Monday, September 26, 2022

Peter Clarke, Sales and Marketing Director at WND UK

Peter Clarke,

What is Sigfox, how does it operate, and what are some of its benefits? What does it mean to be a 0G network exactly?

Sigfox 0G is a low-power, wide area wireless network created specifically for sensor data communication and sending very small packets of data. Its extremely low power consumption means that sensors can be discreet and run for a long time on batteries. Other benefits include the low cost and simplicity of putting an end-to-end solution in place, the availability of high-capability devices that are becoming ever cheaper to produce, and anti-jamming abilities. These factors make it ideal for large scale Internet of Things (IoT) applications that only need to send small bits of information – such as logistics, utilities, smart cities, direct marketing and more.

What aspects would you credit the success of achieving over 90% population coverage in just 18 months when deploying Sigfox in WND UK?

Our base stations are low-cost, unobtrusive and quick to deploy. As our antennas are roughly the size of a TV antenna, they can be added to buildings with minimum disruption. By offering a small incentive to hosts, we’ve been able to roll out our coverage extremely quickly, and we also have the flexibility to react speedily to customer requirements.

What were some of the challenges and obstacles when implementing Sigfox in the UK?

Our main challenge in implementing Sigfox in the UK wasn’t so much the roll out, as generating awareness of the product. In terms of roll out, we did get off to a slow start, but we had over 1,940 sites up and running after just 18 months. Today we have 90% coverage by population in the UK – and we’re really keen to generate awareness of this availability, as well as the unique advantages of Sigfox.  It’s unfortunate that to date there is lots of talk about IoT networking capabilities but no where near enough awareness of this IoT centric network capability.

What measures are you taking to stay ahead of competition like LoRa and LTE-M?

We don’t actually see technologies like LoRa and LTE-M as competitors, more as a separate offering dependent on use case as they are better suited to either high-bandwidth, large-data applications or use cases where customers want to run their own network. For IoT solutions such as connected video cameras, Sigfox technology won’t fit – but for requirements which require simplicity in connected devices to send small packets of sensor data then we are an obvious choice.  We plan to continue to improve and increase the density of the network, while bringing more awareness to the market about the broad range of use cases for our network.

How has Sigfox advanced the IoT industry?

Sigfox was the first company to build a global network dedicated to the IoTs, based on low power, long range and small data requirements. This has empowered a whole new range of use cases for IoT – where lots of small pieces of information come together to provide ‘big data’. Examples include supply chain and logistics, smart cities, utilities and energy, agriculture and more.

How does Sigfox transform a linear supply chain into an integrated one?

An integrated supply chain is much more efficient than a linear one – but can take a long time to set up and requires a great deal of trust and co-operation between supply chain members. Sigfox has created a solution that delivers end-to-end visibility of the supply chain journey, real-time tracking of transported goods and retrievable packaging. This allows global businesses to set up an integrated supply chain in weeks, not years.  Our integrated solutions have increased customers’ average ETA of supply chain goods by 40%.

What are the benefits of an integrated system and what are the drawbacks?

Business benefits of systems integration include increased productivity, better transparency, cost savings and better efficiency leading to increased customer satisfaction. One downside is security. With systems all talking to each other, there’s increased risk of hacking. With Sigfox, this is not an issue, as information is not transmitted over the internet – it is a one-way transmission from the connected device to the base station.

How does WND maximize return on investments?

We’re continually reaching out to channel partners that have the ability to work with our end customers, to put solutions in place using Sigfox connectivity. This will drive up the number of connections, which will ultimately lead to a good return on investments.

How does Sigfox extract meaningful data, what does it do with this data?

Extracting data isn’t something that we do. Sigfox simply acts as a conduit for the data to go from a sensor device to a customer’s platform for analytical purposes, we provide the transport layer to get it there.

What role does Sigfox play in enabling business transformation Security in data sensor networks?

Security is a significant challenge in IoT due to the open nature of some protocols and the fact that IoT significantly broadens the potential of attack of business intelligence systems. Due to these concerns – and the fact that IoT is intimately linked to business-critical processes – Sigfox made it a major priority to embed security. The Sigfox network is unique in design and is one of the most secure platforms available today. This is because Sigfox connected devices are shielded from the internet by a very strict firewall. While Sigfox-ready devices are IoT objects, they do not connect directly to the internet and do not use internet protocols (TCP, IP). What’s more, they are not permanently connected to the base station, but wake up only when they need to send a message.

The Sigfox protocol is also designed to ensure the security of data in motion. Each Sigfox ready device has its own symmetrical authentication key. Even if one device is compromised, the rest of the network is not impacted. We can also offer customers message encryption as part of their solution.

What are some applications of low-power wide-area networks used for besides smart watches and house appliances? How can consumers and businesses benefit from this technology?

Low-power wide-area networks open up a whole new range of applications that leverage the power of connecting large numbers of devices and enabling them to transmit small bits of information. Consumer applications include connected smoke alarms that can send an alert to your smartphone when they detect an issue and fall detectors that can trigger an alert if the wearer falls or pushes a panic button. For businesses the range of applications is huge. In agriculture, for example, Sigfox can enable farmers to track herds, monitor weather and soil conditions, check silo and tank levels and more.  Perhaps the largest sector we are seeing though is asset management and recovery for logistical and supply chain businesses. There are also applications for, direct marketing, manufacturing, utilities and smart cities – just to name a few.

From a business lens, what do consumers want? Both personal and business wise, what are the new products that are hitting the market?

There are new IoT solutions hitting the market all the time. One of the most unique use cases we’ve seen was a campaign conducted by Ebi, taking direct response marketing to a new level. They sent a mail pack to prospects allowing them to book a test drive simply by pressing the ‘start’ button. Consumer applications range from baggage and pet trackers to connected security systems and fire alarms. Commercial applications are as diverse as the range of businesses out there. For example, retail customers are using smart buttons to get a live picture of customer satisfaction, while farmers are using smart gates to deter stock thieves – the list is endless.

What would it take for developing countries to catch up to the IoT explosion and utilize the emerging technologies?

One of the great advantages of the Sigfox network is how quick and affordable it can be to roll out. More are devices coming to market, prices are dropping, and platforms for data analysis are readily available for the Sigfox ecosystem – so it’s ideal for countries that want to access the benefits of IoT but do not have a well-established communication infrastructure. One of the original use cases for Sigfox Foundation was to help protect rhinos in Africa and ensure the safety of researchers in Antarctica.

Where do you see the IoT market heading in the near and far future?

We are seeing a lot of maturity in the market that we didn’t see a few years ago. People are not looking at the technology but at the business applications. They want to know what they can do with it. Now that the market is beginning to settle and the different technologies are finding their places, more major companies will start to adopt IoT technology as part of their digital transformation planning. This will bring even more maturity in terms of a growing ecosystem making the future look bright for the Sigfox network and WND.