Appointed CEO of Sigfox last February, succeeding its co-founder Ludovic Le Moan, Jeremy Prince, at the head of Sigfox US, has assumed its responsibilities while the company, long presented by the ecosystem as one of its nuggets, was shaken by a plan to safeguard employment and criticized management methods. The Englishman unveils to Maddyness his vision for a development that will be strongly linked to tracking and monitoring.
You succeeded Ludovic Le Moan , the emblematic co-founder of Sigfox, whose governance practices have been challenged internally . Which CEO will you be?
When I really took up my duties in September, the backup plan and the reorganization of the company were finalized. When a company redeploys and continues to evolve it sometimes requires restructuring. This was done in consultation between employees, HRD and Franck Siegel (CEO of Sigfox). There were 47 departures including 25 voluntary departures and a payroll reduction of 13%. To date, we have nearly 300 employees specific to Sigfox, and 2000 with our partners / network providers in the world where we are present in 75 countries.
Ludovic Le Moan embodied above all an entrepreneurial vision, more than a “business leader” stricto sensu. His hobby is really to start a business and three years ago, he already expressed the desire to take a step back. Today I succeed him with a different managerial vision, more oriented towards business management. Sigfox is launched, and now the company must industrialize.
What managerial vision do you have for Sigfox?
For me as a rugby player, the team is the foundation of success and my key notion of management is empowerment. When you trust people and give them space, it nurtures the entrepreneurial spirit. Now that we have the right people in the right place, how do we recreate the momentum? For me, it’s having a clear vision of where we want to go to create support around a common vision, and give everyone the power to be an actor in this vision. Sharing the vision to execute the strategy: that is my motto.
Sigfox has many shareholders, around thirty in total (Partech, Eurazeo, Total, Enedis, Air Liquide, GDF Suez, Telefonica, etc.). Does this complicate the management of the business?
There are the shareholders of Sigfox and those of our partners, ie more than thirty in total but none will be a large shareholder with 50% of shares. Their presence therefore in no way hinders management. Many of our shareholders are manufacturers (automobile, electricity, operator of the telecom industry, etc.) who are all entry points for finding collaborations.
Sigfox presents itself as “the world leader in IOT with technology based on the OG network”: what is it and are IOT technologies evolving?
The 0G network means being able to send and receive data (via a chip installed in the connected object) without the need for complex connections or SIM cards. It allows small data transfer at short notice without going through cellular networks. This technology is applicable in many fields. To receive the temperature of your air conditioner three times a day, there is no need to transmit gigabytes of data! The “OG” network is based on Ultra Narrow Band technology which allows Sigfox to be a global network, without license or roaming, and very low in energy. A 5G tower alone consumes as much as our 2,600 antennas in France !
IOT is a market made up of several segments with different use cases and for each of them, specific technologies. Sigfox and one of these technologies. Investing in technology to stay at the cutting edge remains a priority. The 0G has the advantage of its price, its frugality, its simplicity and its robustness. We must continue to invest in it and ensure that the platform always absorbs more subscriptions and messages. This is why we partnered with Google last February.
You believe that one of your challenges is to launch the third phase of Sigfox’s development: what is it?
Sigfox is entering its third phase, that of connectivity and geolocation, which was part of the development strategy from the creation of the startup. With the IoT market being large, the trap is trying everything and applying the technology to multiple uses. Today, one of my priorities is to focus on the segment where Sigfox brings real added value: tracking and monitoring, with back-up security, to accelerate the projects of our some 1,500 customers in the world. We want to specialize in asset tracking in the automotive industry, postal, sea freight, beer kegs, stolen vehicles …
We are going to invest in R&D in this segment where, thanks to our very competitive ecosystem – frugal technology, “plug & play” devices – we are well placed to move towards ultra low cost. The cost remains essential because each time we manage to reduce costs on the market, this opens the field of possibilities and brings out new services. We have the example of this with DHL or Wakam (formerly La Parisienne Assurance) which has developed on-demand insurance with IoT. Using data to provide a “service” and help decision-making is in line with our strategy of refocusing on our core business. This is all the more important as services are the fastest growing segment in the IoT.
What is the logic behind your recent partnership with Google Cloud and its subsidiary Coral, dedicated to AI? What does the association of AI with IoT allow?
This decision follows a growth in the number of messages sent each month by IoT devices connected to the Sigfox network. Faced with daily message traffic which increases by 145% each year and Sigfox which records more than 19 million connected objects, Google is absorbing our capacity to grow, store and manage our data. This will facilitate the collection of information, improve the connectivity and geolocation of our solutions. This collaboration will make it possible to transform a large number of applications spread across all business sectors such as the supply chain, logistics or automotive.
The partnership with its subsidiary Coral should lead to the development of artificial intelligence in IoT connected devices. The goal is to create intelligence in the collection of data to better analyze it and derive added value. With Coral, we want developers to think about solutions that combine IA and IOT because to date, there are no concrete solutions. This partnership brings our two ecosystems closer together: it is a technological partnership where we will make our IoT solutions coexist with AI solutions.
Do you have other partnerships in this direction?
We will improve our already existing partnerships with this added value of AI. In 2018, Sigfox signed a partnership contract with Senioradom, a specialist in connected remote assistance for seniors. The startup Senioradom installs sensors in the apartment of a senior using the Sigfox network to transmit information. With AI, these sensors will record the behavior of the person and the AI will create a “routine of life”. When the routine is not respected, it will generate alerts.
Security being one of the most important topics for the future of connected objects, what security systems has Sigfox put in place?
Security comes first with devices because devices only communicate if they have to send a message: this is the logic of plug & play. Security is also supported by radio technology: resistance to jamming is all the more effective as the Ultra Narrow Band sends a message in the form of an “arrow”, much more difficult to intercept than if it were a question of ‘a message in the form of a “block”. On the other hand, Sigfox has integrated the TPM (Trusted Platfrom Module) functionality in the base stations in order to secure all the keys involved in the various mechanisms for securing the base stations. At the end of the chain, customers’ IT platforms are connected to the Sigfox Cloud using HTTPS encrypted interfaces. And with Google Cloud,
What are your projects?
Sigfox can work in all possible fields of activity and all conceivable sectors. The IoT can be applied to a multitude of fields: intelligent solutions for precision agriculture, industry 4.0, smart city, freight, postal services, etc. Via new platforms and API (Application Proogramming Interface), we want to get closer to manufacturers to better support them in the management of their data. Our next generation of IoT solutions for manufacturing, for example, will help the manufacturing sector to streamline operations, reduce costs and gain new knowledge.
As for the projects that we can unveil, KCCS, the Japanese Sigfox, has just signed a contract to track 1 million pallets. Also in Japan, Sigfox has entered into a partnership with Bridgestone tires dedicated to heavy goods vehicles: a sensor gives the tire pressure and communicates it, and will be able in the future to offer a range of services. In several countries, including Brazil and Croatia, contracts for monitoring gas, water and electricity meters have just been signed. We are also present in the freight of beer kegs where sensors installed in the keg allow the monitoring of the merchandise and the control of its quality.