Sunday, November 29, 2015

exactEarth’s Big Bet on The Internet of Things

          By Glen Strom

exactEarth president Peter Mabson. Photo c/o TheRecord.
Cambridge, Ontario based exactEarth is thinking big and they aren’t shy about making their intentions known.

Currently, exactEarth provides satellite tracking services to the global maritime market. On November 23, 2015 they took a minority ownership position in Myriota of Adelaide, Australia, as announced in press release, “exactEarth Invests in Satellite 'Internet-of-Things' Technology Company.” Myriota makes technology that connects devices globally.

This move is part of a strategy to get a piece of what’s predicted to be the next big technological development: The Internet of Things (IoT). Peter Mabson, president of exactEarth, confirmed the strategy in a November 23, 2015 article at The, “ExactEarth investing in Internet of Things startup.”

Many people don’t understand what the IoT is. Although at this point different definitions exist, Forbes magazine outlines one of them in the May 13th, 2014 article, “A Simple Explanation Of ‘The Internet Of Things’."

Daniel Lee (at bottom right), giving a presentation on "Internet of Things Monetization; Challenges and Chances," at the 2014 Internet of Things Conference, which was held from October 20th - 21st, 2014 in San Francisco, CA. It's worth noting that, as more and more devices are connected to the IoT, the connector of choice is likely to be the existing satellite communications system,  which already hosts a surprising amount of internet traffic and which will expand to handle the increasing demands for bandwidth. Screenshot c/o HTML5DevConf & IoTaconf

The key concept is this:
... the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. 
This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig...
... the analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices...that's a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). 
The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.
It’s easy to see why a satellite data company like exactEarth would want a piece of the IoT. Why just monitor ship activity when you can get a piece of monitoring everything?

So how does exactEarth’s latest move fit in to what they’ve done up until now?

Screenshot from the November 2015 Forbes "The Internet Of Things" video. As outlined in the video, ATM's were one of the first IoT devices as early as 1974; by 2020 approximately 250,000 vehicles will be on our roads and also connected to the internet; by 2020 the food and beverage industry could annually save up to 15% of their current costs through the adaption of IoT methodologies and the IoT will add between $15 - 20 trillion USD's to global GDP over the next twenty years. Screenshot c/o Forbes

Currently, exactEarth is jointly owned by COM DEV International Ltd. of Cambridge, Ontario (they have 73% of the company), and Hisdesat Strategic Services S.A. of Spain (which holds the rest).

COM DEV, a hardware provider to the satellite industry, must spin off exactEarth into a separate company as part of its recent, proposed sale to New Jersey based Honeywell International. The details of the sale are outlined in the November 7, 2015 article, “Should the proposed COM DEV sale to US based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act?

Whether or not COM DEV will have anything to do with exactEarth going forward is unknown.

Hisdesat, on the other hand, remains part of the strategy. As described on their website, “Hisdesat Servicios Estratégicos S.A. was founded in 2001 as a government satellite services operator to act primarily in the areas of defense, security, intelligence and foreign affairs. Since 2005 we have been providing secure satellite communications services to government agencies from various countries, and we are currently developing new earth observation and maritime traffic information (AIS) satellite constellations.”

Another exactEarth partner, Harris Corporation of Melbourne, Florida, bills themselves as “a world leader in space, geospatial and remote sensing solutions.” The connection between exactEarth and Harris is covered in the July 5, 2015 article, “The REAL Story Behind the Upcoming (Maybe) exactEarth IPO.”

The three companies combine satellite constellations, data capture and management, data processing and delivery systems, and secure communications expertise. This is where exactEarth’s minority ownership of Myriota comes into play.

Myriota bills themselves as a company with “Global Reach for the Internet of Things.” Adding a system designed specifically for the IoT pulls everything exactEarth has together for that Next Big Thing.

The IofT concept is a slow developing process that will take many years. Now is probably the best time for a company to build the structure needed to be a significant player in what could turn out to be the next revolution in technology.

Glen Strom.
The strategy is clear: exactEarth wants to be one of those companies.

Who says Canadian companies can’t think big?

Glen Strom is a freelance writer and editor with a background in business and technical writing. Follow him on Twitter @stromspace for the latest on Canadian space stories.

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