Sigfox: subscription, coverage, competitors …

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JDN

[SIGFOX] After having deployed its ultra-low speed IoT network in 72 countries, the company is moving towards offering services, mainly in asset tracking.

What is Sigfox?

Sigfox is a French IoT operator. The company, created in 2009 by Ludovic le Moan and Christophe Fourtet, is today managed by Jeremy Prince. Sigfox operates its network, which it calls 0G, in 72 countries, to which will be added 12 new countries thanks to its partnership established in June 2021 with the Emirati operator iWire. Temperature, vibrations, location… compatible connected objects can send small packets of information (the limit is 12 bytes) to this network 140 times a day at most, at low cost. The devices connected to the Sigfox network are almost all the time on standby, which allows them to consume only a small amount of energy. No need to be connected to the mains, their lifespan can reach ten years with a small battery. THE’ company, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2019, has more than 30 million contracted objects, including 18.4 million connected to the network and sending 75 million messages per day. Securitas is Sigfox’s largest customer, with 2.8 million alarms connected via the 0G network. By moving towards the cloud, Sigfox intends to assert its strategy in massive IoT.

0G connects more than 18.4 million connected objects around the world. © Sigfox
0G connects more than 18.4 million connected objects around the world. © Sigfox

What is the coverage of Sigfox?

More than 2,000 antennas have been deployed by Sigfox in France, according to figures provided by the operator. The group’s IoT network covers 94% of the French population, and 71 other countries as shown in the map below ( updated in real time on the Sigfox website ). 21 of these countries have national coverage, such as Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Belgium. More than 1.3 billion people worldwide can now benefit from a Sigfox IoT network, the company says.

By setting up in Russia in March 2020, it is in an IoT market whose growth is estimated at 7.6 billion dollars in 2022 that Sigfox intends to assert itself. The French operator has created with the digital venture capital firm Energo Capital the entity Sigfox Russia, exclusive operator of the Sigfox network in Russia. For the French company, Russia is a key country, not only for its size, but also for the technological issue. Sigfox plans to connect geographic areas that have not yet been covered, such as the taiga or the Northern Sea Route, thanks to its future satellite IoT offer developed with Eutelsat. “Russia is also very important for the digitization of thousands of kilometers of railway corridors, as part of the Belt and Road initiative, throughout the Baltic States and Poland to Western Europe. Sigfox is well placed to help meet this challenge “, said in a statement Bertrand Ramé, vice president of expansion and partner management at Sigfox. The Russian government set up a national program in early 2019 that provides for the use of l ‘IoT in different sectors, including logistics where Sigfox is seeing strong demand and intends to do well.

To attract customers, the company is forging partnerships with traditional telecom operators, such as SFR, with which the young shoot joined forces in March 2016. The French telco has become a key distributor of Sigfox’s IoT network in France, but also in other countries where it is installed, such as the USA or Israel. Sigfox has entered into the same type of agreements with the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica.

In September 2020, Sigfox announced a strategic alliance with Cube Infrastructure Managers, through the sale of Sigfox Germany. The European infrastructure fund manager is now in charge of Sigfox’s low-speed network in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, thanks to this buyout and a majority stake in the operator Heliot Europe. “Sharing infrastructure is a first step towards a lower total cost of ownership (TCO), greater reliability and better interoperability,” said Ludovic Le Moan, co-founder of Sigfox in a press release.

We Got You Covered Map

The low-speed communication system deployed by the French group uses rights-free frequency bands to transmit data from connected objects (in Europe, it is the industrial, scientific and medical band at 868 mega hertz). It is bidirectional: the devices attached to it send information collected in the field to the cloud , such as the temperature or the vibrations emitted at an instant T, but also receive data broadcast by the company that controls them (8 bytes maximum ). This allows pros to make small software updates without having to travel.

How does the Sigfox network work?

Sigfox’s 0G network is a long range low speed network (LPWAN). Created on the principle of military radio technologies, 0G uses ultra narrow band modulation (UNB, Ultra Narrow Band), and operates within 200 kHz of the free band to exchange radio messages over the air. Each message is 100 Hz wide and is transferred at 100 or 600 bits per second at a data rate, depending on the region. Therefore, long distances can be achieved while being very robust against noise. A device is not tethered to a specific base station, unlike cellular protocols. The broadcast message is received by any base station within range within two seconds. Sigfox recalls on its site that a light protocol for data sending was developed to save battery. The network is said to be bidirectional, i.e. connected objects send and receive data from their IoT platform.

What is the range of 0G?

Sigfox 0G is a long range network. In town, it has a range that can be greater than 10 kilometers, it can reach 30 or even 50 kilometers in the countryside. The company states that “low bit rate and simple radio modulation allow a budget link of 163.3 dB for long range communications.”

How to take out a Sigfox subscription?

Sigfox remains fairly discreet about its prices, which vary depending on the number of devices that its customers want to connect to its network and the amount of data they pass through it. On average, subscribing to this IoT network would cost three euros per year and per object according to Sigfox. But the prices can vary between one and nine euros per year and per sensor, according to specialized forums. Modems are sold between five and fifteen euros and radio connection modules are worth two dollars in Europe and three in Asia and the USA.

Sigfox also makes it possible to take out a subscription online, by simply paying by credit card according to the number of connected objects desired. “Customers have been asking us for this possibility for four years. We have worked on the business model and we have relied on the technology of the American payment company Stripe, which has the same corporate culture as Sigfox, to deliver this. means of payment, whereas previously it was necessary to go through the sales departments “, explains Nicolas Poussier, product manager at Sigfox.  Customers just have to go to the Buy platformand the subscription is valid worldwide. “This complementary access to that of operators is a real accelerator for small businesses, R&D teams or universities who want to test 0G without having to approach an operator,” notes Nicolas Poussier. A few thousand customers already use this method of payment around the world, mainly in France, Japan, Spain and South Africa.

For Sigfox, these low prices are the sine qua non for the take-off of IoT. To lower prices even further, the company’s R&D laboratory is trying to solve one of the main problems in the sector: the battery change which, even if it only takes place once every ten years on average for devices operating with the Sigfox network, remains expensive. The company’s researchers are working on energy harvesting technologies. Devices equipped with this type of equipment are capable of capturing energy in their immediate environment and therefore (if the research is successful) of becoming 100% autonomous . Sigfox also announced radio connectivity modules marketed at $ 0.2, then,

Sigfox in France

Sigfox is a company based in the suburbs of Toulouse, in Labège. She settled in what was then the TIC Valley, in the midst of many companies in the world of new technologies. The success of the start-up has led to the installation in the district of many IoT companies. The TIC Valley even changed its name in May 2015 to become the IoT Valley. Ludovic Le Moan, then CEO of Sigfox, took the head of the association of the same name. IoT Valley and Sigfox joined forces in October 2018 to offer an e-learning course dedicated to the deployment of an IoT project. The company, which is going international, has also opened offices in Boston, San Francisco, Munich, Madrid, Dubai, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro and Lund (Sweden), to strengthen its deployment in the American market, European and Asian. In total, Sigfox’s workforce comprises more than 450 people.

Sigfox's head office is located in the suburbs of Toulouse, in Labège. © Sigfox
Sigfox’s head office is located in the suburbs of Toulouse, in Labège. © Sigfox

Sigfox vs LoRa

Sigfox may well be the oldest French IoT operator, it is now surrounded by many competitors, foremost among which are the member companies of the LoRa alliance, which are also working to deploy a low power wide area network ( LPWAN). long-range low-speed network). In France, Sigfox has forged a partnership with the operator SFR, which will offer its customers to connect their communicating devices to the network deployed by the Toulouse nugget. Its two competitors Orange and Bouygues have decided to deploy a LoRaWAN network themselves . The French Actiility and Qowisio are also deploying their IoT LPWAN networks. ( See also: IoT, which communication protocol to choose for your connected objects? )

Sigfox has an international ambition. Multinationals that connect their connected objects to this network do not have to worry about borders, they only deal with one player. Convenient for a porter who tracks passenger suitcases during their plane trip for example. LoRa networks are deployed by national operators, who sign roaming agreements between themselves when one of their customers has connected objects in several countries. Said customer must check with his operator that this option does not explode the cost of connecting his devices.

Sigfox also has other competitors. Many operators, like Orange, are also betting on LTE-M and NB-IoT , two evolutions of the classic 4G cellular network adapted to connected objects. These new modes of communication make it possible to convey much more information than Sigfox (photos, videos, etc.) and therefore do not necessarily address the same target. The upcoming 5G will succeed these indirect competitors of Sigfox.

Recruitment at Sigfox

With the rise of the IoT, the issue of skills is becoming essential for companies. Sigfox has created a page listing job offers for the profiles sought. Developers and software architects are among the open positions.

Hacking House in Paris

The operator has local IoT Toulouse to Paris in the 17 th district. In June 2019, he inaugurated a Hacking House there, allowing students and entrepreneurs to test Sigfox technology and develop viable IoT sensors that meet the demands of SMEs and large groups. For 80 days, around fifteen participants develop – under the direction of Maxime Schacht, head of the Hacking House Paris – solutions on six themes, including the monitoring of network equipment, the autonomy of water meters, the detection of flooding and prevention of water pollution. In March 2020, an identical program was launched in Taipei where the 24 participants worked on the communication of objects when Wi-Fi not working or detection of oil palm contamination.

Sigfox backend

Sigfox provides developers and manufacturers of smart devices with a development kit that allows them to create IoT applications linked to connected objects on its network. With this backend infrastructure accessible online , they can set up, configure and manage the maintenance of their servers, the data they collect and their apps. The operator plans to achieve 50% of its turnover in the sale of services by the end of 2020, against 20% today.

Sigfox geolocation

Asset tracking and connectivity back-up are the two most common use cases among Sigfox customers. In July 2019, lndigo weel notably joined forces with Sigfox to equip its fleet of self-service bicycles with sensors and improve their geolocation. In February 2020, An Post, an expert in mail, parcel and e-commerce logistics in Ireland, chose the IoT network offered by the French operator to optimize its supply chain. Its goal is to ensure the availability of its rolling carts and containers to transport parcels in sufficient quantity every day to the company’s postal centers across the country.

Sigfox also presented in early 2017 a geolocation offer called Spot’it, which works without the very greedy GPS energy. This system locates connected objects thanks to triangulation, a geometric rule that allows the position of a given point to be determined by measuring its angles with those of three other points (the Sigfox relay antennas in this case) whose location is known. This new service, which took the group two years of R&D, is particularly useful for logistics companies, who want to know if a package has arrived at its destination.

Sigfox and Google

Sigfox migrated in February 2021 its IT infrastructure to Google Cloud in order to be able to process billions of messages each month and develop new value-added services. The operator has indeed recorded growth in messages received on its network of around 145% in 2020. This partnership will help it to achieve its objectives more quickly in terms of “massive IoT”. “Google Cloud has been chosen as the IT pillar of Sigfox’s 0G network to bring scale, increased reliability as well as first-rate compliance and security to the Sigfox platform,” the operator explains in the press release. This shift from Sigfox to the cloud had been announcedby the company at its annual Sigfox Connect event in November 2020. “With this partnership, Google Cloud technology supports us in our strategy to become the world leader in energy-efficient and very low-cost asset tracking and management solutions. “, says Franck Siegel, Deputy Managing Director of Sigfox.

In October 2021, Sigfox signed a new major partnership in asset tracking: the energy distributor SHV Energy (the parent company of Primagaz in France) is deploying a global level management solution with Sigfox. liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) tanks. Sensors have been installed on tanks in France, Belgium and Germany to take daily readings of their filling level. The great advantage of IoT for SHV Energy: being able to optimize delivery routes and schedules, which reduces its carbon footprint while improving customer satisfaction. “Sigfox’s global 0G network has once again proven itself in providing connectivity solutions with direct environmental impact.

Sigfox and La Parisienne Assurance (Wakam)

La Parisienne Assurances (which became Wakam in September 2020) announced at the end of June 2019, at the Digital Insurance Agenda in Amsterdam, its partnership with Sigfox to develop an offer focused on mobility and based on connected objects . “We are now taking a new step by generating our own triggers from IoT sensors connected to Sigfox, which should open up a potential market of several billion euros in mobility, in Europe alone,” said Olivier Jaillon, chief enablement officer.

Customers – individuals or small business fleets – subscribing to this offer will receive a sensor to install on their vehicle, car, motorcycle, electric scooter, etc. This object connected to the Sigfox 0G network will be equipped with an accelerometer  to allow movement detection. The data will be transmitted to Wakam’s platform, entering a secure transaction in its private blockchain . The insurance calculation will therefore be based on usage per minute, hour or kilometer.

Sigfox Foundation

Sigfox created its foundation in 2016 to put the Internet of Things at the service of humanitarian aid. Led by Marion Moreau, former editor-in-chief of FrenchWeb, the Sigfox foundation is particularly committed to the preservation of rhinos in South Africa, where Sigfox sensors are used to locate animals, but also in the detection of earthquakes in Mexico. .

Ludovic Le Moan

Ludovic Le Moan co-founded Sigfox in 2009 with the desire to attach the S of Sigfox to the acronym Gafa, which designates the four giants of the American net, Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. To make his company a unicorn , this holder of a turning-milling certificate is trying to deploy his network as quickly as possible in the world. Supported by his teams, the entrepreneur managed to raise 150 million euros during his last fundraising round in November 2016.

But Ludovic Le Moan is not the only architect of Sigfox’s success. In 2009, he co-founded what at the time was only a start-up with engineer Christophe Fourtet. The latter had the idea of ​​creating an ultra-low speed network for connected objects, drawing inspiration from the ultra-narrow band systems used during the First World War to communicate in submarines. Ludovic Le Moan also convinced Anne Lauvergeon, former boss of the nuclear giant Areva, to sit at the head of the board of directors of her group.

On Wednesday February 17, 2021, Sigfox’s board of directors announced the unanimous appointment of Jeremy Prince as Chairman and CEO of Sigfox, in place of Ludovic le Moan, who is stepping down. Jeremy Prince has served as President of Sigfox USA since March 2019 and has served on Sigfox’s Executive Committee since joining the company as Chief Strategy Officer in 2018.

Ludovic Le Moan (photo) co-founded Sigfox with engineer Christophe Fourtet. © Sigfox
Ludovic Le Moan (photo) co-founded Sigfox with engineer Christophe Fourtet. © Sigfox