What is Sigfox?
Sigfox an inexpensive, reliable, low-power solution to connect sensors and devices. SIGFOX is a cellular style system that has been set up to provide low power low data rate, and low cost communications for remote connected devices.
M2M, machine to machine communications is rapidly developing and there is a need for the remote devices to be able to connect.
SIGFOX is a cellular style system that enables remote devices to connect using ultra-narrow band, UNB technology.
M2M and IoT or Internet of Things 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.
With our dedicated radio-based network, we are committed to giving a voice to the physical world, and make the Internet of Things truly happen.
The Sigfox protocol focuses on:
- Autonomy. Extremely low energy consumption, allowing years of battery life.
- Simplicity. No configuration, connection request or signaling. Your device is up and running within minutes!
- Cost efficiency. From the hardware used in the devices to our network, we optimize every step to be as cost-effective as possible.
- Small messages. No large assets or media, only small notifications.
- Complementarity. Thanks to its low cost and ease of configuration, you can also use Sigfox as a secondary solution to any other type of network, e.g.: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPRS, etc.
Sigfox’s network works with lightweight messages (12 bytes, excluding the payload headers).
The life cycle of a Sigfox message is always the same:
- A device wakes up and emits a message using its radio antenna,
- Multiple Sigfox base stations in the area receive the message,
- Base stations send the message to the Sigfox Cloud,
- The Sigfox Cloud sends the message to our customer’s backend platform.
It’s that simple!
Putting your device on the Sigfox network
Getting your device to communicate with Sigfox is very easy: everything you need is included! Our subscription service is based on the number of devices you want to connect to the network.
If you have a device that communicates using other networks, it might already be compatible with Sigfox. If not, then Build will take you through the steps to prototype, certify and connect it.
Subscribing to the Sigfox network
The Sigfox network is global, and managed by local Sigfox Operators (SO).
Contracting with an SO grants you access to the following:
- The Sigfox public network,
- The Sigfox Cloud, where you can see and manage all your devices on the network,
- The Sigfox support platform, available 24/7, for easy troubleshooting while you develop your product.
For more information, please contact your country’s Sigfox Operator.
What is a Sigfox “base station”?
Base stations are local Sigfox antennas, in charge of receiving messages from emitting devices and forward them to the Sigfox Cloud. They are deployed in the field by our local operators.
They are composed of three major elements:
- An antenna, to receive messages over the air, usually deployed on high points or towers,
- A LNA or LNAC (low-noise amplifier), to amplify the signal and filter noise,
- An access point, which understands the Sigfox messages and sends them to the Sigfox Cloud.
Once connected, they become part of our public network. They then start listening for all Sigfox messages sent by devices in the vicinity.
Sigfox is a public network, which means that devices will rely on the infrastructure deployed by the local operator to communicate. The full public coverage can be found here: https://www.sigfox.com/en/coverage.
In addition to our public connectivity offer, we have developed a range of solutions to cover all of our customer’s needs:
- Connectivity as a Service (CaaS): If you are located in a Sigfox-deployed country but your area is not yet covered, you can rent Sigfox base stations. You can host your own access point and extend the Sigfox network in a simple, flexible, and cost-effective way. Please contact your local Sigfox Operator to access these offers.
- SDR Dongle: If you are a device maker located in an area where Sigfox is not yet present, you can buy a Sigfox SDR Dongle. It allows you to locally emulate the Sigfox network, to try and test your devices.
Sigfox employs a proprietary technology that enables communication using the Industrial, Scientific and Medical ISM radio band which uses 868MHz in Europe and 902MHz in the US. It utilizes a wide-reaching signal that passes freely through solid objects, called “ultra narrowband” and requires little energy, being termed “Low-power Wide-area network (LPWAN)”. The network is based on one-hop star topology and requires a mobile operator to carry the generated traffic. The signal can also be used to easily cover large areas and to reach underground objects.
Sigfox has partnered with a number of firms in the LPWAN industry such as Texas Instruments, Silicon Labs and ON Semiconductor. The ISM radio bands support limited bidirectional communication. The existing standard for Sigfox communications supports up to 140 uplink messages a day, each of which can carry a payload of 12 Bytes (excluding message header and transmission information) and up to 4 downlink messages per day, each of which can carry a payload of 8 Bytes.
Sigfox is rolling out the first global IoT network to listen to billions of objects broadcasting data, without the need to establish and maintain network connections. This unique approach in the world of wirelessconnectivity, where there is no signaling overhead, a compact and optimized protocol, and where objectsare not attached to the network. Sigfox offers a software based communications solution, where all thenetwork and computing complexity is managed in the Cloud, rather than on the devices. All that together, it drastically reduces energy consumption and costs of connected devices.
Sigfox is a French company founded in 2009 that builds wireless networks to connect low-power objects such as electricity meters and smartwatches, which need to be continuously on and emitting small amounts of data.
Sigfox is based in Labège near Toulouse, France, and has over 190 employees. The firm also has offices in Madrid, San Francisco, Sydney and Paris.
Ultra Narrow Band radio modulation
Using the Ultra Narrow Band modulation, Sigfox operate in the 200 kHz of the publicly available band to exchange radio messages over the air. Each message is 100 Hz wide and transferred at 100 or 600 bits per second a data rate, depending on the region. Hence, long distances can be achieved while being very robust against the noise.
SIGFOX has tailored a lightweight protocol to handle small messages. Less data to send means less energy consumption, hence longer battery life.
An uplink message has up to 12-bytes payload and takes an average 2s over the air to reach the base stations which monitors the spectrum looking for UNB signals to demodulate. For a 12-byte data payload, a Sigfox frame will use 26 bytes in total. The payload allowance in downlink messages is 8 bytes.
Star network architecture
A device is not attached to a specific base station unlike cellular protocols. The broadcasted message is received by any base station in the range, which is 3 in average.
Design choices and benefits
Sigfox has designed its technology and network to meet the requirements of mass IoT applications; long device battery life-cycle, low device cost, low connectivity fee, high network capacity, and long range.
Sigfox uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) radio technology and operates in the unlicensed bands (ISM). Radio messages handle by the Sigfox network are small (12-bytes payload in uplink, 8 bytes in uplink) thanks to lightweight protocol.
How to get started with Sigfox Prototyping?
The quickest way to start prototyping is with a Sigfox compatible development kit. You’ll find a wide range of available kits on the Sigfox Partner Network, including Arduino and Raspberry PI boards.
The development kits generally come with included subscription to the Sigfox connectivity service and can be activated online.
SIGFOX M2M application areas
The SIGFOX network and technology is aimed at the low cost machine to machine application areas where wide area coverage is required. There are a number of applications that need this form of low cost wireless communications technology. Areas where the SIGFOX network may be used include:
- Home and consumer goods
- Energy related communications – in particular smart metering
- Healthcare – in particular the mHealth applications that are starting to be developed
- Transportation – this can include the automotive management
- Remote monitoring and control
- Retail including point of sale, shelf updating, etc