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Among the players, Sky and Space Global (Perth, Australia) has launched three of 200 nanosatellites that it plans to put into orbit for a cost of $160 million. The S-band sats use a novel mesh networking technology and are geared for a number of applications beyond IoT.

Astrocast (Lausanne, Switzerland) plans to launch 64 nanosats at a cost of $50 million by 2021, with its first launches this fall. U.S. startup Swarm reportedly ran afoul with U.S. regulators when it launched from India a handful of satellites too small to track.

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We are still in in the early stages of satellite IoT,” said Alex Grant, chief executive of Myriota (Adelaide, Australia), which aims to make satellite links directly to IoT end nodes. Companies are getting their infrastructure in space … ultimately, we see a market for hundreds of millions of devices.”

The startup designed a $50 module with a five-year battery life based on an off-the-shelf UHF transceiver loaded with its own firmware and algorithms. It aims to get the module designed into OEM sensor gear before the end of the year. Many other startups are embedding more bulky and power-hungry satellite receivers in access points that link to hundreds of end nodes via Wi-Fi or LoRa.

For its part, Myriota filed for 20 patents on its proprietary waveform, coding scheme, network architecture, and approaches to delivering end-node security and location data. Today, it serves a few hundred pilot users based on connections to four third-party satellites.

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Next year, the startup aims to launch its first two or three satellites dedicated to UHF bands that deliver wide coverage for relatively low power. It has filed regulatory requests for 24 satellites so far and hopes to have a constellation of more than 100 up within five years.

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Alex Grant shows Myriota’s $50 module that lives up to five years off of a battery. (Image: Myriota)

All of the startups will compete and collaborate with a handful of existing satellite IoT players including Iridium. The former Motorola spin-off started its life as a provider of global voice services but, in 2006, added narrowband IoT data services that are now its fastest-growing business segment.

The service targets system OEMs. The startup also runs a partner program selling subscriptions to SoC and module vendors. So far, it supports code running on six development boards, spanning Arm, Intel and RISC-V processors.

Foundries.io is the first independent effort to commercialize Zephyr” after Wind River, the creator of the RTOS it made open source while part of Intel, said Christopher Rommel, a vice president of embedded software and hardware at VDC Research Group, Inc. Wind River is not actively promoting Zephyr since Intel sold it to a private equity group.

The startup’s support for RISC-V is further evidence of that community’s momentum,” Rommel said. However, he noted the market for embedded operating systems is well served by traditional players such as MonaVista and Wind River, as well as many new entrants including cloud computing giants and cellular carriers.

Indeed, the IoT software sector is getting crowded. Arm has in recent years spun up an increasingly rich set of embedded software offerings under its Mbed group. In addition, Google has rolled out Android Things for the IoT, Amazon bought FreeRTOS and Microsoft rolled out a full IoT stack using proprietary security hardware.

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