Sigfox is a global Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN) IoT network company. It is a company dedicated to the Internet of Things based on low power, long range and small data that offers an end-to-end connectivity service. Sigfox offers a global public network for anyone to connect their every day object (“Thing”) to the digital universe via the internet.
Most people are familiar with 3G, 4G, and 5G as they relate to cellular technologies and networks. “0G” refers to wireless communication technologies used prior to the development and use of cellular technology. Since 3G, 4G, & 5G are associated with high frequency, high throughput, and large amounts of data, Sigfox has chosen to use ‘0G’ as a moniker for its technology and network. Sigfox proudly promotes its sub-GHz network with small data messages as ‘0G’ to help customers around the world monitor and report the ‘small data’ which they deem important.
Every country has different frequency ranges allocated for the unlicensed ISM (Industrial, Science, & Medical) frequency bands as well as different regulations pertaining to how long a transmitter can be transmitting or ‘on the air’ (OTA).
Many countries in a region (Europe, N America, S America, etc) have the same regulations. So Sigfox created Radio Configuration (RC) zones which are made up of groups of countries which share the same ISM frequency bands and OTA regulations. Sigfox devices are designed and configured to operate within a specific RC zone. Currently there are 7 zones – RC1-RC7. Learn more about RC zones here.
RC2 is the zone designated for the US, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
Though most Sigfox devices operate within a single specific RC zone, a device can be designed to operate within all Sigfox RC zones. A unique Sigfox feature called Monarch can enable IoT devices to communicate and send messages in the proper ISM band frequency within all Sigfox RC zones. Learn more about Monarch here.
In order to help prolong battery life, the Sigfox protocol was designed for short message lengths. The size of the payload for a Sigfox uplink message can be 0-12 bytes long. Multiple pieces of information can be sent in 12 bytes such as temperature, rough GPS location, battery level, device status, etc. Additionally the size of the payload for a Sigfox downlink message is 8 bytes and there is a limit of 4 downlink messages allowed per day maximum.
Sigfox has determined what we consider an optimum power level output (EIRP) for devices which will provide a good balance between battery life and RF transmission distance of messages. Devices which are designed with a power output within 4 dB of this optimum power level are rated as Class 0U which correlates to optimum performance within the Sigfox network. Devices which have an output in the next 4 dB range lower are rated as Class 1U and so forth. Different RC zones (explained above) have different optimum power level output targets. Click here to see the Sigfox recommended EIRP for each RC zone.
It is possible to reconfigure or change a device operating mode using a downlink message. For firmware updates it is suggested to utilize a complementary communication method. Several Sigfox devices use BLE to perform updates, however it would be difficult to perform firmware updates over the air due to the small downlink payload and limited number of messages which can be sent each day.
No. A device is only in listen mode for a brief period of time after it sends an uplink message. This is by design in order to help preserve and extend battery life.
There is a device partner website within the Sigfox website. It shows a wide range of device companies from all over the globe and their products which can communicate on the Sigfox network. The website information includes which RC zone(s) the device can communicate in and company contact information. Click here to go to the Sigfox partner website.
The cost of a subscription for a Sigfox device varies depending on several factors including the number of daily uplink messages and the quantity of devices on the account however it can be as low as $0.67 per month per device. Pricing can be determined by contacting your local Sigfox representative or sending an inquiry to [email protected].
Battery life is dependent on many different factors including the output power of the device, the number of messages sent per day, and the type of sensor(s) which are monitored by the device among other things. However it is very common to see Sigfox devices which have 7-10 years battery life.
Sigfox developed the protocol which is used to communicate to our network and we have partnered with several semiconductor partners to implement the protocol into a binary library which will operate on their respective microcontrollers (MCU). We have also partnered with key module companies who have developed ready to use modules using these certified MCU solutions. A designer can go to https://build.sigfox.com/ to start the design process and learn more about the above mentioned technology partners and receive more information on how to design a Sigfox enabled product.
All customers who have a Sigfox Device(s) receive an account in order to have access to the Sigfox backend server. All data from all Sigfox devices with an active subscription is stored on the Sigfox backend server. Customers can view their device data there. They can also set up callbacks and/or APIs in order for the data to be forwarded to another [customer] server, email, or SMS message.
There are several levels of security implemented in the Sigfox system or which can be used in the design of a Sigfox device. First, each device must have a valid set of credentials for its message to be validated by the Sigfox network which include an ID and 16-digit PAC (Porting Authorization Code). Second, data encryption can also be utilized either via software or hardware. AES encryption can be implemented in a device’s software in order to encrypt the data before being transmitted. Or a secure element can be designed into the hardware to provide an even higher level of encryption. Finally, an inherent form of security is the formatting of the data message. If a person doesn’t know how to decode the 96 bits of binary data then the data is meaningless.