IoT network targets 10 U.S. cities
IoT buzz is everywhere these days, but the “Internet of Things” is not likely to enter our lives through splashy product launches or big construction projects. Instead, connectivity will seep gradually into our cities, and IoT networks will transmit their signals alongside today’s mobile networks.
“These networks are whispering rather than shouting … the actual amount of data is very small,” explained Allen Proithis, president of North American operations for Sigfox, a French company that wants to provide global cellular connectivity for the “Internet of Things.” Sigfox has already deployed its networks in several European cities, and this year it raised $115 million from an investor group that includes Telefonica, SK Telecom, NTT Docomo Ventures, GDF SUEZ, Air Liquide and Eutelsat.
10 U.S. cities chosen
Sigfox has chosen 10 U.S. cities for its initial launch: San Fransisco, San Jose and Los Angeles, Calif.; New York; Boston; Atlanta; Austin, Houston and Dallas, Texas; and Chicago. The company has Federal Communications Commission certification to use the 902 MHz band. Proithis said the Sigfox base stations are no bigger than a briefcase.
San Francisco is the first city in which Sigfox will deploy. The company’s contractors are installing 30-inch whip antennas on top of the city’s library buildings, leveraging the city’s installed digital subscriber lines.
“We worked very closely with the [city] CIO and chief innovation officer,” said Proithis. “They simply get it from the ground up; it’s hard to find a more welcoming environment.”
The project was a collaborative effort between San Francisco’s wireless planning department and several municipal agencies, including the department of technology, the mayor’s office of innovation and the San Francisco public library. Sigfox sees smart-city programs as well as private companies as potential customers. Proithis said the network is likely to connect electric and water meters, smoke detectors, security systems and water moisture sensors in agricultural applications.
“There are billions of things out there that people want to connect, [that] they want the data from. It has value, but you simply can’t connect it at the current cost levels of traditional technology,” Proithis said. “And even if you could connect it, you need it to work more than the time it takes you between charges of your traditional smartphone.”
The Sigfox network is designed to optimize battery life for connected devices. The company also wants to create a seamless network that will enable devices to stay connected as they move.
“It will simply work without worrying about technological implications, and frankly from a contractual basis, it’s one-contract seamless roaming as well,” said Proithis.
Proithis said the U.S. has lagged Europe in the development of IoT networks, but he sees that changing dramatically in the months ahead.
“IoT to me has been moving a bit faster in Europe than over here, mostly from a technology basis with some of the great engineering going on and some of the business model thinking,” he said. “But at the same time, because of our technical environment over here in the U.S., I think now that the U.S. is fully embracing the concept of IoT, I think you’ll see the implementation pace in the U.S. actually surpass Europe during the next 18 months.”