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A wireless network for gadgets set to arrive in San Francisco

Patrick Thibodeau | May 22, 2014
The San Francisco Bay Area and south to San Jose will soon have what may be the nation's first dedicated Internet of Things network. It may change the way you think about the future of the IoT.

Luke D'Arcy, who heads U.S. operations for Sigfox and was the first U.S. hire of the approximately five-year-old firm, said the company wants to make its protocol an open standard, and are putting it through a European standards body. "We're committed to making it a standard," he said.

D'Arcy said that that an open standard will drive volume, and while it may bring competitors using the same technology, users want the security of supply by having a couple of different vendors. Creating an open standard is "strategically quite a good things for us," he said.

D'Arcy says there will be some IoT applications that need higher data rates, but a majority of connections will be low bandwidth, including things like sensors that check air quality and smart meters. The hardware required to enable Sigfox capability cost less than $2, he said.

In its various markets, Sigfox seeks out a cellular provider and uses its sites and towers and backhaul, which connects it to the network, but Sigfox specific radios and antennas are needed. Its frequency band works in parallel with existing networks. Each base station can handle one million connections, and by adding an antenna they can double capacity, said D'Arcy.

Forrester's Ried believes Sigfox could become "a very interesting and big company," but its success in the U.S. will depend in finding good equipment makers who leverage its network, especially wearable computing. "This is the ideal use case because that's a device that quickly goes into the millions," he said.


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