HomeCarriers‘A little more or a little less, but it will explode’ – Sigfox on its ‘1B23’ growth target

‘A little more or a little less, but it will explode’ – Sigfox on its ‘1B23’ growth target

Sigfox has settled on three primary IoT use cases to deliver massive scale as it carries on its path to reach a billion connections inside the next 24 months, and as the IoT market at large gains maturity.

The France based company, which licences the Sigfox ultra-narrowband (UNB) technology to network operators in each country, has more than doubled its base (connected devices) since last summer, going from around 6.9 million (sometime during the first half of 2019), to over 15.4 million at the start of 2020.

Speaking with Enterprise IoT Insights, the company says traffic on its networks has increased to 26.5 million messages per day (now, in late March 2020), from 24.6 million at the end of 2019. “It gives an idea of the volumes these days,” says Ana Maria Giménez, in charge of business development and partnerships at Sigfox.

She adds: “That is most important from a business perspective – and the fact we have a number of interesting deals that prove the market has reached a new of phase maturity. We are going beyond just early adopters – towards the mainstream, as the supply chain transitions and embraces other aspects of IoT.”

The firm had appeared a year ago to be heavily reliant on its ‘0G’ cellular backup strategy, and specifically a multi-market deal with Securitas Direct, which contributed about 40 per cent of its total base.

Sigfox’s 0G concept is that its UNB network provides a last-ditch communications pulse for any generation of cellular (through to 5G) to fall back-on in the event of failure, as well as an alarm system and safeguard for IoT providers offering assurances about service reliability.

It has grown out of the cornerstone deal with Securitas Direct in Spain, Portugal, and France, where Sigfox affords a reliable alternative in case its ADSL and 3G connections are compromised by burglars. It has a 0G-style deal with French operator Free Mobile, part of the Iliad group, as well, which has Sigfox as back-up connectivity in its new Freebox Delta, a set-top fibre-box.

But Sigfox’s numbers have swelled alongside with a flurry of contracts for low-cost tracking solutions. The largest of these are with French automotive manufacturer Groupe PSA, German courier company Deutsche Post DHL, and Japan-based utility Nippon Gas (NICIGAS).

The size of the PSA arrangement is unknown, but the deal, organized via IBM, has been seminal for the French IoT firm, with parallel contracts following with the likes of Dachser, Getrak, Michelin, NEC, Netstar, and Total in the automotive supply chain.

The DHL contract, signed last July, was for tracking devices for 250,000 roll cages. Sigfox has since scored equivalent contracts with postal and fleet operators An Post Mails & Parcels (An Post) in Ireland and Posti in Finland. The deal with NICIGAS, a more conventional metering contract, covers 850,000 gas meters at its outset.

Giménez comments: “The scale is there – 250,000 roll cages with DHL; huge volumes in Japan with Nippon Gas. The maturity is there. It used to be we needed to explain about Sigfox – about the technology and the use cases. Not anymore.”

And what about that one billion target by 2023 (dubbed 1B23, internally)? Is that plotted out on a spreadsheet, or is it a nominal target to motivate staff? “Adoption is growing; we believe the growth is exponential – that once it starts, it will explode. And whether it is one billion, or a little more, or a little less, it is something we are aiming for internally” she says.

Sigfox is focused on three use cases, she says: asset management, condition monitoring, and security. Most of these newer deals are for asset tracking and management; the Securitas Direct and Free Mobile contracts are around security – and positioned, essentially, as 0G business. The company maintains a run-rate of 30-40 per cent, as now, will continue to be 0G backup connections.

The second of its target cases, around condition monitoring, has fewere named contracts against it. But it covers everything from managing liquid petroleum gas in storage, transportation, and usage through to monitoring elderly or isolated people for healthcare purposes – “to get an alert when doors open and close, or when breakfast is taken, and if there is no activity at all”.

More intriguingly, perhaps, as Sigfox pursues truly massive-scale IoT growth in the next couple of years, is how it is seeking to bring the price of connectivity down to the bargain basement, so dirt-cheap one-time trackers can even be inserted into envelopes to issue alerts when they are opened.

The company has 20-cent IoT modules in mind, and on the design table, too. “They are not yet in commercial production, but, yes, there is progress there,” says Giménez. Useful for direct marketing purposes, she suggests; useful for hitting crazy volume targets, too, persumably.

To read about the competing connectivity technologies in the IoT space, including Sigfox, check out Enterprise IoT Insights’ recent report – IoT Connectivity: Who is winning what? The winners and losers in the great LPWA race – which is available for download here.

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