Satellite: enabling Industry 4.0 and IIoT

03 July 2024

Majdi Atout, senior consultant, APPLIOT

Majdi Atout, senior consultant, APPLIOT

Businesses worldwide are looking to the future. They are modernizing, becoming more efficient and automating a large portion of their operations. Industry 4.0 is beginning to permeate industry on a global scale, bringing forth smart factories and other innovation that can be leveraged to increase production and profit.

An important part of this transition is the Internet of Things or IoT. IoT is a network of connected devices and the technology that enables communication between those devices and the cloud, where the data is stored. Across Africa, IoT is gaining traction and overall, the sector is set to experience significant growth. Statista forecasts that the IoT market in Africa will reach US$25.76 billion in 2024. That is staggering growth and demand is coming from many sectors. IoT knows no bounds, because it can be applied anywhere to anything, enabling monitoring of limitless things – there are so many applications we are not even aware of at this time.

For industry, IoT provides real-time data on the performance of the thing that it is monitoring and that could be anything from cattle on a farm to a piece of machinery in an automotive factory. It measures output and other key metrics, facilitating fast decision making and the capability to optimise operations and reduce downtime.

Let’s zoom in a little more. For North Africa, the projected revenue for the industrial IoT market, according to Statista, is US$1.58 billion this year. This is expected to rise again to US$2.83 billion by 2028. In North Africa, the most promising markets for growth are agriculture and energy.

Both these industries are increasingly turning to IoT to enable them to become more operationally efficient and they both have one thing in common – their remote location. For those companies wishing to implement IoT technologies, there is a barrier in terms of geography. Terrestrial connectivity simply doesn’t extend far out into remote regions. Farms, by their very nature are often located in remote areas, off the beaten track and outside of population centres to allow for acreage. For the energy sector too, exploration and production teams are increasingly being forced further and further from civilisation to find new sources of fossil fuel and green energy sources can be located offshore or in remote regions.

Satellite – solving the problem of remote IoT
IoT services delivered via satellite remove boundaries for businesses that wish to take advantage of the host of benefits that they bring. These networks can be rapidly deployed, cost-effectively and deliver fast RoI. Moreover, they can be used for any application, from those with low to very high data rate demands, as well as fixed and on-the-move. The use of satellite means there are no geographical constraints to the IoT service. It is transformative for IoT users.

Add intelligent capabilities, such as AI and these networks help to increase outputs, efficiencies and profitability. The most exciting thing about satellite IoT is that its capabilities can be applied to just about any sector that you can think of. But let’s look at how and why IoT can benefit the key growth areas in North Africa.

Agriculture represents a huge growth market for IoT providers. As a planet, we are looking to secure food sustainability in the face of climate change and constant price hikes. Food needs to be plentiful but also affordable. Traditional farms face a plethora of challenges such as inefficient resource usage, unpredictable weather conditions, challenges in monitoring assets, and labour shortages all of which hinder agricultural productivity. Growth demands mean that they must consider improved energy and resource efficiency, dealing with changing weather conditions, and staying on top of soil, pests, and diseases.

The farming community, and those that provide services to it has turned to satellite IoT. For example, in the US and Brazil farming machinery giant John Deere has issued an RFP to equip its farm machinery with satellite IoT connectivity and it demonstrates the power of the technology – they want to be connected anywhere and everywhere. And satellite allows that.

The IoT connectivity enables a farm to promote efficiency of resources, increase yield and profitability, automate their processes across production cycles, reduce waste, minimize environmental impact, improve animal welfare, and monitor livestock.

For energy users, IoT enables them to connect their infrastructure which is often located in remote and harsh environments. This makes the monitoring and management of critical assets challenging and at times, dangerous.

To enable sustainable growth of the sector calls for real-time asset monitoring, improved crew welfare and optimized operational efficiency.

Through the implementation of an IoT system, energy companies can keep on top of their operations through real-time process monitoring, making changes where they are needed. It also enables them to enhance their production efficiency as point of operation is being managed and this also drives down costs. As IoT enables the monitoring of complex machinery, this also reduces downtime as predictive maintenance means that issues are tackled before they become issues. The critical issue of safety and security is also addressed as monitoring is heightened at remote sites. In using satellite delivered IoT solutions, the other huge benefit is scalability. Satellite can scale like no other technology, so it is a simple process to add new sites to a network so that it can grow as your operations do.

Satellite IoT: the solution for remote operations
Satellite IoT will continue to grow in popularity across North Africa. Satellite lends itself so well to its vast geography. It can scale cost effectively and can fulfil any application. This is the time for IoT and the opportunity for businesses to go beyond.