Internet of Things Network Coming Soon to San Francisco Bay Area

Janet Wagner, Data Journalist / Full Stack Developer
Jun. 06 2014, 11:20AM EDT

SIGFOX, a leading provider of global cellular connectivity for the Internet of Things (IoT), is set to build the first SIGFOX technology-driven long range wireless network in the San Francisco Bay Area allowing residents greater access for connected devices and mobile apps. SIGFOX has already successfully built nationwide IoT networks in France, Spain and the Netherlands. These networks support high volume two-way communications while allowing connected devices to have minimal energy consumption and bandwidth costs.
 

The Internet of Things has come a long way since the term was coined back in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, co-founder and former executive director of the MIT Auto-ID Center. The Internet of Things is defined by Gartner as "the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment."

For years after its conception in 1999, the Internet of Things developed slowly, an idea known primarily to those in fields of technology and was not something in the mainstream. However in recent months, the growth of the Internet of Things has been skyrocketing with the number of connected devices increasing exponentially. According to a recent Gartner report, the Internet of Things will create $1.9 trillion of economic value add by 2020. In addition, Gartner predicts that over 30 billion connected devices will be in use in 2020.

Traditional cellular networks were not designed for low throughput Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, not to mention the sheer number of connected devices expected to be in use in upcoming years. With this in mind, SIGFOX aims to enable the full potential of the Internet of Things by providing cities throughout the world long range wireless IoT networks that offer coverage that is often better than traditional cellular networks. There are also other factors to consider when it comes to connecting devices to IoT networks such as energy consumption, network range, connection and bandwith costs, security, and ease of use. Luke D'Arcy, SIGFOX U.S. director of operations, told ProgrammableWeb that:

"The SIGFOX network is an order of magnitude cheaper to use than existing cellular networks and allows battery powered devices to run for years. These are the characteristics that many IoT device makers are looking for, so we are seeing a lot of interest."

SIGFOX has already built nationwide IoT networks in France, Spain, the Netherlands, and parts of Russia. The company's next priority is the U.S. and the plan is to concentrate on the San Francisco Bay Area first. D'Arcy says that "the SIGFOX network will work well in any city." D'Arcy also explained to ProgrammableWeb why San Francisco was chosen to be the first city:

"We decided to cover the San Francisco Bay Area first because there is so much interest in the Internet of Things out here. There are literally hundreds of companies making devices ranging from activity monitors, to parking sensors to smoke detectors that need a low cost, low power way to connect to the internet. The Bay area is also filled with technology early adopters, so there is a ready market for these new gadgets."

One of the important features of the SIGFOX connectivity platform is the ease in which devices can be connected to the network. SIGFOX provides integration APIs and management applications so that devices can be connected to the network easily and quickly. The APIs are based on HTTPS REST requests and responses are returned in JSON format. The SIGFOX cloud and API are very important when it comes to SIGFOX IoT networks. D'Arcy told ProgrammableWeb that:

"We run all of our network management system in the cloud, which allows us to reduce the complexity and cost of network basestation hardware. We have focused a lot of time and effort on the cloud system API, because we want to make it as easy as possible for customers to interface their existing systems to it. As a result it is not unusual now for customers to complete an integration in just a couple of days."

One of the first companies to leverage the SIGFOX network in San Francisco is Whistle, a company specializing in smart technology for pet owners and veterinarians. The company recently introduced WhistleGPS, a mobile app that helps to ensure that pet owners in the U.S. will always be able to find their pets. According to the press release, approximately 10 million family pets go missing ever year. Whistle CEO Ben Jacobs is quoted in the press release as saying:

"WhistleGPS offers pet owners peace of mind that theyíll never lose their best friend. Until now, GPS devices on the market simply didnít make sense for most dog owners. Subscription costs are high, battery life is short, and products are too big for most breeds to even wear. By leveraging the SIGFOX network, weíre offering a GPS device that pet owners can use effortlessly, and be proud to put on their dogís collar."

The upcoming San Francisco Bay Area SIGFOX network should be completed by the end of September of this year. There are plans to build SIGFOX networks in additional U.S. cities which may include New York and Los Angeles. In the era of the Internet of Things, it is imperative that there is infrastructure in place that can handle the many millions of new and existing connected devices as well as the high volume of low-throughput communications. The types of networks provided by SIGFOX may be essential to the future of IoT. If SIGFOX continues its success in deploying dedicated IoT networks in cities around the world, the company may have to change from being the network of the "Internet of Things," to being the network of the "Internet of Everything."

Janet Wagner is a data journalist and full stack developer based in Toledo, Ohio. Her focus revolves around APIs, data visualization, machine learning, and data-driven journalism. Follow her on Twitter: @webcodepro, Google+, or send her an email.

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