The IoT convergence of cyberspace with the physical world is a major driver of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With over 43 billion IoT devices projected to connect to the Internet in 2023, this technology is transforming cities and entire industries around the globe, and these changes taking place are not just in our home and work environments but also high above the skies.
The term “Internet of Things” was originally coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 to describe a system in which the Internet connected to the physical world via sensors; traditionally, this has been accomplished with IoT devices connected to internet terrestrial stations. But as Dr. Diane M. Janosek pointed out, manufacturers are now also eyeing outer space nanosatellite constellations for IoT connectivity. The ability for data to flow via nanosatellites hundreds of miles above us in space, versus cables buried six feet under, is a game changer and we are just now starting to see how this will transform and shape the future.
With U.S. investment in space projected to grow to more than $1 trillion annually by 2040, IoT may soon bring about a “satellite network of things” as noted by Janosek, who spoke of use cases already quite wide-ranging from tracking polar caps in Antarctica and animals and agriculture in Africa to tracking ships for military use.
A well-known use of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) was Elon Musk’s Starlink in Ukraine in 2022 to provide internet access. SpaceX has since restricted Ukraine’s access to disallow military use for long-range drone strikes, stating that Starlink satellites were meant for humanitarian purposes, and not for offensive purposes.
It has been said that the Starlink constellation has changed warfare. We will likely see many more changes, not just in the Russia-Ukraine war but also in other areas of conflict and tensions. Taiwan is currently working on making its own version of a Starlink satellite network in anticipation of an invasion by mainland China, and China has revealed its plans to compete with Starlink.
There are many nation-states looking to this type of communication infrastructure for national security. One key advantage is that there is no one single point of failure; as an example, for GPS systems that rely on satellites, this is imperative to improving system vulnerabilities. With so much of our modern society relying on GPS systems (transportation, emergency services, power grids and banking systems, to name just a few examples), the fallout from such an attack on GPS systems would be of great detriment.
The implementation of Starlink in Ukraine has changed the game so significantly that many are saying it has awakened a new space race. As we stand at the start of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the latest progressions in outer space will surely continue to shape our experiences here on Earth.
 See Bernard Marr, https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2022/11/07/the-top-4-internet-of-things-trends-in-2023/?sh=190ef6db2aea
 See Diane Janosek, https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1031&context=sjteil
 See https://www.economist.com/briefing/2023/01/05/how-elon-musks-satellites-have-saved-ukraine-and-changed-warfare