[Interview] SIGFOX : Strengths, technological developments and IoT trends

Meeting with Laurent Moesle, Business Development Manager and Gilles Mahe, Technical Presales SO France at Sigfox

If you were to sum up the main strengths of Sigfox radio technology, what would they be? 

L.M. Our major strength lies in the global nature of the solution that we want to provide to the professionals in charge of deploying the pools of connected objects. Thanks to Sigfox global roaming service, inter-regional and inter-country communications are carried out smoothly. This promotes, among other things, logistic tracking applications. The simplicity of use of the Sigfox radio technology is a real asset to our clients, putting the objects into service easily. Thanks to the ultra narrow-band technology, our network also provides strong resistance to noise and particularly to interference-causing equipment that can pose a real threat in the security sector. The ultra narrow band also contributes to the energy-saving nature of Sigfox transmission.

What are the recent technological developments or those yet to come for Sigfox?

L.M. In early 2020, we are expecting the launch of the new Plateform Device Management, the test phase of which should be complete by the end of 2019. It will enable our customers to manage their objects and subscriptions in an optimised manner by making the network status available to them in real time on their object pool and providing them with recommendations for optimising their connectivity : the number of repeat messages per device or the setting up of Micro Base Stations for example … This platform for managing devices, made available upon subscription will, in a way, be an intermediary frontend between the Sigfox BackEnd and the API set up by the customer.

And what about the current Sigfox BackEnd?

G.M. The backend evolves regularly with quarterly updates or more frequent ones if needed, either to fix bugs or to provide new features. One important change is the development of callbacks and API. For example, it is possible to have by callback, the LQI, Link Quality Indicator, which grades the quality of the radio link between the object and the network, where we previously provided raw radio measurement data. Message repetitions are no longer available via data callback but are optional via the data advanced service callback. The backend interface remains the same.

Any other developments?

G.M. Our engineers are also addressing the number of data frames sent by each object in order to come up with optimisations to better meet our clients’ concerns regarding their activated objects’ energy optimisation.

What are the trends observed as far as IoT Sigfox applications are concerned?

L.M.Today most of the objects communicating on our Sigfox networks are distributed over 3 major poles:

LOGISTICS applications with asset tracking stand for nearly half the number of objects connected to Sigfox, and the trend in the foreseeable future is quite positive, especially since the Sigfox radio technology includes real assets for responding to object applications moving around Europe and around the world.

G.M. In the automotive sector in particular, packing material is often subject to just-in-time management. The setting up of an efficient container tracking solution on factory and subcontractor routes, as we have recently done for the PSA Group with IBM, makes perfect sense. Logistics is an important part of IoT applications for Sigfox, trackers allow at a low cost, to make assets, which one lost trace of between 2 points, to remain visible.

L.M. SECURITY is another important part of the Sigfox connected objects put into service, especially in recent years and for those to come. Presence or contact detection sensors (door opening and closing detection) account for a large part of the objects put into service. Enless Wireless is developing a similar solution by marketing its high autonomy dry contact transmitter.

G.M. We have worked with specialised companies such as Verisure for the use of the Sigfox network. Here, the Sigfox technology is used as a back-up for mobile networks so that the solution remains effective in the event of power failure or for the installation of interference-causing equipment for example.

We have also worked with Mutakom to implement an alternative solution to the switched telephone network. In fact, the latter will be decommissioned by Orange, hence, the Mutakom box will allow the replacement of the RTC line and send alarms via the Sigfox network.

L.M. SMART BUILDING or remote building management represents the 3rd connected objects hub in Sigfox. Applications for indoor air quality monitoring, preventive maintenance of heating equipment, HVAC … as well as remote meter reading of energy data and management of the workspace are witnessing good trends in terms of progress. Enless Wireless is, for us, a recognised player in this sector and offers a complete range of sensors.

In the building sector, there are interesting developments in the medical field (health, assistance to individuals). Enless has recently worked with UnaBiz, the Singapore Sigfox operator, and the Engie group on a project for equipping the local KKH hospital with temperature and humidity monitoring solutions with the purpose of developing a more holistic health environment for patients. At Sigfox, we are also witnessing the development of new non-intrusive solutions to help medical diagnoses: movement detection makes it possible to establish first level useful analysis.

You mentioned projects in different geographical regions. Precisely what is the developmental strategy for the Sigfox network coverage in the upcoming months?

L.M. Today, the Sigfox network covers 60 countries and in September 2019, new territories will be announced.

Our next short term work sites are in the Balkans, this is the last and a perfect completion of our work in the Europe zone.

We shall also focus on three of the BRICS association: China, Russia and India, which we wish to develop.

At the end of June 2019, Sigfox boasted 10.2 million connected objects linked to its global 0G network, a number on the rise compared with 6.6 million in 2018.

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Next article to come : “The Internet of Things : Lora or Sigfox networks, what are the differences?”

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