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AI satellite IoT module tackles chip shortage

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Global Telecom has launched a series of custom AI-enabled IoT modules that connect to satellite, cellular and private networks (also known as Band 53) as well as WiFi and Bluetooth.

The design of the Mercury modules is intended to avoid the problems of the chip shortage by using a separate applications processor and a range of suppliers, Ahmad Malkawi, CEO of Global Telecom tells eeNews Europe

“The last 12 months supply has been one of our biggest challenges but in the last 36 months we made the conscious decision that we couldn’t be tied to one silicon supplier,” he said. “Our end customers could be leaning to one supplier or another.”

The company can use LTE chips from Qualcomm, Sequans or other suppliers.

“In the last 12 months that has helped us a lot in the supply chai,” said Malkawi.  “In May for example we had a big order and the lead time for one component was 50 weeks so in three weeks we revamped the PCB and a different chipset and we were able to deliver the module,” said Malkawi.

“The chips support 3GPP LTE and then we have a silicon provider for the satellite link specifically and we did the hardware and software integration where the final interface for the model is the same but internally its different. One of the largest [IoT] satellite operators, Globalstar, is one of the first customers and its their proprietary protocol,” he said.

The Globalstar satellites uses a CDMA-based IP protocol with satellites in low earth orbit linking to 24 ground stations. The patented satellite path diversity and gateway diversity technologies allow customers to connect to a different satellite or a different gateway, automatically hands off to another available satellite ensuring uninterrupted communication if single failure in even suboptimal conditions like mountainous areas or urban canyons.

“We start with the end use case, with customers who cannot lose connectivity and satellite has to be one of the solutions. What’s interesting is that we can go up to 10Mbit/s for throughput which is phenomenal for satellite, down to 100kbit/s for IoT,” he said.

“One of the things we have implemented is the intelligence in the module, for the hot swap between satellite, cellular and CBRS. We have AI in the module and the device is configured to learn over time the fastest way to reconnect a link so the device looks at the trends over time and we have ween connectivity as little as 1s to 45s depending on the circumstances. We really believe that’s the way of the future, not just hardware,” he said.

The module uses an applications processor from Mediatek.

“We have the applications processor separate from the protocol processor and it is configurable with the priorities and that’s important for the connectivity and the cost. For example, one customer can reduce the cost by 70%, and that’s $1bn for that customer,” he said.

The IoT module is aimed at both high bandwidth applications and IoT data. Potential uses for the MERCURY series include video monitoring devices for first responders and security teams requiring real-time, high-quality video and audio; implanted medical devices that analyze critical patient data and connect with doctors or ambulances as needed, and remote operations access that need exact synchronization to work properly.

“If its 100% IoT without high speeds you can have up to six months of battery life which is decent for a high performance product,” he said.

The first IoT module in the series, the Mercury15, is available now

www.globaltelecomus.com

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