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UK start-up receives messages from space

Long range wireless technology (LoRa)

Long range wireless technology (LoRa) in space explained
(Credit: Lacuna Space/ Semtech)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the most dynamic developments in the technology world today, helping businesses boost efficiency and growth, whilst making our lives easier.  From logistics to traffic control to remotely controlling the thermostats in our homes, it’s all about connecting sensors and devices over the internet. Unfortunately, coverage for this technology is not always accessible or reliable in remote and rural areas that can be out of range – but that’s all about to change.

At the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre UK, at Harwell (ESA BIC UK), which is managed by STFC, satellite technology start-up Lacuna Space has developed a revolutionary, low-cost ‘communications gateway’ that brings the even furthest corners of the planet into the IoT global community.

In collaboration with leading US supplier of high performance semiconductors, Semtech Inc. (Nasdaq: SMTC) , Lacuna Space is using Semtech’s innovative low power wireless technology (LoRa) and LoRa® devices, to  dramatically extend connectivity, via satellites, to communicate with mobile and remote IoT devices everywhere in the world, all the time.

To do this, Lacuna Space is using a constellation of low-earth orbiting satellites to receive messages from specialist sensors on the ground. At about 500km above the ground, the satellites circle over the poles of the earth every 100 minutes and, as the earth revolves below them, the satellites cover the globe, communicating via, what is called, the LoRaWAN™ network for long-range wireless connections. The sensors store the data until they pass over ground stations, at which point they relay the data that the recipient receives via an app or through Lacuna’s web user platform. The technology is applicable to any IoT device that needs broader, continuous coverage anywhere in the world.

Rob Spurrett, CEO at Lacuna Space, said: “Our vision is to provide low-cost, simple and reliable global connections to Internet of Things technologies and equipment that work everywhere, all the time. Having access to the business support, technology and space test facilities through STFC and ESA has made a massive difference to us in our journey as we now move towards completing our first field test later this year. There are endless possibilities for things that sensors can measure for us, the limit literally is our imagination.”

Dr Sue O’Hare, Operations Manager at the ESA BIC Harwell said: “Making Internet-of Things technology available to everyone in the world, all of the time is a massive achievement.  This is a particularly exciting example of how space technology can be applied to the benefit of both the economy and the day-to-day lives of so many, and I am looking forward to seeing the exciting milestones that lay ahead for Lacuna Space in the very near future.”

Science and Technology Facilities Council
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