In Canada, rural and remote communities often rely on satellite connections for internet access. However, these connections frequently suffer from technical glitches, leading to frequent service disruptions. Bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas has proven to be a persistent challenge, despite advancements in technology.

A potential solution is on the horizon, as a group of researchers from the National Research Council (NRC) and the University of Waterloo in Canada is harnessing the power of machine learning to tackle this age-old problem.

Identifying Issues Before They Escalate

The team has developed the Multivariate Variance-based Genetic Ensemble Learning Method, which combines various AI-driven techniques to detect abnormalities in satellites and satellite networks before they escalate into significant problems, as detailed in a recent press release.

Peng Hu, an adjunct professor of computer science and statistics and actuarial science at the University of Waterloo and the study’s corresponding author, highlighted the importance of satellites for providing internet access to remote areas. However, operating these satellites can be costly and time-consuming, and issues with them can lead to populations losing their vital connectivity.

The researchers put their new method to the test using three global datasets: Soil Moisture Active Passive (NASA’s satellite monitoring of soil moisture worldwide), Mars Science Laboratory rover (satellite data from the Mars rover), and Server Machine Dataset (acquired from a large internet provider). In terms of accuracy, precision, and recall, their model outperformed existing ones.

Hu emphasized the growing importance of satellite network systems in the future, stating that this research will contribute to designing more reliable, resilient, and secure satellite systems.

How Satellite Internet Works

Satellite internet relies on orbiting satellites to connect people to the internet, particularly in areas lacking access or where installing traditional broadband infrastructure like cable or DSL is financially impractical.

The process involves sending and receiving data signals between a user’s satellite dish (ground station) and a geostationary or low Earth orbit satellite. In simpler terms, the user’s dish contacts a satellite in orbit, and the satellite transmits and receives data to and from a ground station operated by the internet service provider (ISP).

Satellite internet often exhibits higher latency than terrestrial options due to the signal’s round trip to space and back. Real-time activities such as online gaming and video conferencing may experience delays.

The development of satellite internet continues, with efforts focused on increasing speed, reducing latency, and expanding coverage. This technology plays a crucial role in closing the digital divide by providing internet access to underserved and inaccessible areas.

By Impact Lab