Countries are making preparations to turn the rapidly warming Arctic into a busy global shipping route, implying 2 specific needs:
- Commercial ship owners have an increased need for tracking of the cargo both for the environmental protection and commercial agreements
- The environment will require additional remote sensing, but which is not costeffective due to the need of having separate satellite communication for each sensor or experiment.
(Map: Arctic Institute, November 2016): Various shipping routes that are opening up to cargo ships as warming global temperatures reduce Arctic summer sea ice.
The objective of the ARC-REACH project is to validate the feasibility to setup a lowpower long-range dynamic radio network, tailored for tracking of cargo and maritime activity, complemented with remote sensing of the environment.
The proposed service will use GNSS for asset tracking, and the ship's’ satellite communications for linking the local radio network to the internet.
The objective of the ARC-REACH project is to have a validation of:
- Commercial shipping companies have the need of cargo tracking in the region and show a willingness to pay for the service
- The proposed technological solution is cost-effective and is proven to be reliable in a harsh environment.
- The scientific community confirms the proposed low-power radio network has a cost positive effect on future remote sensing in the area.
Users and their needs
The integration and the cooperation of the technologies in an Arctic environment is nonexistent and will require additional developments. In addition, the complexity of a dynamic meshed local radio network (constantly changing due to the shipping activity), combined with a non-secure satellite connection in the field will bring specific technical challenges to ensure data and service reliability.
Existing applications and competitors technology are mainly based on traditional satellite communications such as Iridium/Inmarsat/Argos/… or finally even the physical collection of data during field expeditions. These trackers operate with less overall accuracy in the middle of the ocean or in wilderness areas. Also, a satellite tracker needs to be positioned where it has a view of the sky to communicate with the satellites. These devices come at a high cost, are relatively complex, need regular maintenance and have reduced autonomy.
The proposed solution is based on the Sigfox LPWA network, answering the customer's real needs of large scale low-cost asset tracking on ships and throughout the logistic chain:
1. The extreme autonomy of the sensors allow longer sensing campaigns and smaller form factor
2. The lower cost of the sensors allows for a wider use, monitoring more assets.
3. The lower cost of data access allows a low-level entry for many small experiments and remote sensing campaigns.
4. Remote data harvesting will heavily reduce costs related to in-field data collection
5. There is room for synergies between the proposed service and new stakeholders that can benefit of this technology further reducing cost.
Service/ system concept
6 main components can be distinguished in the technical architecture:
1: SENSOR LEVEL
The specifically developed sensors are battery-powered and wireless to be installed easily on any object.
2: LOCAL NETWORK LEVEL
A local LPWAN needs to be put on service at each ship. This supports both short-range as medium-range communication. Base stations need to be installed on the ships which will connect with the sensors, while sending the data over an existing satellite communication to the cloud.
3: PUBLIC GROUND AND SATELLITE-BASED LPWAN
A public satellite-based communication network is required to cover specific use case needs.
4: TRADITIONAL SATELLITE-BASED COMMUNICATION
The local base stations need to be linked up with the traditional satellite-based communication. Local data access for monitoring is foreseen when external data link is not available.
5: INTERNET OF THINGS PLATFORM
The Internet of Things (IoT) platform is cloud-based and highly scalable and will be the core of the data service.
6: DOMAIN SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS
The end-user needs access to the remote monitoring and data.
The initial user survey and analysis based on existing stakeholders in the Arctic region confirmed the interest in a low-cost, easy to install and maintain solution for remote monitoring. All the survey information was combined into a technical service architecture. During a demonstrator the proposed technical service architecture has been proved to be functional and suited for Arctic operations.
A detailed market and competition study was performed, with a market prediction for the next years. Finally, based on all technical and market information, a detailed business and financial plan has been elaborated with experts in the domain.