Tag Archives: sigfox

Cable industry prepares for open competition in IoT services

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Open source and cable industry are terms seldom found in the same sentence. But that’s about to change and it might be a very big deal indeed. CableLabs is the jointly funded, common technical development organisation for the cable industry, worldwide. Its crown jewel is the twenty year old DOCSIS standard, which is the engine that drives data delivery over hybrid fiber-coax systems in the U.S., and most of the the rest of the world. Although widely adopted, it is proprietary to CableLabs and its members – you have to pay for privilege of using it, and you pretty much have to follow the specs as given.

It’s taken a radically different approach to low power, wireless Internet of Things technology, though. There are several solutions kicking around, including the LoRa Alliance, SigFox and an adaptation of LTE technology. CableLabs has chosen LoRa, which takes a similar approach to licensing and certification as the WiFi Alliance. Its not free or open source, but it is a widely available radio frequency (RF) platform that’s optimised for particular kinds of applications: low power, battery-operated devices that need to send signals relatively long distances, say a kilometer or two in cities, and 10 or 20 kilometers in rural areas.

CableLabs developed key layers that sit on top of this basic, RF pathway and handle the actual exchange of data and management of devices in the field. Instead of limiting the use of the technology to its member cable companies, CableLabs has posted the source code and offered it to all comers for free on GitHub, under the very permissive terms of the MIT open source license.

The reason is straightforward, according to Daryl Malas, the principal architect of CableLabs’ advanced technology group

[Low power wide area networks] need to be deployed broadly across national and international regions. This will enable the use of many sensors across these same regions. As we make use of the sensor data, it will enrich our lives with information to make better choices, ensure higher quality results and guide us towards a better future. By making a portion of this network available for open-source, our goal is to lower the barrier for the cable industry and other industry participants to enable these solutions for consumers and governments.

Interoperability and easy access to big data streams will drive IoT business models. CableLabs is giving its cable industry members a shot at owning a big chunk of that market by putting them at the center of what it hopes will be a well-populated ecosystem.

SigFox plans California ag tech IoT network build out

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Small bursts of data at infrequent intervals are sufficient for many Internet of Things (IoT) applications. That’s as true in the agricultural technology sector as it is for urban uses, such as meter reading or environmental monitoring. AgTech, though, brings its own challenges and advantages to the party. On the one hand, there are fewer obstructions to block or attenuate wireless signals and spectrum tends to be less crowded. On the other, electrical power is often scarce and the realities of farming mean that anything you put in the ground often has to be temporary – fields are constantly being plowed up and replanted.

SigFox, a France-based company, is starting to expand its North American low power, wide area IoT network into rural areas. As with LoRa Alliance, which has a similar business model and technology, Sigfox is using unlicensed frequencies in the 900 MHz industrial (ISM) band to deliver very small data payloads – 12 bytes – to and from low power devices that can run off of batteries, in some cases for years. It claims to be operating in 24 countries – four of those with nationwide coverage – and supporting seven million devices.

Ramzi Alharayeri, SigFox’s San Francisco-based sales and business development director, talked about network build out plans and some of the agricultural applications they’re supporting at the Salinas AgTech meet up earlier this month. Irrigation control, soil monitoring and livestock tracking are among the services that partner companies offer – SigFox is a network operator, not a direct IoT service provider or equipment manufacturer itself.

So far, SigFox has a limited footprint in California. It’s built a network in San Francisco and surrounding areas, and has done some pilot projects in the north bay area. It hasn’t done a full scale rural deployment in the U.S. yet, but it’s looking at options for doing so.