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February 04, 2015

A Protocol and an Integrator Drive into a Parking Lot

SIGFOX is an ultra-narrow-band technology that “operates in the globally available ISM bands [license-free frequency bands] and co-exists in these frequencies with other radio technologies, but without any risk of collisions or capacity problems,” the company notes on its homepage. “SIGFOX currently uses the most popular European ISM band on 868MHz [as defined by ETSI and CEPT] as well as the 902MHz in the USA [as defined by the FCC], depending on specific regional regulations.”

In Europe, SIGFOX is deployed in France, Spain and the Netherlands, with approximately 450 million square miles covered. Unlike some other solutions, SIGFOX has a no-cost API available to a wide variety of vendors including Telit, Texas Instruments and about ten others.

“SIGFOX enables bi-directional as well as mono-directional communications and can co-exist with other communication protocols, both short and long range,” the company notes on its website. “High energy consumption has been a major obstacle with regards to unleashing the potential of the Internet of Things, which is why one of the key elements of the SIGFOX strategy is to continue to push the boundaries for energy consumption lower and lower.”

In a recent press announcement SIGFOX, Aerea and Tele2 reported delivering solutions in the Netherlands. Aerea is acting as the integrator, but the customer of record can be managed by Tele2 as well.

While speaking recently with Rami Avidan, Tele2's Commercial Director of M2M; Nicholas Van Hoey Smith, Aerea’s CEO; and Thomas Nicholls, SIGFOX’s Head of Marketing, the trio destroyed a lot of misconceptions we had about the deployments.

According to Nicholls, the deployments in Europe have not required additional hardware and in the case of the Aerea and Tele2 implementation in the Netherlands, 70 percent of the nation is covered.

The partnership with Tele2 enables Aerea to deliver services competing with other local operators.

However, the implementation and integration is better understood when not considering the SIMs but considering the application.

Parking lot payment strategies, which is one of the lead implementations in the partnership, shows the diversity and opportunity to pick and choose technologies when implementing IoT solutions. For example:

SIGFOX is used to connect to the parking meters and is monitored by Aerea’s solution;

Tele2 cellular ability is used to connect up to digital signage, providing awareness of what parking spaces remain on a floor, building, etc.;

Smartphone apps run over the top on any carrier’s network and provide directions to empty spots, bill payment and other features and functions;

Bluetooth can be used to communicate to pair with the parking meter for location and payment.

So what we have is a very cool implementation of alternative wireless, where the network choices remain efficient. I expect, given the nature of IoT, that we will be hearing more about SIGFOX as a solution -- and its partners -- as they roll out additional implementations.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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