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Sigfox Plans 20 Cent Disposable Radio for IoT

Dan Jones
10/13/2017
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Sigfox, the French startup that has a low-power IoT network in 36 countries, is working on an ultra-cheap disposable radio that is expected to be commercially available next year.

The "Admiral Ivory" product -- using Sigfox 's low-power WAN technology -- will be a very low-cost chip for tracking applications and will cost "in the range of 20 cents," says to Sigfox's chief marketing officer, Laetitia Jay.

"There are plenty of opportunities in the postal market," Jay adds. Essentially, a letter or package could be tracked to delivery via the chip.

The Office of Inspector General at the United States Postal Service put out a paper on developing an Internet of Postal Things (IoPT) in 2015. In it, the department cites Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) data saying public sector IoT could yield $4.6 trillion in value by 2022.

By comparison with the 20 cent chip, Jay says, Sigfox's existing module -- designed for very long-battery life applications -- is priced around $3. LTE-M modules are currently priced around $7.50.

Silicon based on unlicensed spectrum typically cost less than licensed systems. Sigfox currently lists nine chip manufacturers as delivering modules or transcievers based on its technology, these include heavy hitters like Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN) and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM).

The Sigfox set-up is much different from the RFID tags that some organizations use to track packages today. For one, Sigfox networks, which use the unlicensed ISM band (915MHz in the US), have a coverage range of five to 30 miles, depending on network topology. RFID tags have a radio range of between five and 15 meters, depending on the generation of silicon being used.

Much of the early coverage of Sigfox has placed the company in opposition to cellular LTE standards such as LTE-M. This is is not the case at all, Jay says.(See Could LTE-M Torpedo NB-IoT?)

"There is a true and proven complementarity between cellular LTE-M and Sigfox," says Jay.

In fact, she notes that Sigfox customer, Securitas, is rolling out alarm panels with voice activation using LTE-M that have Sigfox onboard too as a last line of defense if burglars attempt to jam the 4G LTE connection.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/13/2017 | 3:08:10 PM
Use Case
There certainly is a use case for this. I would think things like expensive items that are small and could be stolen would have one of these devices attached. It's a better option than RFID given its distance limitations. 
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