Unidata and Technology

Cook Islands: Weather monitoring – embracing technology for climate action

Neon Technology is being used for systems installed in the Cook Islands to monitor. A United Nations Development Program funded project, assisted by NIWA in New Zealand and others in the Pacific is building robust infrastructure to assist with monitoring climate parameters.

As these islands are remote, the Neon Inmarsat Satellite Systems are being used alongside the local communications systems to provide reasonably priced communications infrastructure with least cost routed Inmarsat satellite backup in the event of a local communications system failure.

What was once a manual process is now a seamless, automatic one, achieved through the collaboration of Cook Islands Met Service, the Cook Islands Bluesky telecommunications provider, New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Fiji’s Meteorological Service and the Pa Enua (outer island) governments, with the support of the UN Development Program and Adaptation Fund.

Nine automatic weather stations have been installed on the islands of Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Rarotonga, Manihiki, Rakahanga, Penrhyn, and Pukapuka and are capturing and transmitting data on atmospheric temperature, wind speed, wind direction, humidity, rainfall, and atmospheric pressure. Anyone with an Internet connection can now access live information and forecasts.

Supporting the transition to the next generation of technology are young staff at Met Service (eight of the department’s eleven staff are under 30). No strangers to using technology in every aspect of their lives, they are proudly leading the way in embracing technology and providing the community with easier access to forecasts. The instrument setup is the typical set of weather monitoring instruments set up as a tier 2 weather station. Please also see photos of the installations and a typical equipment enclosure showing the Neon Remote Terminal and the Inmarsat satellite modem.

Landing this equipment at the Cook Islands is always challenging. Sea conditions must be ideal to allow for unloading equipment from the main supply ship to the loading barge to bring the equipment offshore.

Decline of 3G & Globalstar services/move to Inmarsat & Iridium services

With the introduction of 5G by many carriers frequency spectrum used for the 3G network will be re-purposed / re used for the newer 5G services.

Telstra was using both 2100 MHz and 850 MHz for the 3G service. They have already re-purposed the 2100 MHz services in most areas and they plan to re-purpose the 850MHz services in the next couple of years. The current and future narrowband 4G / LTE services will remain in place for several more years but it is now time to consider and plan for the shutdown of the 3G service.

We expect Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will give reasonable notice before shutting down 3G services, however, there will be pressure to release spectrum for the upcoming 5G services, and if that happens faster than anticipated then the shutdown of the 3G service may be sooner rather than later. Our expectation is that the 3G services will become unavailable in about 2022, so we have a couple of years to plan for and budget for that change.

For IOT and telemetry services we do not see any advantage to move to 5G, because we do not need the very high speed for telemetry services and we also will not like the higher power consumption of the newer and much faster technology. Telstra and Vodafone have provided lists of devices (purchased directly from carriers) likely to be affected by the shutdown.

Use web link to confirm whether your devices will be affected.

Globalstar has been very well served by Pivotel, the Globalstar operator in Australia, and also other Globalstar operators around the world for many years. The Globalstar service has been a good service over many years, however, it is much more expensive than the Inmarsat BGAN service these days. As Globalstar moves more into the tracking/positioning business we see a decline in the two-way data service. Also, there are no new production runs of the Globalstar 1720 Modems planned so the supply of modems is now very limited.

We also see future growth for Inmarsat full IP and Iridium services, with Inmarsat being the best for equatorial services and we await the launch of the new Iridium full IP Certus service in the next couple of years, and we see the Iridium Short Burst Data Service to be a great choice using the new Neon two-way message-based protocol soon to be released here at Unidata.

New Two Way Message-Based Protocol Implementation: LoRa LPWAN & Message-Based Satellite Services

There are several communications services which provide a short message service, similar to an SMS text message service, and we are seeing a growth in these services. The NRL currently supports LoRa LPWAN, Iridium Short Burst Data service and also other emerging message-based services.

These services are in general terms message only services, where a message is sent from the NRL to the Neon Server without acknowledgement, without the ability to reconfigure NRL online, without the ability to download programs (schemes) and without the ability to retransmit lost data from the logger. The industry calls this one-way-services “send and pray” because there is no guarantee the data will reach its intended destination.

Unidata has been working on a two-way message-based service in recent months and we are soon to release that two-way message service across the message based implementations we have now. The two-way service message-based service Unidata is implementing has the ability to retransmit logged data, synchronise the clock and send Neon commands to the NRL units in the field.

While this service will not have the wide capability of the full IP service available on cell phone services, such as LTE/ Cat 1 M and NB IOT, Ethernet / Inmarsat satellite services, it will provide a subset of those functions, appropriate to match the lower capacity and higher latency of message-based services.

For our 3004BM and 3001B NRLs which offer LoRa, Iridium SBD and Microsatellite services we can offer a much more robust and effective logger and IOT/ Neon telemetry service, and the cost of the service is either nil, in the case of LoRa, or small in the case of the Iridium SBD and Microsatellite services.

The new two-way message-based services suit low data volume applications such as soil moisture and groundwater monitoring. For customers committed using LoRa, the two-way message-based services provide a much more robust service, as they can retransmit logged data across the LoRa network and they can also maintain time integrity for the logged data.

Iridium SBD satellite and Microsatellite services are easy to deploy because these are low earth orbit systems.