it’s almost done It’s a year after SpaceX acquired satellite Internet-of-things connectivity provider Swarm, and Swarm co-founder and CEO Sarah Spangelo (now senior director of satellite engineering at SpaceX) is set to talk about how What is the herd doing at that time? SpaceX isn’t known to be a super-acquisitive company, so I was curious to know how it fared for Spangelo and Swarm. Mostly, it’s been ten months of rapid acceleration, she says.
One of Swarm’s biggest detractors in terms of deployment speed and scaling its network was its ability to actually launch its satellites, which are themselves small – the company says they are “the smallest operational satellites in space”. , slightly more than the size of your average sandwich. Spangello said unlocking launch availability has been one of the biggest benefits of operating under the SpaceX umbrella so far.
“Access to a basically free launch is very exciting,” she told me in an interview. “We’ve actually launched three or four times since we last talked [editor’s note: in June 2021 for our Found podcast]And now we have LEO . has more than 160 satellites [low-Earth orbit] – Some of them are experimental.”
Those experimental payloads have helped the company improve its overall latency, so it can now guarantee a latency of less than an hour (meaning that the Swarm satellite will land at any point on Earth at least once an hour). The bar passes), which opens up wider new customer categories and applications for its low-bandwidth, highly efficient connectivity services.
“It’s a very important limitation, if you’re doing any kind of monitoring, whether it’s flooding, water, wildfire detection, agricultural applications, logistics applications – it’s a very important limitation in that community. kind of,” Spangelo explained. “to be less [latency]Which has opened up a bunch of exciting new use cases and customers.”
Swarm’s small satellites are essentially rocking a ride on SpaceX launches for other customers, where it’s easier for the company to “just pop them” in Spangello’s words. Satellite launches play ounces due to weight, but the benefits of being the smallest operational satellite in space mean you’re better off fitting within the current mission payload parameters for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, even with other cargo. give chance. riding.
While access to regular orbital delivery service is incredibly valuable for a technology like Swarm, Spangelo says it has also unlocked a number of other capabilities that will help the previously small startup advance in terms of its maturity and infrastructure. We do.
“We have access to more support systems,” she said. “So legal, accounting, human resources, recruitment, logistics, supply chain and production. This has also helped us accelerate our production rate, [and] Our recruitment rate. We are expanding and we will probably do 10 times the number of devices sold this year compared to last year.”
Of course, it’s a two-way street (it wouldn’t make much sense as an acquisition otherwise) and Spangelo says SpaceX is already reaping great benefits.
“We are also supporting SpaceX in a number of other programs ranging from engineering and technology, and regulatory strategies, that we hope will have a chance to talk in the future,” she said, reserving details about those programs. Log in for now. I suggested that some sort of marriage between Starlink’s consumer Internet service and Swarm’s connected device offerings might make sense, and she agreed that they were exploring there.
“We are definitely having product discussions between Starlink Broadband, Swarm IoT and everything in between,” she said. “And the roadmap really fills in a lot of the gaps between those things you’re alluding to. Certainly on the enterprise side, we’ve started engaging with some of the same enterprise customers. You can imagine That big agriculture companies, or oil and gas, or marine companies need broadband, as well as satellite IoT. So we’re certainly able to really benefit both ways from those reciprocal relationships: some swarm customers. Interested in Starlink, and vice versa.
With new use cases and new sales relationships, as well as great demand from both sides, Spangelo says that both Starlink and Swarm within SpaceX are still growing their teams despite the current macroeconomic conditions, especially when specific When it comes to kind of talent.
“Many people don’t know that Starlink is actually a networking company,” she said. “we think” [SpaceX] As a hardware rocket company – a group of mechanical engineers. But the sophistication of the software, the networking algorithms, the core network, and the backend on the laser mesh network, makes it incredibly complex. So, I think, we have over 200 software engineers on Starlink, and 500 or so [SpaceX], But we’re definitely looking for incredible talent out there.”
Spangelo is excited that Swarm is able to work and do better as a SpaceX company, mentioning a number of new use cases that have come online since the last time we spoke, including wildfires. Including detection. With a maximum latency of less than an hour, and often results that are refreshed within minutes, you can drastically change the approach to wildfire detection and mitigation, which can only be used by people when monitored through traditional methods. It can spread for hours or days without knowing it. Swarm is working with several companies there, including Berlin-based . also includes Dryad Network,
Another recent customer, rainforest connectionUses Swarm’s IoT network to connect simple acoustic sensors deployed in the Brazilian rainforest.
“Basically, they just have an acoustic sensor, like you have on your phone, and it basically just listens to a chainsaw, and then calls people who will shut down. [deforestation],” he said. “That is so cool to me – that such a simple sensor can make such a big impact, because these things are so hard to find.”
As for what the future holds for Swarm, Spangelo says they’re actually very happy with where the satellite hardware and design currently is, although they want to build more software products for enterprise customers. “There are also some products that are more standalone that are more suited to really tracking use cases, and there are some larger enterprise use cases” that don’t require sophisticated integration of their current modem designs, she said, Somewhat more “on” the brand with Elon Musk’s “out-of-the-box philosophy”, much of what he said has already made an impact on the product side.
In the meantime, Swarm continues to operate out of its facility in Mountain View, which is only a short walk from the nearby SpaceX office, making collaboration relatively simple. The Falcon 9 launch pads are a little further away, but you can’t beat the price of the ride.