IoT and Satellites Can Make Emergency Service Outages a Thing of the Past Featured – The Fast Mode

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Last month, four US states were hit by a 911 outage that lasted for hours. Residents in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Texas were left without access to emergency services during this time. This may not seem like such a big deal for someone young and healthy. But anyone who has ever suffered from a life-threatening medical condition, or simply has an elderly relative, knows only too well that two and a half hours could be a matter of life and death.

Several weeks after the incident, a tech company admitted responsibility for causing the outage in three of the four states, after a third party installed a light pole that disrupted its network. The reason for the outages in Texas still hasn’t been identified.

Many will agree that losing connection to the most crucial services in a developed country in the 21st century is nothing short of terrifying. This incident highlights just how fragile and unreliable our existing connections are. If simple installation works can disrupt our most crucial connectivity channels so easily, how can we ever be certain that emergency services will be available at the moment we need them? It’s time for a change to avoid the potential loss of lives.

The role of IoT in healthcare

The good news is that alternative technology already exists that can ensure anyone, even in the most remote parts of the world, can contact emergency services within seconds at the click of a button. The solution lies at the intersection of satellite technology and the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT may seem like a new concept, but it actually dates back all the way to the 1980s, though it didn’t really take off until the start of this century. IoT encompasses a network of interconnected devices – from smart appliances like fridges and toothbrushes, to agricultural equipment connected to a wireless network.

The healthcare sector, in particular, offers vast opportunities for the application of IoT technology. For example, IoT devices make remote patient monitoring (RPM) possible by tracking the vital signs of people with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.

Studies have shown that this IoT application can have significant positive effects on patient health. For example, a study by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center showed a 47% decrease in patient visits and a 40% drop in elderly patient hospitalizations as a result of RPM device use.

There are many other different types of healthcare IoT devices: from smart beds, which can detect if a patient is trying to get up and therefore help avoid falls, to smart pill dispensers that remind patients to take their medication. And, crucially, these devices can come to the rescue when traditional channels connecting us to emergency services fail.

Saving lives with satellites

Typically, IoT devices connect via a variety of networks: from WiFi and Bluetooth. However, each type of connection has its limitations, whether it be outages or unreliable connections. Today, wireless satellite networks offer a novel way to achieve planet-wide connectivity even in the most remote corners of the world.

So how does this work? In such a network, IoT devices transmit data to geostationary or low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, which then transmit this data down to stations that are scattered across the globe, making a global outage incredibly unlikely. These networks are already being applied across various industries, from maritime to military and defense.

But such satellite IoT networks can also revolutionize emergency healthcare services. Via simple panic button IoT devices, vulnerable individuals can send a signal to a satellite if they are feeling unwell and require emergency assistance, which will then be transmitted to the closest emergency services.

Truly global coverage

Satellites provide connectivity anywhere on the globe, regardless of how remote, and this connection won’t be affected by something as routine as a light pole installation. When it comes to healthcare, satellite IoT networks provide much-needed redundancy in remote areas that are at risk of outages and backup coverage in the case of cable failure, like we saw last month. Not to mention that wearable IoT devices offer the perfect solution for monitoring vulnerable patients remotely, ensuring they are never left without emergency healthcare when they need it.

Not only that, IoT panic buttons can be useful for individuals who regularly venture out into remote areas, such as hikers or climbers, who face the danger of being injured out in the wilderness. With the help of satellite technology and the tracker inside the IoT device, the exact location of the affected person is transmitted to emergency services, ensuring that help can arrive as promptly as possible.

The truly global wireless IoT network created with the help of such satellites has the advantage of offering countless other applications beyond healthcare, meaning a higher return on the initial investment.

Of course, no network is fail-safe – satellites can be disrupted by strong solar storms, for example, like the one that recently projected Northern Lights across the globe. Yet these events are extremely rare, and by having more satellites in orbit than the minimum number required, such risks can be reduced to near zero.

When existing communication systems are as unreliable as they are today, it’s time to turn to innovative solutions to ensure that no one is ever left without access to emergency services – not even for one second.

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