Posted on August 8, 2017
I had quite a busy travel week recently taking me all along the West Coast with customer trainings and meetings from San Francisco to Vista, CA. Because the Sigfox network has strong coverage in the area, I decided to put Sigfox’s Internet of Things (IoT) network to the test and track my trip.
Antennas installations, sales engineering, radio field testing, and the kitchen sink
I joined Sigfox at the beginning of our U.S. expansion journey as the second employee here. After working 5 years in the M2M business for a major system integrator, I realized how many use cases were impossible both technically and economically without a Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN). Sigfox had to become a reality, and I wanted to be a part of making it happen!
As the Frenchie engineer in the United States, I began as the main liaison to accomplish all things technical, which brought me to work throughout very diverse areas: deploying Sigfox antennas on rooftops, supporting the first U.S. chip manufacturers and device makers, onboarding the sales team, radio field testing… the tasks were limitless.
Today, I focus mostly in the sales organization, sharing my passion about LPWAN by supporting chip manufacturers, developers, and end-customers to build their IoT project using Sigfox.
LPWA network, simply put
LPWAN categorizes all wireless public networks that are adapted and finely tuned for low power, long range, low data rate wireless transmissions. The network growth has been extremely impressive since I joined in early 2015. At that time, not one network antenna had been installed in the U.S.
The Bay Area was the first place we deployed the network, in collaboration with the City of San Francisco. Thanks to the amazing job of our network deployment team, we are now deployed in several major U.S. metros, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, NYC, San Diego, San Francisco Bay, and Seattle.
Livin’ La Vida LoKa
One of the biggest use cases we see is asset tracking, answering very simple questions like “Where’s my stuff?” and “What happened to my stuff?” While these may seem silly, we’ve talked to companies who want to track everything from remote employees to assets within a closed loop environment, to the conditions of their assets after they left the loading dock.
To track my journey up and down the Californian coast, I decided to use the asset tracker from LoKa Systems. It provides a very easy, out-of-the-box experience, with the ability to track indoors. I threw the Loka tracker in my backpack which is smaller than an iPhone and lighter than my cup of coffee and off we went, one man and one device on a mission. The mission: to showcase that the Sigfox network is available and ready to support asset tracking use cases in the U.S. At the price point of the hardware and connectivity subscription, it is affordable to track very low cost assets such as wooden pallets or nuts and bolts, making tracking one of the major use cases for LPWAN networks. We even see farmers tracking their cows in the Alps using Sigfox!
The tracker uses the MAC addresses from Wi-Fi access points in the area to geolocate. After capturing the neighboring MAC addresses, it sends it through the Sigfox network and finally LoKa queries the Google Maps API to get a GPS position. Google Maps collected all the Wi-Fi router MAC addresses during their street view project. This same Wi-Fi geolocation is what your phone uses most of the time to geolocate you in a city.
The benefits of this kind of tracker are that it allows for a very long battery life and indoor coverage, compared to a GPS tracker. I would even argue that geolocation is more accurate with Wi-Fi in a dense city than with GPS. Here is a diagram of how it works:
Week of tracking at a glance:
Alright, let’s check out my week: this first image is a screenshot of the LoKa web platform over the course of Monday-Friday. You see each dot picking up my location around the San Francisco area, then traveling down and all around Orange County before coming back to SF.
Here, you’re seeing the LoKa tracker tracks me as I’m leaving San Francisco, landing in Los Angeles and heading to Agoura Hills for the training with STMicroelectronics and Future Electronics before I go down to my hotel in Newport Beach.
Here, you’re able to get a more detailed view of the LoKa device’s tracking, as it’s in a more concentrated area. I stuck around the Los Angeles area, and the Sigfox network still proved itself as the LoKa device communicated across it the entire time.
The dot you see near the beach is where it picked me up at my hotel, where of course I had to take a beach photo. At the bottom corner, it picked me up as I traveled South to spend Wednesday with a customer, then at the top corner it caught me catching up with a friend in L.A. that night, and then the dot right in the middle is me presenting at another STMicroelectronics and Future Electronics training in Irvine on Thursday. Thursday night, I hopped on a plane and headed back home to SFO.
The LoKa device continued to pick up my location up all throughout downtown San Francisco, as you see me going from my home (bottom left) to the the office in the Financial District, getting a quick picture of City Hall on my way in for a meeting with the City of San Francisco, and finally heading home for the weekend.
Happy travel tales
As the second employee in the U.S. and seeing the huge challenge we were facing at the time, I am really impressed at where we are today! The network is a reality, modules and solutions are available – it’s time to sense the world!
For more information about coverage, please go to www.sigfox.com/coverage