Saturday, November 28, 2015

exactEarth’s big bet on the Internet of Things

Cambridge, Ontario-based exactEarth is thinking big and they aren’t shy about making their intentions known.

Currently, exactEarth provides satellite tracking services to the global maritime market. On November 23, 2015, they took a minority ownership position in Myriota of Adelaide, Australia, as announced in a press release, exactEarth invests in satellite 'Internet-of-Things' technology company. Myriota makes technology that connects devices globally.

This move is part of a strategy to get a piece of what’s predicted to be the next big technological development: The Internet of Things (IoT). Peter Mabson, President of exactEarth, confirmed the strategy in an article at The Record.com, ExactEarth investing in Internet of Things startup.

Many people don’t understand what the IoT is. Although at this point different definitions exist, Forbes magazine outlines one in A simple explanation of ‘The Internet Of Things’.

The key concept is this:

Simply put this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices...that's a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The IoT is a giant network of connected "things" (which also includes people). The relationship will be between people-people, people-things, and things-things.”

If that explanation isn’t clear enough, have a look at the Forbes article with the accompanying video and graphic of what the advantages and potential dangers are.

It’s easy to see why a satellite data company like exactEarth would want a piece of the IoT. Why just monitor ship activity when you can get a piece of monitoring everything?

So how does exactEarth’s latest move fit in to what they’ve done up until now?

Currently, exactEarth is jointly owned by COM DEV International Ltd. of Cambridge, Ontario (they have 73% of the company), and Hisdesat Strategic Services S.A. of Spain (they hold the rest).

COM DEV, a hardware provider to the satellite industry, must spin off exactEarth into a separate company as part of its recent sale to Honeywell International. The details of the sale are outlined in the Commercial Space Blog article, Should the proposed COM DEV sale to US-based Honeywell trigger the Investment Canada Act?

Whether or not COM DEV will have anything to do with exactEarth going forward is unknown.

Hisdesat, on the other hand, remains part of the strategy. As described on their website,

Hisdesat Servicios Estratégicos S.A. was founded in 2001 as a government satellite services operator to act primarily in the areas of defense, security, intelligence and foreign affairs. Since 2005 we have been providing secure satellite communications services to government agencies from various countries, and we are currently developing new earth observation and maritime traffic information (AIS) satellite constellations.”

Another exactEarth partner, Harris Corporation of Melbourne, Florida, bills themselves as “a world leader in space, geospatial and remote sensing solutions.”

The connection between exactEarth and Harris is covered in the Commercial Space Blog article, The REAL story behind the upcoming (maybe) exactEarth IPO.

The 3 companies combine satellite constellations, data capture and management, data processing and delivery systems, and secure communications expertise. This is where exactEarth’s minority ownership of Myriota comes into play.

Myriota bills themselves as a company with “Global Reach for the Internet of Things.” Adding a system designed specifically for the IoT pulls everything exactEarth has together for that Next Big Thing.

The Internet of Things concept is a slow developing process that will take many years. Now is probably the best time for a company to build the structure needed to be a significant player in what could turn out to be the next revolution in technology.

The strategy is clear: exactEarth wants to be one of those companies.

Who says Canadian companies can’t think big?