IoT has the potential to change the products and services companies offer, and the way organizations operate. Understanding the strategic advantage that IoT can deliver for your business requires a holistic approach.
The Sigfox IoT Agency has guided businesses and organizations of all kinds in their exploration of IoT, and has written a series of articles, starting with "7-Step Process to Explore IoT Potential in Your Organization". A recommended read at this stage!
Connecting a wide number of small and cheap devices in a durable and inexpensive way means making choices and trade-offs. Network subscription cost is only a small part of the equation: battery life, hardware price and onboarding process of devices remain the biggest challenges for a successful IoT project.
Thankfully, the Sigfox protocol is designed to be extremely efficient and allow devices running over our network to have many years of battery life. This is made possible most notably by two key aspects of the protocol:
1) Small message size: 12 bytes at most
Sigfox messages can carry a payload (your own data) of 12 bytes. That's maximum, but the payload is flexible: you can send any data size between 1 and 12 bytes. You can even send a payload of 0 bytes, in case you just need a ping message.
This makes Sigfox perfectly suited for the vast majority of IoT use cases, allowing devices to send relevant data to the Sigfox Cloud.
However, this also means that some projects are not currently meant to use the Sigfox technology, because they require high bandwidth and constant connection to the network. Sigfox technology is optimized for lightweight use cases.
2) Regulated message frequency: 140 messages per day at most
As the current version of Sigfox uses public radio frequencies (aka ISM bands), we comply with the sharing rules ("duty cycle") of the different regions of the world. These regulations exist to keep these bands available for everybody.
For instance, in Europe, the ETSI regulation allows devices on these frequencies to send messages for 1% of the time per hour (which means 36 seconds). To be compliant with the regulations in place, Sigfox devices can only send a defined number of messages per day. Our commercial contracts are designed to address this.
The number of messages per day allowed on the Sigfox network is a direct application of the European ETSI regulation:
- There are 3,600 seconds in one hour.
- 1% of 3,600 is 36 seconds, so a device can emit for 36 seconds per hour.
- A Sigfox message takes 6 seconds to send for RC1 devices. Learn more about Sigfox RCs.
- Therefore, a device can send a maximum of 6 messages per hour (36/6), which means a total of 144 messages per day (24 * 6). Sigfox keeps 4 messages for protocol use, which therefore allows for 140 messages per day for your device.
NB: This calculation is just an example of what is done in the EMEA region (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa). Depending on your device's location, limitations can be very different.
3) Worldwide network: Check for coverage!
Devices need a network to send messages to. Sigfox's network uses radio waves through a large number of dedicated connected antennas (which we call "base stations"). Some regions have many antennas, others have few, and sometimes there is none (yet).
Network latency, ranger, and bandwidth are key constraints for any IoT project. This is how Sigfox answers those constraints:
- Latency: Data is available as soon as it is received by the Sigfox Cloud, which is generally a few seconds after emission by the issuing object.
- Range: On average, 10 km in an urban setting and 40 km in a rural setting. Coverage can be further expanded using network repeaters or the Micro Base Station, for instance.
- Bandwidth: Each message is 100 Hz wide and transferred at 100 or 600 bits per second in data rate, depending on the region.
The last point has important details: to comply with local regulations, the Sigfox network is "regionalized". This means that the network configuration can differ from one country to the other. The Sigfox network is currently split into six geographical zones: RC1 (mostly Europe), RC2 (mostly North America), RC3 (Japan), RC4 (LATAM and APAC), etc. A device on the move can automatically switch from one RC to another when they include the Monarch feature https://build.sigfox.com/monarch
As you can see, Sigfox has designed its technology and network to meet the requirements of mass IoT applications; long device battery life-cycle, low device cost, low connectivity fee, high network capacity, and long-range.
For more details on the Sigfox technology, you can download the Technical Overview available below.
Sigfox messages are small and optimized for sensors, as they require only a small amount of power.
The Sigfox payload is limited to 12 bytes (excluding the payload headers). Although this might seem to be a very restricted payload size, there's actually a lot that can be done with 12 bytes.
The example below shows how you could structure 12 bytes to send a set of GPS coordinates along with battery voltage, number of satellites received, acquisition time and speed.
When considering a technology for your device, it is crucial to understand how much it will cost you, in all its aspects.
The Sigfox network is designed and optimized to be very cost-effective. From the hardware to create a device, to the cost of network deployment, all the details have been cautiously taken care of to offer the most optimal IoT solution on the market.
1) Hardware costs
We made our technology free for semiconductor companies to implement in their solutions. Thanks to this, the cost of modules and other radio solutions is low in comparison to competing technologies. Starting at less than 2€ for certified modules, you can create connected devices for a relatively small investment.
Since electrical consumption is very low, battery costs are also lowered compared to other technologies, further decreasing the overall hardware costs.
2) Network costs
The total cost of ownership (TCO) of your solution must take into account the network subscriptions. Sigfox's business model is based on yearly subscriptions paid by customers to connect to our service.
As the technology itself is very long range, we have optimized our deployment costs by lowering the number of antennas needed to cover entire areas, thus lowering the price of the solution we offer to our customers.
The current cost of Sigfox connectivity depends on two major factors: the number of messages you need to send every day, and the number of devices you want to connect.
When calculating your project's schedule and costs, do not forget to include the need to have a local conformity mark (CE, FCC, ARIB, etc.), and the need to pass a Sigfox Certification (either Sigfox Verified or Sigfox Ready).
Geolocation is one of the most interesting use-cases seen with connected devices. If you're thinking of producing a device that makes use of geolocation, you must consider how you can achieve it.
Click on the button below to learn more about how you can add geolocation with your Sigfox device
Some of the devices developed for other technologies such as LoRa might already be compatible with our network out of the box, with just a firmware upgrade.
If your device uses one of the compatible chipsets for other purposes (private network, proprietary protocols, etc.), it could be possible to reuse the same hardware and be Sigfox-compatible by adding the Sigfox library and upgrading the firmware.
As the Sigfox network is quite specific, some limitations exist, meaning that not all devices will work out of the box.
In order to be also compatible with Sigfox, your product's PCB and hardware designs must follow certain rules, which might not have been applied in the development of current products.
Your product can be easily made compatible with Sigfox if:
- It uses a compatible chipset, or RF integrated circuit. See below for a list.
- It has 5 to 10 KB of available flash memory space in its MCU, to receive the Sigfox stack.
The compatible chipsets are:
- Silicon Labs: EFR, EZR, SI446X
- Semtech: SX1272, SX1276
- OnSemi: AX8052
- STMicro: Spirit 2 SPII
- NXP: OL2385
- M2COMM: M2C8001
Other chipsets might be compatible with Sigfox. Contact our team for an assessment.
If our team validates compatibility, you will need to go through a compatibility call with our certification team to certify the use-case.
If you would like to know whether your device is already compatible with the Sigfox technology, you can contact us.
Check if your device is compatible with Sigfox:
Finding a unique name for your own device is a proud moment. We want to make sure that your chosen name doesn't clash with Sigfox's naming rules.
The main rule is simple: partner products names must not refer to any term that could lead to confusion with “Sigfox” in any way.
Likewise, do not use the Sigfox name or its butterfly logo in your product (casing, manual, box, etc.). If your product has received a Sigfox certification, you can use the "Sigfox Certified" logo for modules, or the "Sigfox Ready" logo for devices. See the branding guidelines.