The Slovaks successfully tested the futuristic Internet of Things in the nearby universe
During a stratospheric flight to the nearby universe, a Slovak company GOSPACE, in cooperation with the nationwide operator SLOVANET a.s., successfully tested the LoRaWAN network designed for the Internet of Things (IoT).
Recently, the Internet of Things has been discussed nearly at every technology conference dreaming about smart refrigerators that automatically order new foodstuffs from the closest grocery to cities, that are able to autonomously manage traffic lights depending on the current traffic situation. All these visions rely on one key element – new type of radio communication enabling the transfer of small amounts of data reaching out, however, to distances of tens of kilometers and requiring low energetic performance. Therefore, any outdoor sensor whether it is measuring the air quality, the temperature of the lake, or the position of the protected wild animals, is able to work without any massive infrastructure and particularly without the need to recharge the battery for months or years.
GOSPACE, specializing in the telecommunications development and the development of the electronics designed for extreme conditions, in cooperation with SLOVANET building the LoRaWAN network in Slovakia, carried out two stratospheric flights which task was to verify the theoretical limits of the LoRaWAN network reachability as well as the experimental positioning on the basis of triangulation carried out by the network (without the use of energetically demanding satellite navigation).
Figure 1 – the stratospheric balloon take-off in Partizánske on 10th November 2016. Source: GOSPACE
Wireless Internet across half of the Europe
The test results were more than fascinating. During two hours the balloon ascended until reaching a height of 37.5 km enabling the balloon to establish a connection with Kaliningrad, a Russian city that was 600 km away.
Figure 2 – the GOSPACE stratospheric probe communicating at a distance of 600 km. Source: GOSPACE
As far as the experimental calculation of the position is concerned (on the basis of the signal reception by the LoRaWAN gateways), the average error compared to the real position was 3 kilometres, that was caused particularly by poor accuracy of the time synchronization between the respective gateways. Improving the time accuracy of the gateways themselves in the future could automatically lead to the improvement of the calculated position accuracy.
Figure 3 – comparing the GPS position (gray) and the LoRaWAN position (orange). Source: GOSPACE
For the flight course please refer to the video on the following webpage live.gospace.sk.
Internet of Space
GOSPACE, a spin-off company of the Slovak Organisation for Space Activities, participated in the construction of the first Slovak satellite called skCUBE, that will be launched into space by the beginning of 2017 and it will orbit the Earth from 450 to 720 km above the Earth. We can be boldly talking about the vision of operating the Internet of Things network from the Earth orbit seeing that the results of the stratospheric test have revealed that the LoRaWAN network reachability is sufficient for this purpose. The preliminary calculations imply that a fleet of 30 satellites (e.g. CubeSat class) placed in 3 orbital levels could cover the whole planet with the Internet of Things in such a way. Although the construction and placing the satellite in orbit is a costly matter, the overall price of such a project is lower than creating a global network consisting of hundreds of thousands of ground IoT gateways. Thus, Internet of Things could justly be renamed to Internet of Space.
Figure 4 – satellites placed in 3 orbital levels. Source: ESA