Singapore — Sigfox announced an alliance with travel industry firm Amadeus for luggage tracking and beyond. Separately, it announced improved geolocation accuracy using GPS and WiFi. The big announcement was the launch of its new private area network (PAN) offer, which the company says presents customers with a choice between a private or global service, dependent on budget and business needs.
Sigfox described a PAN as a private network sitting on the Sigfox public network. While the official reason is that it gives customers the option of accounting for their network connectivity as either capex or opex, Sigfox executives also indicated that it gives some customers the extra assurance that they have their own dedicated network, with the associated assurances about data privacy and security.
Sigfox will first test this new PAN with selected customers in France during Q1 2020, and then other countries later in the year.
Ludovic Le Moan, CEO and co-founder of Sigfox, said, “Sigfox’s PAN offer will benefit from the existing ecosystem around the Sigfox wide area network (WAN). The possibility of using all the components on the market, combined with the use of extremely low transmission power to support objects without the need for batteries, gives Sigfox’s PAN offer huge potential.” He said that smart-home or smart-city solution providers will be among the first to benefit from PANs.
In 2020, Sigfox said will complete its WAN coverage as a result of its partnership with Eutelsat, which will be launching a constellation of nanosatellites. This satellite constellation will deliver connectivity across the entire globe, bolstering coverage already provided by Sigfox’s network.
More accurate GPS and WiFi geolocation
Sigfox announced two complementary new offers to enhance accuracy of its geolocation services: Atlas Native and Atlas WiFi.
Launched in January 2017, Atlas Native was the first Sigfox geolocation service solely based on the Sigfox network, available for every device equipped with the simplest Sigfox module — without the need for GPS or other additional hardware/software components. Now, solution makers with GPS-devices will be able to use the Atlas Native Complimentary service free of charge in exchange for data processing rights. Using this GPS location data and comparing with the Sigfox network fingerprints, the machine learning algorithms used to compute Atlas can reduce the uncertainty of the “real” location of the asset and improve geolocation accuracy, down to 800 meters.
The second geolocation announcement is the completion of the global rollout of Sigfox’s Atlas WiFi service in partnership with Here Technologies, creating a global location service opening up new opportunities for IoT applications, particularly in supply chain and logistics. Atlas WiFi takes advantage of Here Technologies’ global database of WiFi access points, which can now be queried by Sigfox WiFi trackers and, by reporting the unique MAC addresses to the cloud, generating a more accurate asset position, and a seamless outdoor and indoor geolocation service. As determining WiFi-based location consumes less battery than using GPS, Atlas WiFi can also help enhance the life from battery-based IoT tracking solutions.
Luggage tracking alliance and gas meters in Japan
Every year, airports and airlines handle billions of pieces of luggage and packages which are often lost, damaged or delayed, leading to financial losses for the whole value chain, a lack of operational efficiency, and increasing dissatisfaction for travelers. Meanwhile, existing tracking technologies require expensive infrastructure updates (such as gates and readers), and provide limited interoperability and geolocation capabilities. In parallel, regulation like the new IATA Resolution 753 on luggage tracking will impose stricter tracking and increased visibility requirements to reduce luggage loss rates.
With this in mind, Sigfox and Amadeus, a provider of travel and tourism industry IT solutions, announced a new strategic partnership to develop a portfolio of solutions to meet the need for efficient asset tracking solutions, as well as reduce operational challenges for airports and airlines.
One such solution is PinPoint, an end-to-end tracking solution for the air transportation industry, initially targeting airports and airlines with trackers optimally designed, connected and communicating through the Sigfox global network. Through reusable tags placed on luggage, proximity sensors installed across airports and Sigfox global coverage, airlines will be able to monitor luggage, accurately tracking its location and detecting anomalies. For high-value assets, airlines will be able to use the technology to collect data that will help report movement and loss of those assets.
Meanwhile, Sigfox also talked about its Bubble technology, a beaconing solution enabling proximity detection, to be developed and deployed in collaboration with new partner Alps Alpine, an electronics components manufacturer. By managing the emission power, Sigfox cloud adapts the range of the Bubble, from less than one meter to a few tens of meters, improving the accuracy of the device’s location. When entering a Bubble cell, Sigfox devices and associated assets share their identification to the cloud providing a highly accurate location for each asset.
A retrofitted network controlling unit (NCU) will make 850,000 gas meters in Japan ‘smart’ (Source: Sigfox)
In Japan, 850,000 Nippon Gas (“Nicigas”) gas meters across the country will be made ‘smart’ by the end of FY2020 using a retrofitted gas meter reader called Space Hotaru developed by UnaBiz and Soracom. Sigfox said the project marks one of the largest deployments of smart utilities solutions to date. The network controlling unit (NCU) collects and transmits gas consumption data to Nicigas’ IoT data platform, “Nicigas Stream”, via Sigfox’s Japan-wide wireless network allowing the gas valve to be controlled remotely. The NCU is energy-efficient and is expected to last more than 10 years on internal batteries. In addition, the NCU also reports on meter related incidents. In the event of an earthquake, the gas valve is programmed to auto-close, bringing convenience and real-time security to the properties. The solution runs on the network operated by Kyocera Communication Systems, a subsidiary of Kyocera Corp.
New asset tracking modules
Two new modules were also announced by SeongJi Industrial, a wireless connectivity module manufacturer that merged the Wisol IoT business earlier this year. Its modules, SRM100A and SRM200A Sigfox Monarch modules, provide a unique radio recognition service enabling devices to manage the radio frequency changes without any additional hardware such as GPS or WiFi chipsets, according to Sigfox. This service enables devices to run seamlessly in all parts of the world, by automatically recognizing and adapting to the local radio-frequency standards. It unlocks use cases in logistics and supply chain, in the consumer industry, and in automated maintenance for the shipping, aircraft and railway industries
The SRM100A is a Monarch+BLE5.0 module that integrates STMicroelectronics’ Bluetooth LE BlueNRG-2 SoC and S2-LP ultra-low-power radio transceiver. It claims to be the smallest Monarch module (21.5mm x 19.5mm x 2.5mm) in the world and enables quick customer designs because of the half thru-hole SMD type and FOTA service from BLE5.0. The SRM200A is a state-of-art module integrating STMicroelectronics’ BlueNRG-2 and S2-LP devices, alongside BLE5.0, WiFi, GPS, and accelerometer, and it is used for applications like indoor and outdoor tracking as well as global logistics and asset tracking. Its size is 29.0mm x 21.0mm x2.3mm, and it supports BLE FOTA and NFC-tag feature for wake-up on field and touch to-pair capabilities.
Marco Veneri, low-power RF business unit manager, STMicroelectronics, said, “ST has been a strong believer in the Sigfox technology since its early adoption within our industrial-ready wireless portfolio, now fully supporting out-of-the-box Sigfox global connectivity with the S2-LP device, the industry’s most optimized and ultra-low-power ISM-band RF solution. The SeongJi SRM100A and SRM200A modules greatly simplify the adoption of the Sigfox networking technology for global asset-tracking and logistics markets.”