What is Sigfox?
Sigfox is a new wireless standard for connecting sensors over long distances to a tower, much like a cell phone connects to a cellular tower. In contrast to cellular technology, Sigfox is significantly cheaper and has the capacity for much longer battery life. Sigfox uses what is called “ultra narrow band” modulation and runs at very slow data rates to achieve very long distances through noisy environments while minimizing battery consumption.
Does Sigfox Require a Gateway?
In contrast to LoRaWAN, Sigfox does not require a gateway to be installed by the end user or system integrator. A Sigfox solution relies on the global coverage that Sigfox has in place which includes most major cities in the US. To check coverage in your area, see the Sigfox coverage map here:
If coverage is not available, Sigfox will often add coverage where necessary or lease a Sigfox base station to be used in place of a gateway.
Why use Sigfox instead of WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Cellular, etc?
2.4GHz protocols such as WiFi, Zigbee, and Bluetooth are generally poor choices for wireless sensors for a number of reasons. First, protocols that run in the 2.4GHz spectrum have very poor range and propagation through objects such as walls and floors. One might note that they commonly have trouble getting a WiFi connection on the second floor of their house when the WiFi router is in the basement and there is any type of obstruction in the way. Home automation systems utilizing protocols such as Zigbee will often find that they have trouble connecting to the very next room. Sigfox devices, on the other hand, can reach distances of many miles in open air environments and perform very well through obstructions such as buildings or equipment.
Second, the 2.4GHz spectrum is very "noisy" meaning that there are 2.4GHz devices all around us competing for air time which affects link quality. Sigfox runs at 915MHz in the US and thus does not have interference with local WiFi and most other wireless devices.
Third, security and key management is unreliable with protocols such as WiFi. For example, if someone changes the password on a WiFi router, all WiFi devices will likewise need to be updated. How though, does the password get updated on small battery powered devices that have no user interface? Common WiFi devices such as smartphones, TVs, laptops, etc have displays and allow you to easily change the password, but for very simple battery powered sensors this is not the case. Sigfox, on the other hand, provisions and secures devices differently. Instead of a single password defined at the network server, the key originates at the sensor itself and has a unique value that can be provisioned in the cloud. All Radio Bridge sensors have unique ID/Key pairs that allow for efficient provisioning and management of security.
Fourth, battery consumption for devices such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and cellular devices is relatively high. Not only is the transmit power high, but the devices must maintain regular communication to a gateway or base station to maintain its connected status. Sigfox devices, on the other hand, can enter a deep sleep mode and only wake up to transmit when necessary to communicate a new event. This allows for very long battery life on the order of 5-10 years in most applications.
Does Sigfox require a monthly data plan?
Similar to a cellular device, Sigfox will require a monthly service fee to access the global network. For small volume applications, proof of concepts, or companies that need to get to market quickly, Sigfox data plans can be purchased directly from Radio Bridge. Simply register your Sigfox device on the Radio Bridge Console at console.radiobridge.com and your device will be up and running in minutes.
The web-based device management console from Radio Bridge provides additional value with the automatic provisioning, monitoring, and configuration of Sigfox sensors in the field. For large organizations with over 10,000 to 50,000 deployed devices it may make sense to engage with Sigfox directly and develop all of these systems from scratch. For smaller deployments under 10,000 or so units, there is generally a better return on investment to utilize these managed services from Radio Bridge and get to market quickly.
Log into the Radio Bridge console to monitor and configure sensors. Set up alerts via email, SMS text message, or an API into your own server.
Radio Bridge provides connectivity to the Sigfox network with plans below $1/month.
Sigfox sensors from Radio Bridge drop into place with no gateways or wiring required.