Eclipse spotlights satellite-connected car in Greenville
Greenville, South Carolina is one of the U.S. cities that has seen its population spike this weekend ahead of today’s solar eclipse. The town of 68,000 people expects as many as half a million visitors today. First responders have been preparing for months, and decided early on to rely on a back-up system that would be completely separate from cellular networks. Like the thousands of visitors with their eclipse glasses, the connected car that supports the Greenville police will be looking to the sky.
“If it sees the sky, you get access to the Internet,” said Kymeta founder Nathan Kundtz. Kymeta’s antenna is mounted on a Toyota RAV4 that will provide emergency communications wherever needed, if first responders cannot access the cellular networks.
“The significant increase in visitors will have an impact on cellular networks, which are likely to face decreased capacity, and that’s a problem,” said Greenville police chief Ken Miller. He anticipates the impact will be due to the increase in people uploading photos and video of the eclipse to social media.
Kymeta has been testing its solution in the U.S., Mexico, Europe, the Caribbean, and Japan, and has had interest from wireless carriers who see it as a potential supplemental offering for public safety customers. Kundtz said it is also a workable solution for rough terrain that cellular networks cannot cover. He hopes to make the satellite-connected car commercially available before the end of the year.
The active element of the Kyemta antenna, which points to the satellite, is made by Japan’s Sharp on a manufacturing line that makes liquid crystal displays. Kundtz said this manufacturing agreement means the equipment can be made at consumer price points. Right now the cost of the terminal is $25,000.