Sigfox

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SIGFOX
Native name
SIGFOX
Société Anonyme
Industry Wireless services
Founded 2009
Founders Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet
Headquarters Labège, near Toulouse, France
Area served
Global
Key people
Ludovic le Moan, CEO; Anne Lauvergeon, Chairman; Christophe Fourtet, Scientific Director
Services IoT
Revenue €5 million[1] (2015)
Number of employees
190[2]
Website Official website

Sigfox (styled SIGFOX), is a French company that builds wireless networks to connect low-energy objects such as electricity meters, smartwatches, and washing machines, which need to be continuously on and emitting small amounts of data. Its technology is aimed at the Internet of Things (IoT).[3][4] According to CNET, Sigfox charges "$1 per device per year for those with 50,000 or more devices attaching" to their managed network.[5]

SIGFOX was founded in 2009 by Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet.[6] A 2015 report noted that France's government has identified the IoT sector "as an area of strength for the country's startups," and that "Sigfox has emerged as one of the country's biggest names in this field." A round of funding in February of that year was described as "France’s biggest round of funding ever".[3]

SIGFOX describes itself as "the first and only company providing global cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things".[7] Its infrastructure is "completely independent of existing networks, such as telecommunications networks." SIGFOX seeks to provide the means for the "deployment of billions of objects and thousands of new uses" with the long-term goal of "having petabytes of data produced by everyday objects".[8]

Location

SIGFOX is based in Labège, in southwestern France, at the so-called IoT Valley.[9][10] SIGFOX has more than 80 employees, most of them in Labège, a suburb of Toulouse that is a regional tech and startup center.[3][11][12] The firm also has offices in Madrid, San Francisco, and at the Partech Shaker, a modern building in central Paris designed for startups and international companies.[13][14][15] In 2015, as a consequence of Sigfox's partnership with Samsung, the company announced it would open an R&D centre in Paris.[16]

Funding

During two rounds of funding, SIGFOX raised $30 million from Idinvest Partners, FSN PME, Ambition Numérique, Intel Capital, Elaia Partners, Partech, and Ixo Private Equity.[3][17][18]

It was reported in February 2015 that SIGFOX, in a third round of funding, had raised $115 million from seven investors "to help it build new networks globally to connect everything from washing machines to smart meters to the Internet." The investors were Spain's Telefónica, France's Engie, NTT DoCoMo Ventures (Docomo Capital), SK Telecom, Air Liquide, and Elliott Management. In June 2015, it was announced Samsung had invested an undisclosed amount towards the $115 million fundraising round, as well as one other "major player like Samsung", according to TechCrunch.[19] Reuters noted that the firm planned "to roll out its network in 60 countries in the next five years." It was expected that the countries would include the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and several Latin American nations, and that the partnership with Elliott would help the firm build credibility in the U.S. and elsewhere. This was described as "France’s biggest round of funding ever," topping "the $100 million raised by the European ride-sharing leader BlaBlaCar" the previous summer.[20][21][22]

The company is considering an initial public offering in 2016, or by mid-2017, Ludovic Le Moan stated to Bloomberg. Sigfox is seeking a total of $200-300 million during 2015.[23]

Officers

Ludovic Le Moan, an engineer with a degree from ENSIMAG, is co-founder of the firm and serves as its CEO and Director.[20] He previously managed the COFRAMI Group, created Anyware Technologies, and founded GOOJET, now Scoop.it.[24]

Anne Lauvergeon is SIGFOX's Chairman, a position formerly held by Ludovic Le Moan. She has a background in physics, chemistry, engineering, politics, and business. A former executive at several major French firms including Areva and a high level position during the administration of François Mitterrand, she joined SIGFOX as a member of the board in 2014.[10] She has been tipped as playing "an essential part "in the company’s fundraising effort", working directly with carriers and big companies instead of venture capital funds.[19] In 2009, she was ranked 4th in Fortune's ten most powerful international female leaders list.[25][26]

Christophe Fourtet, an engineer, is Scientific Director of SIGFOX. He graduated from INSA (Lyon) in Electrical and Telecommunications Sciences, and holds a postdoctoral degree in Electromagnetism. He has previously worked for DGA, SAGEM, Motorola, and Freescale Semiconductor. He took part in the group that created the Motorola cell phone.[27]

Technology

SIGFOX employs "a cellular style system that enables remote devices to connect using ultra-narrow band (UNB) technology", the same used for submarine communications during World War I.[28] As one expert explains, "M2M and IoT will give rise to billions of nodes that require connecting. Most of these will require only low bandwidth to transfer small amounts of data. Some will also require this to be connected over distances greater than those achievable simply by a transmitter on its own. For many of these applications, the traditional cellular phone systems are too complex to allow for very low power operation, and too costly to be feasible for many small low cost nodes...The SIGFOX network and technology is aimed at the low cost machine to machine application areas where wide area coverage is required".[29][30][31][32][33]

In other words, Sigfox's goal is to develop a system to connect intelligent devices. Its network costs are reduced and it requires little energy, being termed "Low-power Wide-area network (LPWAN)". It utilizes a wide-reaching signal that passes freely through solid objects, what it terms "ultra narrowband", which consists of free sections of the radio spectrum, particularly the ISM band.[34] Telecommunications companies usually intend on developing shortwaves capable of carrying the largest amount of data possible (such as 5G), whereas Sigfox intends on doing the opposite, that is using the longest waves.[25] Sigfox posits that their messages can travel up to 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) and each base station can handle up to a million objects, consuming 1/1000th the energy as a standard cellular system.[35]

This means Sigfox devices cannot carry heavy amounts of data, being able to handle approximately 12 bytes per message, and at the same time no more than 140 messages per device per day. However, this enables the transmission of simple messages.[25] This is due to the fact that with 12 bytes one can represent any number between 1 and 79 octillion, which translates as a myriad control codes, used for applications such as geolocation and tracking; monitoring a public defibrillator station to know when someone uses it; or parking-space monitoring and billing. Sigfox devices can work up to 20 years off two AA batteries, due to the fact it "wakes up whenever it sends a message, and then it goes back to sleep", according to Thomas Nicholls, Executive Vice President of communications at the company.[36][34]

According to Machina Research, an M2M advisory group, the year 2024 will see a total of 27 billion M2M connections or 80 billion connected objects, 14% of which will represent LPWA connections like those offered by Sigfox and its competitors, such as LoRa and Neul (Huawei).[37][38] Like in the cellular market, some dual-mode modules are available, such as the LoRa/Sigfox module from Nemeus.[39] The M2M segment of the IoT market (circa 40% of data),[40] according to two estimates, will be worth 1.6-1.7 trillion by 2020.[38][41]

Coverage

As of early 2015, SIGFOX's network covered France (1200 base station towers), Spain (1300 base station towers), the Netherlands, and ten large British cities (in conjunction with Arqiva) including London, Manchester and Edinburgh.[36][42][43] Its coverage extended to several million objects. In Spain, for example, in collaboration with Securitas Direct and Telefónica, it has provided block-proof IoT transmission technology towards a "quintuple play" service, including security, broadband, telephone, mobile and TV.[44] As part of this alliance, Sigfox has provided devices and signalling for five million apartments with burglary alarms.[20][45][46] Sigfox is collaborating with Fastprk in Moscow, having deployed 11 thousand devices that collect real-time information about parking spots.[47]

Starting in 2014, Sigfox has been building an ultra-narrowband wireless data network in the San Francisco Bay Area, the first to achieve such a deployment in the U.S., using the 900MHz band.[48] It announced plans for 1300 base stations to cover a total of 10 cities in the U.S. by early 2016.[49] By the end of 2016, it promised as many as 4000 stations covering 30 cities, with an objective to cover the entire US mainland for less than 50 million.[28] As of May 2015, it counts with 15 base stations in San Francisco dedicated to its IoT network.[50][51]

Sigfox announced in June 2015 its arrival in Denmark, pledging to attain country-wide coverage by May 2016. Copenhagen-based company IoT Denmark will provide partial support towards the Sigfox network. Denmark would thus join the list of countries counting with Sigfox IoT coverage, including the UK, US, Germany, Italy, Poland, Ireland, Chile and Colombia.[5] Similarly, Engie, via Engie M2M, announced its intentions to deploy Sigfox's network in Belgium by 2017, which would include B2C integration with one of Engie's subsidiaries, Electrabel.[52] Sigfox projects its expansion into a total of 50 countries by 2019.[53]

August 2015 saw the announcement Luxembourg would become the eighth country to deploy nationwide IoT coverage, extending coverage that was already in place in the cities of Ettelbruck and Luxembourg. The deployment would take place in conjunction with POST Telecom.[54][55]

Associations

WhistleGPS

It was reported in May 2014 that the new WhistleGPS canine tracking collar would begin employing SIGFOX's wireless system for low-power monitoring in the San Francisco Bay Area and parts of San Jose. These regions, it was noted, would be the first parts of the U.S. to employ SIGFOX.[56][57][49]

OCEASOFT

OCEASOFT, a provider of sensor-based environmental monitors, announced in 2014 a partnership with SIGFOX that would involve using SIGFOX's global network to transmit data directly from OCEASOFT's cobalt sensors to cloud storage.[58][59][60]

MUSTANG Project

SIGFOX announced in February 2015 that it was joining the Airbus MUSTANG Project to provide "worldwide, low-data-rate machine-to-machine communication using new earth-based and satellite technologies," enabling "connected devices to communicate on a global scale" and "offering users a fully integrated and optimised low-cost short message service." Le Moan said that "Seamless and constant Internet of Things connectivity between continents and over the oceans will be a giant step toward realizing the IoT's full potential". The project is supported by the French Government's Directorate General for Enterprise.[61][62][63]

TALIS

TALIS, a supplier of water-flow equipment, announced in April 2015 that it would be using SIGFOX’s IoT network to bring its fire hydrant-monitoring technology, COPERNIC, to connected cities. This would make it possible to track and analyze the status of "smart" fire hydrants to ensure their functionality.[64][65]

Samsung

In May 2015, during the Internet of Things World conference in San Francisco, the Samsung booth demonstrated its new ARTIK platform, while endorsing SIGFOX's IoT network coverage in the city. Curtis Sasaki, Vice President of Ecosystem, Samsung Electronics stated: "At Samsung, we are keen to work with innovative partners, like SIGFOX", while demonstrating both the ARTIK platform and Sigfox's network with a set-up for tracking bicycles.[5][48][66][67] One month later, Samsung disclosed its relationship with Sigfox as "a partner", according to president Young Sohn, while stating its funding round involvement and explaining its forthcoming ARTIK developer kits would come with Sigfox-compatible hardware chips to work on Sigfox's IoT network "out of the box".[19]

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