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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Harnessing the potential of the Internet of Things and satellites to make smart agriculture a reality


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Lack of access to fast and reliable Internet in rural and remote areas is a [multi-step] challenge that must be addressed to pave the way for smart agriculture and precision farming, a vital step toward ensuring food security in a changing climate. In the quest for smart agriculture, researchers are working on solutions for connecting Internet of Things (IoT) with satellite communication (SATCOM) systems.

The European Commission has recognised that all farmers and rural areas need access to fast and reliable Internet , this being the only way for farmers to move toward digital and smart agriculture. Based on Internet of Things (IoT) technology, smart agriculture is a solution to enhance both productivity as well as competitiveness. Smart agriculture is also at the heart of transforming and reorienting agricultural systems toward supporting development – ultimately, it will help ensure food security in a changing climate.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_single_image image=”68198″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes” onclick=”img_link_large”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]

What needs to happen to enable agriculture to move in this direction? An important step: Global IoT connectivity. To make this a reality requires, in simple terms, bringing IoT technology together with satellite communication (SATCOM).  Why? Satellites can provide wide-area coverage, where terrestrial networks are not available.

Over the last years, several satellite operators and IoT companies have recognised the innovation potential that would come from integrating satellites with so-called Low Power Area Networks (LPWANs) IoT networks. In fact, some companies (Lacuna Space and Wyld) have taken steps to demonstrate how global IoT connectivity can be achieved by integrating a LoRaWAN gateway on a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.

While this is an important step in the right direction, many open research challenges remain and must be addressed to, allow the smooth integration and interoperability of satellite and LPWAN networks.

“Connecting IoT devices directly to LEO satellite is a big challenge, with several issues to face, related for instance to Synchronization, Scalability, Interoperability, Power Consumption” explains Mohammad Afhamisis, a computer scientist and satellite engineer in the 2nd year of his PhD project.

As part of his PhD project, Mohammad is designing scheduling techniques for LoRaWAN networks with LEO satellite backhaul. This involves addressing several challenges, for example synchronising  LoRA end devices with a mobile gateway – the challenge here lies in limited visibility time of the LEO satellite, as well as the  high probability for collision, due to the large number of IoT devices in the satellite coverage range.

Mohammad designed ‘SALSA’ – A Scheduling Algorithm for LoRa to LEO satellites, which helps ensuring reliable communication from IoT devices on the ground to constellations of LEO satellites.

Familiar with this research topic? Read more about the details of this research in our peer-to-peer section below.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”68199″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes” onclick=”img_link_large”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”68200″ img_size=”large” add_caption=”yes” onclick=”img_link_large”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]

Mohammad Afhamisis is a Computer Scientist and Satellite Engineer who started his PhD in the REMOTE research group (ERIN department) at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in October 2020. His PhD is funded in the framework of an FNR CORE project, led by his supervisor Maria Rita Palattella.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”62636″ img_size=”medium”][vc_column_text]RELATED FUNDING[/vc_column_text][interactive_banner banner_title=”CORE” link_opts=”box” banner_link=”|title:CORE||” banner_bg_color=”#56275c” banner_overlay_bg_color=”#6d0663″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1652967326790{background-color: rgba(138,184,190,0.16) !important;*background-color: rgb(138,184,190) !important;}”][vc_column_text]


On his research – in one sentence

“Connecting rural remote areas and enabling digitalized agriculture with IoT and LEO satellites.”

On the challenges in his research, from Aloha to Class A and B devices

“In my PhD, I focus on designing scheduling techniques for LoRaWAN networks, with LEO-satellite backhaul. This implies addressing several technical challenges: first of all, synchronization of a large number of LoRa end devices with a mobile gateway, considering the limited visibility time of the LEO satellite, and the high collision probability. I am comparing simple Aloha, slotted-Aloha, and reservation-based scheduling schemes for Class A and Class B devices, acknowledged versus not-acknowledge traffic. To evaluate and validate the proposed scheduling techniques, I am developing an emulator-based testbed, integrating real LoRaWAN end-devices and gateways, with a satellite emulator.”

On SALSA, A Scheduling Algorithm for LoRa to LEO satellites

“I have proposed SALSA, A Scheduling Algorithm for LoRa to LEO Satellites, ensuring reliable communication from IoT devices on the ground to constellations of LEO satellites. The work has been published in a Special Issue (SI) of the IEEE Access Magazine[1].”

“SALSA ensures reliable communication, avoiding packets drops and packet collisions, by using a Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) approach, rather than classic ALOHA-based LoRa.  The uplink transmissions of the devices are scheduled considering the satellite availability period, the satellite footprint, and the specific visit time for each device. I proposed two different policies: First Come First Served (FCFS), and FAIR policy. By means of simulation results, I demonstrated that SALSA allows achieving better performance compared to standard LoRa.  In addition, I designed a testbed which integrates the OpenSAND GEO satellite emulator, with a real LoRaWAN network. The testbed represents a first attempt to reproduce the entire end-to-end system in real working condition.”


On his background

“After graduating as a Satellite Technology engineer, I had experiences on managing projects on radio communications and IoT. The PhD position offered by LIST, in the LORSAT project was a great opportunity for me to combine my knowledge on SATCOM and IoT and make a relevant contribution in the field.”

Mohammad Afhamisis (copyright: LIST)

What he loves about science

“I love challenges, and I am interested in finding possible solutions. Research is the best working environment for identifying every day new challenges/research questions and look for impactful solutions that can make a change in our life.”

Where he sees himself in 5 years

“5 years from now, I still see myself in research, maybe closely working in collaboration with companies, for developing innovative Satellite and IoT solutions that can have an impact non only on Luxembourg, but on the entire world.”

On choosing Luxembourg for his research

“Several reasons motivated me to leave my home country, Iran, and move to Luxembourg. With its multi-cultural environment, it was among the best choices to relocate to a new country, without the risk of not feeling well-integrated. As one of the countries contributing to the Space sector, it was a good choice for purchasing my PhD on the topic of IoT integration with satellite. The possibility of making research in a stimulating environment, constantly receiving feedback, and input from local SAT and IoT companies, besides researchers, gives me higher chance to produce impactful outcomes.”

On mentors with an impact

“My current PhD thesis supervisor, Dr. Maria Rita Palattella has a positive impact on my work, I take inspiration from her hard work, and dedication. Prior to my PhD, I also received relevant guides from Dr. Ali Balador, Dr. Siavash Bayat, Dr. Majid Esmaeilzadeh and Mr. Hosein Habibpour.”

[1] “SALSA: A Scheduling Algorithm for LoRa to LEO Satellites”,[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”3/4″ css=”.vc_custom_1647509270144{background-color: rgba(107,107,107,0.16) !important;*background-color: rgb(107,107,107) !important;}”][vc_column_text]

About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an annual FNR campaign where we shine a Spotlight on early-career researchers across the world with a connection to Luxembourg. Over 100 features have been published since the first edition in 2016.

Browse them below![/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”features” max_items=”-1″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”6″ show_filter=”yes” item=”22954″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1654253217441-0c3aff07-c01d-2″ taxonomies=”136″ filter_source=”category”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]