The SIGFOX network provides two-way transmission of small quantities of data over long distances, lowering barriers to implementation of Internet of Things solutions and extending battery and service life of connected devices. John Rutherford reports
Tech

The Electrical & Electronic Engineering Division of Engineers Ireland continued its 2016-17 events session with a presentation on ‘SIGFOX: Nationwide Telemetry’ in Clyde Road on 13 October.

Patrick Robinson, business development director of VT Networks, the SIGFOX network operator (SNO) in Ireland, outlined the SIGFOX network, the brief history of VT Networks, the rapid deployment of the nationwide telemetry network and the current applications.

The SIGFOX network is a low cost low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) utilising ultra-narrow band (UNB) modulation formats in which sidebands are minimised, to provide extremely bandwidth-efficient wireless transmission methods operating in free sections of ISM/UHF radio spectrum – particularly the ISM 868MHz unlicensed band.

The SIGFOX uplink is 100bps binary phase shift keying (BPSK), the downlink is 600bps Gaussian frequency shift keying (GFSK) and the system bandwidth is 200KHz.

The SIGFOX global core network and interface to the IoT (Internet of Things) cloud is managed from Toulouse in France. The in-country radio access network (RAN) is a cellular like network and managed in-country by the SNO, which in Ireland’s case is VT Networks.

The SIGFOX network complements existing high-bandwidth systems by providing simple, economical, energy-efficient two-way transmission of small quantities of data over long distances, thus lowering barriers to wide implementation of machine-to-machine (M2M) and IoT solutions, and greatly extending the battery and service life of connected remote devices.

SIGFOX


Currently, SIGFOX is reporting full nationwide network deployments in eight European countries and globally 24 other countries with deployments under way. There are currently seven million registered connected remote devices communicating via 6,000 base stations across 18 countries. SIGFOX is today the only commercially available IoT-dedicated connectivity solution that guarantees a high level of service and reliability on an international scale.

VT Networks, headquartered at the DCU Alpha innovation campus in Glasnevin, Dublin 9, has been in existence since 2014. 2RN, Ireland’s broadcast communications network operator, is a shareholder.

2RN provided the base-station sites, radio network planning and network deployment team, which succeeded in rolling out 109 base stations in five months in the first half of 2016.

The nationwide telemetry network is now operational covering 73,000KM2 with 97% strong outdoor coverage and 80% deep indoor coverage and up to 150KM offshore coverage. A mix of rural (40km range) and metropolitan (8km range) base stations is deployed to cover the national territory. For example, there are 27 base stations covering the Leinster area, with nine base stations in Dublin. Base-station capacity is 10 million messages per day for greater than one million devices. Full coverage in Northern Ireland is expected to be achieved by the end of 2016, when the UK SNO completes deployment of the network.

SIGFOX remote devices transmit small amounts of data from M2M and IoT nodes, such as geolocation trackers, utility smart meters and alarms. 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.

The SIGFOX remote device payload is approximately 12 bytes per message and 140 messages per device per day. This enables the transmission of simple messages. These, in turn, can be translated into a myriad of control codes for upstream IoT cloud applications.

SIGFOX remote devices consume very little power, waking up only for the brief period when a message is transmitted. SIGFOX remote devices can be battery or solar powered and device unit costs are falling rapidly with mass production, to the extent that many M2M and IoT node manufacturers are integrating SIGFOX capability into new, shipped products or designing retrofits for existing products.

Network benefits


Given the very small size of typical SIGFOX remote devices (100x70x20mm), they can be explicitly or covertly deployed. Registration of a SIGFOX remote device on the network is subject to a subscription.

The network benefits are:

  • A unique worldwide standard for remote devices, radio network and core network;
  • Low-cost hardware and connectivity – remote device and subscription rates ten times lower than cellular or legacy telematics;
  • Low power – very long life battery-operated remote devices with integrated solar cells;
  • Long range (typically 50km) – VT Networks’ testing has captured a case of extreme remote device-to-base station transmission of 196km in Ireland. However, other SNOs have recorded extreme remote device transmission of 981km. In the vertical plane, transmission from a remote device in a helium weather balloon at over 32,000 meters altitude has also been successful;
  • Reliability of service and security – built in network redundancy and transmission security.

The SIGFOX network is ideal for applications such as:

  • Metering – gas, water, electricity, wind, heat;
  • Sensors – temperature, motion, tilt, alignment, humidity, touch, presence, mass, force;
  • SCADA – valves, pressure, levels, access, power, movement;
  • Alarms – security, smoke, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, methane;
  • Asset management – geolocation tracking, utilisation, temperature, humidity, air quality;
  • Offshore – smart buoys.

In Europe, the fastest growth applications are smart-utility metering and substitution for legacy cellular or satellite telemetry, which in turn has rejuvenated interest in SCADA applications. IoT industry research is forecasting 27 billion M2M connections or 80 billion IoT connected nodes by 2024.

Looking to the future, VT Networks is actively engaged with university programmes, system integrators, IoT node manufacturers and technology start-ups to maximise awareness and adoption of the technology. VT Networks is also engaged with Phase 2 ‘densification’ of the nationwide telemetry network enabling deep underground and deep-into-buildings coverage.

Electrical & Electronic Division Chairman Karl O’Keeffe delivered the Vote of Thanks. A recording of the presentation will be made available on the Engineers Ireland website in the coming weeks.

http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Internet-of-things-1024x648.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Internet-of-things-300x300.jpgDavid O'RiordanTechCommunications,electronics,internet,internet of Things,software
The Electrical & Electronic Engineering Division of Engineers Ireland continued its 2016-17 events session with a presentation on 'SIGFOX: Nationwide Telemetry' in Clyde Road on 13 October. Patrick Robinson, business development director of VT Networks, the SIGFOX network operator (SNO) in Ireland, outlined the SIGFOX network, the brief history of...