The new product from satellite connectivity company Swarm will give anyone the ability to create a messaging or Internet of Things (IoT) device, whether it’s a hiker looking to stay connected off the grid or a hobbyist who likes the weather want to pursue.
The Swarm Evaluation Kit is an all-in-one product that includes a Swarm Tile, the company’s flagship modem device, VHF antenna, small solar panel, tripod, Feather S2 development board, and an Adafruit OLED. The entire kit costs less than £ 6 and is $ 499. The package might sound intimidatingly technical, but Sara Spangelo, CEO of Swarm, told . that it was designed to be easy to use from novice to advanced users.
“It was very intentional to call it an evaluation kit because it is not a finished product,” explained Spangelo. “It serves two different types of groups. The first group is people who want to be able to send messages anywhere in the world at a really low cost. … The second group of people will be the tinkerers and the hobbyists and the educators. “
This is the second consumer product for Swarm – it went live commercially earlier this year with its flagship Swarm Tile. The Swarm Tile is an important part of the company’s ecosystem, which includes several different components: the Tile, a type of modem that can be embedded in various things and to which the customer is connected; the satellite network; and a ground station network that the company uses to downlink data. The Tile was developed for maximum compatibility so that Swarm serves customers from different sectors such as shipping, logistics and agriculture.
“One of the cool things about Swarm is that we’re infrastructure,” she said. “We’re like cell towers, so anyone can use us in any industry.” Some of the use cases she highlighted were customers using Tile in soil moisture sensors or asset tracking in the trucking industry.
A key part of Swarm’s business model is its low cost, with a Swarm tile costing $ 119 and the connectivity service available for just $ 5 per month per device connected. Spangelo not only praises the technical innovations in the tiny devices and satellites, but also the advantages in the startup economy, especially for developers of small satellites like Swarm. The company also sells direct, which further reduces overhead costs.
Swarm was founded by Spangelo, a PhD pilot and aerospace engineer. who spent some time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and Google for the Wing drone project. She told . that Swarm began as a hobby project between her and her co-founder, Ben Longmier, who had previously started a company called Aether Industries that made high-altitude balloon platforms.
“Then [we] realized that we can communicate at speeds similar to legacy players today, ”said Spangelo. “The connectivity got a lot of buzz,” she added, noting that initiatives like Project Loon made a lot of money. But instead of trying to get the size and scope of some of these multi-year projects, they decided to go small.
In the four and a half years since the company was founded, Swarm has built a network of 120 sandwich satellites in low-earth orbit and has grown its workforce to 32 people. They were also busy engaging customers using the Tile. One hope is that the kit will provide an additional opportunity to attract customers to Swarm’s service.
Spangelo said the jersey is for “everyone in between who just likes to play with things. And it’s not just playing – playing leads to innovations and ideas, and then it’s carried out into the world. “