways will be completed by the end of 2021.

Requested partner

The German SME is looking for partners, private or public, willing to use the IoT gateway for sensor/monitoring networks that rely on data provided by SpaceX IoT satellites. Ideally the partners would be operators of these networks. 

Application fields include environmental monitoring, monitoring of energy grids, precision farming, drought detection and irrigation systems, water monitoring and maritime industry (fish farming), sensors on buoys, forest fire detection, weather and climate change monitoring, transportation and logistics tracking (containers), industrial IoT or remote alarm networks.

Parnerships sought are commercial agreements with technical assistance. The role of the partner would be the integration of the product into existing or planned monitoring infrastructures. Customer-specific support will be given by the German SME in order to transfer the necessary knowhow.

Also distribution partners are sought. They should have the necessary technical background and ideally existing contacts to relevant customers. Role to be performed would be to sell the product and provide technical assistance to end-custumers.

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