The first question you should ask yourself when creating a Sigfox-enabled prototype is: how will it connect to the Sigfox network? For prototyping purposes, a lot of different solutions already exist on the market. Choosing one will highly depend on your needs.
1) The Breakout solution
Many people prefer to use "Modules" to implement Sigfox connectivity directly on their printed circuit board (PCB). Others prefer to use "Breakouts" of the very same modules, because they are easier to start off with and do not require any heavy soldering equipment.
Breakouts are usually modules mounted on PCB, giving very easy access to their PINs, and coming with extra features to make the device makers' life easier. They also give access to easy antenna connectors, like UFL or SMA, to start sending message instantly.
Breakouts can be found here on the Partner network. These breakouts are available for the Radio Configurations 1 and 2.
2) Verified Modules
Another solution is to directly obtain Sigfox Verified modules from your local distributor. This solution is a little bit more complex as you will have to design a specific PCB to mount your module, but will be better in terms of integration and final result.
These modules have received the Sigfox Verified certification, and are ready to communicate on our network, as long as it is connected properly to an antenna.
Please be aware that you have to choose Sigfox Verified modules developed for your Radio Configuration.
If you have limited skills in electronics, or need a clean and compact prototype for your proof of concept, you can use ThingType. Their automated platform lets you design your prototypes easily, and have them manufactured on-demand.
Something important to consider when developing your first prototype is the antenna you will choose to connect to the Sigfox network.
The choice of your antenna will depend on multiple parameters:
- Environment in which the device will work
Another important part of your prototype is the casing you plan on using for your device. This actually has a greater impact than is imagined, as the material of the casing will have a real impact on the radio performance of your prototype.
1) For better performances, consider plastic. Metal casing might look more solid but will create issues for your device, especially for radio propagation.
2) For quality purposes, you can also consider off-the-shelf casing. While 3D-printing is very interesting for very low volumes, because you can design exactly what you need, it can become expensive and require extra work to adapt to your needs. Off-the-shelf solutions should be considered for low-volume orders. Multiple references are available from your local distributor.
3) Depending on your use case (particularly outdoor or industrial use cases), IPXX casing is worth considering. It will adequately protect your design from being exposed to water or dust.
Once your prototype is designed; you will have to connect it to the Sigfox network. For that you will need to buy connectivity from your local Sigfox Operator, and assign your prototypes to your contract.
The easiest way is to use our online buying platform: buy.sigfox.com. This will allow you to choose from different connectivity packages and automatically create accounts on our backend platform.
For areas not yet covered by the public Sigfox network, we have developed the SDR Dongle. This product makes it possible to emulate a laboratory version of our network.
It allows you to develop and test your products even without Sigfox coverage. It features two tools: the Sigfox Network Emulator (SNE), presented below, and the Sigfox Radio Signal Analyzer (RSA), which we present in the Development step.
About the Sigfox Network Emulator
The Sigfox Network Emulator is a tool that runs on the Sigfox SDR Dongle. It is dedicated to test end-to-end and bidirectional data transport services between your device and your application.
By emulating the Sigfox radio network and cloud main functionalities (callbacks), it facilitates the development of IoT applications. It can help you test all parts of your creation, from the connected device itself to the application that processes the data transmitted by the device. There is no need for an active subscription, nor for Sigfox network coverage: you can develop and test your Sigfox device quickly, anywhere.
Note that the SDR Dongle is not made for production tests. Please see our document on how to do tests in production.
With the Sigfox Network Emulator, developers can:
- SIMULATE Sigfox coverage in a laboratory environment,
- SET radio configuration (RC) for any Sigfox country worldwide,
- TEST end-to-end data services from the device to the application and vice versa,
- DEBUG applications with message content details.
- Ubuntu distribution: 16.04 and above.
- Windows platform: Windows 7 and Window 10, 64 bits versions.
Chipset compatibility: The radio chipset in your device must integrate an “emulation mode” command, to switch from private key to public key. We provide a list of compatible chipsets.
To launch your first trial, you have two options:
- develop a dedicated product.
- use something already available on the market. This has the advantage to integrate the sensors you need during your tests.
Some Sigfox partners have developed dedicated products tailored for multiple use, positioning them as trial devices.