Saturday, July 4, 2020

Local Sigfox wireless franchise embarks on island-wide IoT coverage

By on June 29, 2020

With $2M investment, sets up 0G network to power up smart systems

SAN JUAN – After months of infrastructure building, pilot tests and acquiring a sizeable client base, Guaynabo-based Sigfox Puerto Rico, a local franchise of the France-based multinational provider of 0G network and Internet of Things (IoT) services, is aiming for a massive, island-wide deployment of the low-bandwidth IoT technology used in so-called smart systems for automatic operation of essential devices in homes and businesses, a company executive said.

Sigfox Puerto Rico was established a year and a half ago after Puerto Rican investors belonging to The Phoenix Fund, a Guaynabo-based private equity firm, in conjunction with Sigfox USA, put up $2 million to acquire the rights to use the pioneering technology on the island, Sigfox Puerto Rico CEO José Rodríguez told Caribbean Business. The company has built the ultra-long coverage base stations needed to create a local 0G network that will provide full IoT coverage on the island, he said.

“As the newest member of the Sigfox global ecosystem, Puerto Rico will now have the necessary infrastructure for massive and cost-effective IoT connectivity, allowing it to become the next smart country,” Rodríguez said, noting that while the company is locally owned, it has the “support of France-based Sigfox’s interconnectivity of the cloud at a global level.”

IoT refers to any system of physical devices that can receive and transfer data over wireless networks without human intervention. This is made possible by integrating simple computing devices with sensors in all kinds of equipment, machinery and appliances to obtain the “smartest” or most desirable outcomes according to environmental changes.

A 0G network is a dedicated, low-bandwidth wireless network that is specifically designed to connect simple, low-powered and low-cost IoT devices to the internet.

Rodríguez said that 0G and IoT technologies will have a “positive economic multiplier effect” on the island, leading to the creation of new businesses and emergent technology jobs.

Sigfox Puerto Rico employs a core staff of about seven people, but it has created between 45 and 50 jobs with its affiliated sales force and engineers, the executive said, adding that these jobs do not include potential ”spin-off businesses to supply solutions for the Sigfox ecosystem.”

“Maintaining the network does not require too many jobs, but other jobs will be created vertically with the ecosystem involving consulting and device-manufacturing businesses, and local software developers to provide solutions for the ecosystem,” he said. “This will create employment in emerging technologies associated with IoT.”

The company has already attracted a host of clients in different industries, including supermarkets, fast-food outlets, diesel and oil delivery companies, and businesses that need to track water cistern tank and diesel tank measurements, Rodríguez said.

“This network touches all industries in Puerto Rico. The uses of Iot technology are endless,” the executive said, noting that such technology allows effective and efficient business processes, including faster and more accurate decision making. “The interconnectivity provided by Sigfox allows the communication of devices used in agriculture to monitor crops as well as cattle. It is used in manufacturing to measure movement and behavior of machinery. It is also used for management and tracking of vehicle fleets as well as of transport of frozen cargo for pharmaceutical companies and supermarkets. There are even Sigfox collars that have a tracking device for pets in case they get lost.”

Rodríguez said that while other wireless companies on the island provide IoT interconnectivity, Sigfox provides “fully dedicated to 0G technologies involving very small messages with a very small band-width.” As a result, the company can offer a focused service that, at a minimum, can be 30 percent cheaper than other providers, depending on the type of equipment and the interconnectivity desired, he said.

“This involves turning things on and off, or measuring vibrations, temperature, and other functions that do not need the wide-bandwidth of a 5G, 4G or 3G [network],” he said, adding 0G-connected equipment and batteries last longer. “You can think about it this way: you don’t need a five-lane highway to drive to the nearest grocery store in a single car. You can drive along a narrow street.”

Sigfox Puerto Rico plans to develop and manufacture on the island the IoT devices, sensors and software for its local network, Rodríguez said, noting that the company is still in talks with “local entities” he declined to name for such manufacturing. The company already has an agreement to set up a laboratory at the Engine-4 co-working office building in Bayamón, he said.

 “There are three principal components for all that has to do with the Internet of things: the hardware, which are the devices; the platform, which is the software; and the connectivity,” he said. “When they are combined they create a turnkey product for the user, depending on the need, whether fleet management, refrigeration, localization, etc. We not only brought solutions to Puerto Rico but also the opportunity to grow a local market where other entities can generate and manufacture the devices needed for those products locally, as well as the development of the software for the platforms to aggregate the data locally.”

Moreover, Sigfox USA President Jeremy Prince said that corporations that operate internationally will be able to “seamlessly use and benefit from Sigfox’s network securely across 71 countries without expensive and complicated roaming systems.” Founded in 2010 by Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet, the ISO 9001-certified Sigfox is headquartered in France and has offices in Madrid, Munich, Boston, Dallas, Dubai, Singapore, Sao Paulo and Tokyo.

“We are thrilled about our alliance with The Phoenix Fund for the island of Puerto Rico,” Prince said. “By choosing Sigfox, the island has become part of an international network that allows them to monitor and track goods and services from anywhere in the world. Customers will have access to a worldwide ecosystem providing best-in-class Internet of Things technology, sensors and connectivity for myriad use cases.”