When people think about the internet of things (IoT), they typically picture “smart” machines in conversation with each other, i.e., a phone talking to a Sonos wireless home sound system, or controlling a Nest thermostat remotely. But the real stars of IoT aren’t the machines themselves; rather, it’s their sensors, hanging around out there in space gathering data.
And they cannot do this without clouds.
The sky’s the limit
For rocket scientist and Chief Executive Officer of Fleet Space Technologies Flavia Tata Nardini, cloud-based applications and outer space are the brass rings of the future. And the future is the IoT.
“We are on a mission to change Earth by creating a digital nervous system that connects every single device on our planet through low cost, low power nanosatellites,” explains Tata Nardini. “This is what will enable the next industrial revolution, connecting 75 billion devices and sensors by 2025; there are currently less than 700 million.”
The positive potential of having hundreds of the nanosatellites around the world connecting every part of the planet is impossible to overstate; industries, no matter where they operated, would improve efficiencies. Agriculture, logistics and mining would benefit by remotely integrating their supply chains. Scientists would be able to more accurately monitor the effects of climate change. Conservationists would be able to track endangered animals across vast distances and nongovernmental organizations would be able to follow aid as it journeyed across remote areas of the globe.
“We created Fleet with eyes for change,” says Tata Nardini. “What we are offering are connectivity solutions to every side of the world with our ability to enable any application using satellite solutions; ubiquitous solutions come from the sky.”
Designing tomorrow, today
The creation of Fleet, as Tata Nardini says, was driven by a combination of “inspiration, love and some market understanding.
“I had been working on nanosatellites and recognized a need for greater connectivity; something that could act as an enabler,” says Tata Nardini. “What we are doing — putting an infrastructure in place that is not there yet, that is something beyond our imagination — is very challenging.”
So how do you design for something expected to explode over the next four years, changing the way we have been working for the past 20?
“We went through this when the internet was first created,” responds Tata Nardini. “People didn’t really know what it was; they understood how to use a computer and Google something, but they didn’t understand the concept. Creating the internet of the future is expensive, but you combine that with open source materials, which is what the software world has been doing for years and you are able to connect life everywhere.”
The meta revolution
Raising capital (Blackbird Ventures led the USD5 million capital raise for Fleet, with Blackbird managing director Niki Scevak joining the board in addition to participation from Earth Space Robotics, Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and Silicon Valley’s Horizon Partners), building satellites, working with customers, leveraging technology … these seem to require very different skills sets, yet Tata Nardini has had to master them all to realize her dream.
“I have a great passion for learning,” she says. “Also, it is a lot of hard work; you have to understand the market and see what problems technologies can solve and find out how to enable them. So, this is good, hard work. It is exciting to be at the tipping point of a giant revolution, in the middle of a revolution.”
“YPO Innovation Week is the week we’re launching our first two nanosatellites via two separate rockets into orbit, 310 miles from Earth,” she says. “It will be the same week that we worked with our first customer and became the first commercial satellite from an Australian company going into space to connect IoT. I think there are going to be a lot of exciting things to discuss.”