Sigfox: a dedicated internet for machine to machine communication



As our earlier article on Viloc (a custom RFID solution for tracking small construction tools) already showed, machine to machine internet (also called ‘the internet of things’) can have very different needs than human-to-human internet. Humans want to read articles, play games, reply to e-mails, and generally engage in a lot of internet usage that requires speed and lots of bandwidth. Whereas, machine to machine communication might just be a matter of sending a short update every two weeks saying: I’m fine or I’m almost empty.

A French startup named Sigfox developed wireless architecture that plays into the particularities of machine machine to machine communication, which they call “A unique technology for the most cost-effective and low throughput M2M communications on the market.” Here’s how GigaOm describes the technology:

“Using the unlicensed frequencies commonly used for baby monitors and cordless phones (868 MHz in Europe and 915 MHz in the US), Sigfox says it can provide the same coverage with a single tower that a cellular network could provide with 50 to 100 cell sites.”

“Sigfox is building a network covering all of France with 1,000 transmission sites, and Nicholls estimates that the company could do the same in the US with 10,000 transmitters.”

The radio tags that Sigfox developed use less energy (just like Viloc’s), and could theoretically stay operational for 20 years. Because of the low demands in energy and data usage, Sigfox thinks it makes sense to move a lot of devices that now use WiFi or Bluetooth to its own technology, GigaOm reports:

“Due to the huge efficiencies in running its network, Sigfox can maintain a device connection for little more than a dollar a year, Nicholls said. At those prices, gadget manufacturers can factor connectivity costs into the device costs without requiring customers to sign up for a subscription.”

It also wouldn’t require any signing up, or logging on, as the machine to machine communication would just work out of the box. Sigfox recently received financing from Intel Ventures for 10 million € in a Series B round.

Photo: cell tower, Eioua

Spotted by @fdemeyer

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist at Humo whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning post before starting Whiteboard in 2012. He profiles entrepreneurs and businesses and loves to chat on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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