HomeConnectivitySigfox intros private networking, closes on 15 million subs, claims big tracking contracts

Sigfox intros private networking, closes on 15 million subs, claims big tracking contracts

IoT network provider Sigfox will enable private ultra-narrowband networks from early 2020, starting in France, it has announced.

The company said it is on track to pass 15 million connected devices and 1,500 customers by the end of the year. It also announced a deal with satellite provider Eutelsat to launch a constellation of nanosatellites in 2020 to deliver global connectivity.

The update on numbers is in line with its claim in the summer that it is ramping-up connections — and an advance of around 11.5 million connected devices, compared with 2018, and an increase of more than 300 per cent in the period.

Sigfox has a stated target of one billion connected devices by 2023. It finished 2018 with 3.5 million connections, falling short of a target of six million. Most of its connections are with Securitas Direct, and take the form of fall-back connectivity (called ‘0G’ by Sigfox) for the Swedish security firm’s 2G and LTE connected alarm systems.

Sigfox has major deals with French automotive manufacturer Groupe PSA and German courier company DHL besides. At its annual Sigfox Connect Summit, in Singapore, it confirmed major new supply deals with solution provider Amadeus, which plays in the transport and tourism sector, and with Japan-based energy company Nippon Gas (NICIGAS). The latter deal covers 850,000 gas meters at its outset.

The company is also ahead of schedule in its mission to get tracking devices below $2, Enterprise IoT Insights understands.

Separately, the company has announced it is offering free geolocation data to developers in exchange for data processing rights.

Sigfox said private area network (PAN) setups will be available in all its markets, which number 65 as it stands. The service will be tested in France first during the first quarter of 2020. 

The new satellite constellation with Eutelsat, launching in 2020 as well, will bolster its existing wide-area network (WAN) coverage, which has focused to date on high capacity in high-density areas, such as major cities and transport hubs, mostly to provide indoor coverage.

Its WAN infrastructure — constructed over nine years, comprising “thousands of antennas in most of the world’s major cities” — was originally designed as a one-way network for low-cost and low-consumption IoT networking, for massive volumes of small messages, it said. 

It has since introduced limited two-way transmissions. Its public infrastructure functions as a single network internationally, geared for logistics and supply chain applications, in particular.

Its new PAN offer, which goes up against private low-power wide-area (LPWA) from the LoRaWAN community, is based on a cap-ex financing model, as opposed to an regular op-ex subscription, as with its WAN offer. It will appeal to enterprises that wish to pay for their IoT networking infrastructure upfront, and to manage it themselves, the company said. 

Its PAN customers will be able to subscribe to a ‘WAN extension’ should they wish to benefit from redundancy and flexibility in the event of devices needing to communicate outside the local network.The company is seeking gateway manufacturers to certify their products.

Ludovic Le Moan, chief executive and co-founder of Sigfox, commented: “The possibility of using all the components on the market, combined with the use of extremely low transmission power to support objects without the need for batteries, gives Sigfox’s PAN offer huge potential. Smart home or smart city solution providers will be among the first to benefit from this new offer.”

The new deal with Amadeus is for reusable, affordable tracking tags to reduce lost luggage and assets in airports. Sigfox referenced landing gear and ‘unit load devices’ (ULD) as candidates for tracking, alongside luggage. The pair will introduce the service under the product name PinPoint, starting in 2020.

The service, comprising reusable tags and proximity sensors, will provide live data about the location of airport assets. For higher-value assets, airlines will be able to create alarms to detect anomalies in their movements.

Sigfox is working with electronics firm Alps Alpine to deploy its beaconing solution, which goes under the name Bubble, to enable proximity detection. Its Bubble cells can be adjusted for each use case, from less than one meter to a few tens of meters, to save energy; connected devices share their location to the cloud as they pass through each cell. 

The service will be cheaper, said Sigfox, as it does not require updates to existing assets, like gates and readers. It will also provide greater interoperability and geolocation capabilities, and conform with stricter IATA Resolution 753 tracking regulations.

Raouti Chehih, chief adoption officer at Sigfox, said: “This will change completely the game for an industry looking for decades for a technology to save costs [and improve] services.” Sigfox and Amadeus are seeking to launch the service for the hotel and hospitality industry, as well.

The metering deal with NICIGAS in Japan will see a Sigfox-connected reader, by UnaBiz and SORACOM, retrofitted to 850,000 gas meters by the end of 2020. The meter reader, called SPACE HOTARU, from an idea by NICIGAS, is another low-cost device, offering real-time readings and a life-expectancy of a decade at least, said Sigfox. 

Meter data is collected by network controlling unit (NCU) on an hourly basis, rather than by a field agent every month, and sent to NICIGAS’ IoT data platform, NICIGAS Stream, via Sigfox’s network, operated in Japan by Kyocera Communication Systems, a subsidiary of Kyocera Corporation. 

Data is used to visualise and predict the amount of gas remaining in households, allowing timelier replacement of gas cylinders and improving the quality of service to its consumers. The NCU also reports on meter related incidents — so the gas valve closes automatically in the event of earthquakes, for example.  

NICIGAS will offer the SPACE HOTARU system to other gas and energy retailers.

Meanwhile, Sigfox has announced its basic geolocation service, Atlas Native, offering accuracy to around 800 metres, is now available to developers for ‘free’ in exchange exchange for data processing rights. Sigfox said “several major names” are already on board. Sigfox said it is using machine learning to improve accuracy further.  

In addition, rollout of the company’s Atlas WiFi geolocation service, which also layers in location data from wi-fi access points owned by HERE Technologies, is complete. The service allows Sigfox trackers to query wi-fi access points as they roam, reporting their MAC addresses to the cloud, to generate more accurate positioning. It is a more battery efficient using GPS, said Sigfox.

Sigfox customers such as DHL and Groupe PSA use the service.

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