High Throughput Satellites Benefit Military and Medicine
Col. Andrew Weate, chief architecture and analysis division, U.S. Department of Defense executive agent for space staff speaking at HTS roundtable in Washington D.C.
Image credit: Steve Schuster
[Satellite TODAY 05-24-13] High Throughput Satellites have been making headlines in the mainstream media recently and are positioned to be a real “game changer” serving the military and end users, said David Hartshorn, secretary general of GVF during a HTS roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. May 22. Large corporations are taking notice and Hartshorn specifically mentioned Google and Kymeta as investors of next-generation HTS services.
“There’s a new cast of characters at a very high level who have seen a new level of relevance in satellites,” Hartshorn said.
One of the key panels at the event looked at how HTS would impact the military and defense sector. Kathryn Martin, who worked for the U.S. Department of State’s communications policy office in 1990s and now serves as director of Access Partnership, said she’s optimistic about the future of HTS. “There has been a lot of good discussion at the international level … about how to help support user needs,” Martin said. And those users come from a variety of sectors, according to Wayne Marhefka, senior U.S. DoD business development director with Hughes. He said there are a wide variety of market opportunities from retail and broadcast to government. “Many government agencies [and] military, emergency response, custom and border protection,” would be interested in HTS, Marhefka said.
But as past precedent has demonstrated, advances in technology can create other concerns, such as regulation. John Guidon, chief technology officer, Row44 said that too much regulation has been a problem in the past. “What we came to discover was that there was a plethora of regional CIA and regional communications authorities around the world. … It’s a highly regulated industry,” he said.
But according to several panelists, HTS will give operators and end users more flexibility ranging from how bandwidth is priced to coverage, and even regarding regulatory affairs.
As coverage needs increase and demand for services rise, the U.S. military hopes to reap the benefits from HTS. “We have a continually growing appetite for information and data flow,” said Col. Andrew Weate, chief, architecture and analysis division, U.S. DoD executive agent for space staff. Specifically Weate said the U.S. military’s “communications backbone is one of our key enablers for defense operations. Information at that tactical edge provides the key enabling capability for seeing, knowing and acting in joint operations.”
In addition to the regular training and strategic links that connect nodes around the world, contingency operations create even greater challenges for the U.S. military, Weate said. “When we employ forces for the away game … it is hard to predict. We can’t tell you right now where we will need that communication next year, or even five to 10 years from now, nor can we tell you the entire capacity that we are going to need,” he said.
But HTS will likely provide an opportunity for the U.S. military to comply with “a full spectrum of service requirements” varying from voice and data services to video, “all across multiple echelons of classified networks,” Weate said. “From a military perspective we’re looking for capacity and coverage. HTS provide a nice opportunity for both of those.”
Col Patrick Rayermann who is retired from the U.S. Army and now works in business development for Astrium Services Government said applications are plentiful and are now a necessity. “Consumers perceive they want it now, but in many cases military customers really do need it now. It may save lives. It certainly will make the difference between mission success and mission failure,” Rayermann said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using VSee video conferencing technology in the Middle East as demonstrated at the HTS roundtable.
Image credit: VSee
In the same light of saving lives, one of the final panels of the event looked at what impact HTS could have on a particular vertical: telemedicine. When a child in a remote part of Africa suffers from heart disease, a rare medical condition, or even needs a tooth extracted, his or her doctor may actually be reading the MRI or X-ray from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C. or perhaps even from a remote location on an entirely different continent using video conferencing technology.
This technology would not be available but for the use of satellites. And in the wake of the advancement of HTS, doctors are able to provide better care for their patients, according to Craig Sable, medical director of telemedicine at Children’s Hospital in Washington D.C.
Sable was one of several panelists who discussed the cutting-edge tools now available to the health care sector. He said he spends an hour a week reviewing telemedicine patients cases and has been doing so for more than a decade overall both in his office and via a webcam. Just one day prior to the roundtable discussion on May 22, he said telemedicine saved a baby’s life in Morocco.
“We helped plan a surgery. Patients live who would have otherwise died, [thanks to] technology like this,” Sable said. The experience also serves as training for other doctors. “Usually there are 20 people in the room observing,” he added.
Armed with statistics, Sable said the average age of his patient is only 4.8 years old and in 2011-2012 the program had 170 cases with 139 patients.
And, according to the Global Health Workforce Alliance, there is a global shortage of 4.2 million health care workers, with 1.5 million needed in Africa alone. Sable said satellite technology could help bridge that gap while serving as a financial boon to satellite providers.
Follow Steve Schuster on Twitter @stevenschuster
Follow Steve Schuster on Twitter @stevenschuster