Laurent V. de Mello, COO, Astrocast: On deploying satellite IoT networks

Laurent V. de Mello, COO, Astrocast: On deploying satellite IoT networks
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IoT News spoke with Astrocast COO Laurent Vieira de Mello to discuss the satellite company’s latest ventures and its future roadmap ahead of its appearance at IoT TechEx Global from 6-7 September.

Since 2018, Vieira de Mello has overseen operations at Astrocast as it continues to deploy its direct-to-satellite IoT network into orbit. As of now, the network consists of 10 commercial satellites with 90 more planned for deployment by the end of 2024.

Vieira de Mello defined Astrocast’s offering as bringing “a new approach to traditional satellite solutions” for the IoT market.  Through its Astronode products, the company provides asset tracking and communication capabilities to even the most remote corners of the globe in combination with the low costs of IoT devices.

The Switzerland-based company works alongside partners such as Airbus, CEA Leti, Thuraya, and the European Space Agency to deliver a communication service with global reach and limited power consumption.

It’s been a busy year for the company as it transfers from focusing on research and development to a real company: “As we’ve developed, the need for additional functions required to support the business, like customer service, marketing, or a legal team, has emerged.”

“On top of internal expansion, we’re also preparing some exciting new partnerships and are expecting to go public later this year through a Euronext listing.”

In terms of upcoming plans, Astrocast’s roadmap expects to see 20 satellites in orbit by 2022.

“We’ll be launching 10 more satellites next year, before ramping up operations to reach 100 by 2024. Whilst we had to be careful with our first commercial launch of 5 satellites in January this year, we now have the size and the experience to launch 10 at a time.”

“What’s more, we are currently working on our next generation of satellites – they’ll be slightly bigger but offer more performance to cope with a growing demand and need to reduce message latency,” he adds.

As well as operational plans, Vieira de Mello hopes to engage more in-person with clients and customers at events as the pandemic eases.

“I’m looking forward to resuming attendance at fairs and events, meet clients face-to-face, and show off the great products we’ve been working on lately.”

Astronode S

“We have two main products taking advantage of our satellite infrastructure – the Astronode DevKit and the Astronode S. The DevKit quickly links customer assets on the ground to our orbital installation and once this is set up they can switch to the S product, a tiny solder-down module that uses a maximum of 0.35 watts to track and interact with the assets.”

Looking outwards to what similar companies are doing in the IoT space, Vieira de Mello reflected on the growth in competition Astrocast has seen:

“When we started out in 2014, we were almost alone. Now, although we have quite a few competitors, we still think our L-Band frequency range offers the best solution. The trend we’ve noticed with other companies is that they often want to seamlessly connect devices on the ground through terrestrial networks when it’s available or switch to satellites when it’s not. However, we consider this a compromise not optimised in terms of module power consumption and size of antennas.”

Heading into the TechEx event, Astrocast will be exhibiting across the weekend and Antonio Waller Espín, VP of sales, will be giving a talk on enhancing global visibility through satellite IoT.

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