Inmarsat hopes app developers will help expand use of satellite broadband

Developers will able to take advantage of new high-speed satellites

Inmarsat wants more applications that take advantage of its new high-speed satellites, and has pledged to make it easier for any developer to create them.

At its first ever developer conference, the U.K. company Inmarsat will on Tuesday announce a more welcoming approach to developers. The push aims to make the necessary tools more easily available than before and help developers understand how applications that use satellite communications need to be customized.

"This will benefit both application developers and our end users around the world," said Jonathan Sinnatt, director of corporate communications at Inmarsat.

This isn't about developing the latest hot smartphone game, but creating business applications for maritime, enterprise, aviation and government sectors.

Just like many others, Inmarsat is very keen on developers creating Internet of Things applications. That's a key driver behind what we're doing now, Sinnatt said. That could include applications that make use of sensors and other connected devices located in remote areas, on boats or on airplanes.

The applications will be able to do more things than before thanks to Inmarsat's new fleet of Global Xpress satellites. They will offer download speeds at more than 50Mbps and global coverage in the first half of this year. That's a big improvement over the 500kbps offered by its current fleet, according to Sinnatt.

"That means the potential of what the technology can be used for is vastly increased," he said.

To increase the capacity, the Global Xpress satellites use steerable beams that concentrate their power output. The drawback is that each beam also covers a smaller area. With the new satellites developers will also be able to take advantage of multicast transmission capabilities, which lower data costs by allowing for content to be delivered to multiple remote sites simultaneously.

Inmarsat is still working on the production APIs for Global Xpress. For now, there are two REST web interfaces, dubbed the Location and Network Access Device APIs, available in the company's testing environment.

To show how the APIs can be used, the company has published a native Android app on Github. The app shows how they simulate the location results by plotting a path across the North Atlantic Ocean.

In addition to mobile apps, developers will be able to build server-based and Web-based applications that can be offered to Inmarsat users.

Inmarsat's developer conference takes place in London until Jan. 22.

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Mikael Ricknäs

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