Satellite connectivity company Swarm has unveiled a new product that will give anyone the ability to create a messaging or Internet of Things (IoT) device, be it a hiker looking to stay connected off the grid or a hobbyist looking to want to track time.
The Swarm Evaluation Kit is an all-in-one product that includes Swarm Tile, the company’s flagship modem device, a VHF antenna, a small solar panel, a tripod, a Feather S2 development board, and an Adafruit OLED. The complete kit costs less than six pounds and is $ 499. The package may seem intimidatingly technical, but Swarm CEO Sara Spangelo explained to TechCrunch that it was designed to be easy to use, from the most novice consumer to user. more advanced.
“It was super intentional to call it an evaluation kit because it’s not a finished product,” Spangelo explained. “It serves two different types of groups. The first group are people who want to be able to send messages anywhere on the planet for a really low cost. […] The second group of people will be handymen, hobbyists and educators. “
This is the second consumer product Swarm has offered, after it was commercially launched with its flagship Swarm Tile earlier this year. The swarm tile It is a key component of the ecosystem of the company, which consists of a few different components: the Tile, a kind of modem that can be integrated into different things and with which the client interacts; the satellite network; and a network of ground stations, which is the company’s way of linking data. The Tile is designed for maximum compatibility, which is why Swarm serves clients in all sectors, including shipping, logistics, and agriculture.
“One of the cool things about Swarm is that we are infrastructure,” he said. “We are like mobile phone towers, so anyone can use us in any vertical.” Some of the use cases he highlighted included customers using Tile in soil moisture sensors or asset tracking in the trucking industry.
An important 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 connected device. Spangelo credits not only engineering innovations in small devices and satellites, but also gains in launch economics, especially for small satellite developers like Swarm. The company also sells direct, further reducing overhead costs.
Swarm was founded by Spangelo, a pilot and an aerospace engineering Ph.D. who spent time at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and at Google on his drone delivery project, Wing. She told TechCrunch that Swarm started as a hobby project between her and co-founder Ben Longmier, who had previously founded a company called Aether Industries that made high-altitude balloon platforms.
“Later [we] we realized that we could communicate at speeds similar to what legacy players are doing today, ”said Sara Spangelo. “There was a lot of buzz around connectivity,” he added, noting that initiatives like Project Loon were getting a lot of funding. But instead of trying to match the size and scale of some of these multi-year projects, they decided to go small.
In the four and a half years since the company’s founding, Swarm has installed a network of 120 sandwich-sized satellites in low Earth orbit and increased its workforce to 32 people. They have also been busy onboarding clients that use Tile. One hope is that the kit is an additional way to attract customers to Swarm’s service.
Spangelo said the kit is for “everyone in the middle, who likes to play with things. And it’s not just about playing, playing leads to innovations and ideas, and then it’s implemented in the world. “