In the end of January I received an invitation to attend an event where I place high expectations: the SIGFOX Maker Tour Lisbon. The event will take place on the next Thursday (11th February 2016) at Startup Lisboa. I have high expectations because I’m very interested in Internet of Things (IoT) and SIGFOX will surely be a big player in the IoT scene in the following years.
What is SIGFOX?
SIGFOX is an operated telecommunications network dedicated to the Internet of Things. Being an operated network, SIGFOX developers and users do not have to handle any installation or maintenance operations. This allows developers to focus uniquely on the core of the projects.
It is a LPWA (Low-Power Wide-Area) network, currently deployed in Western Europe, San Francisco and with ongoing tests in South America and Asia. It allows bidirectional communication, both from and to the device and the communication is always initiated by the device.
The SIGFOX network is designed for small messages sent from time to time, not being appropriate for high-bandwidth usages. It is mostly directed at applications like remote sensors or actuators that only have to communicate small messages a few times a day. Since the network is also focused on energy efficiency, it allows developers to build connected devices that are able to last years on a standard battery.
What technology is used by SIGFOX?
The SIGFOX network operates on sub-GHz frequencies, on ISM bands: 868MHz in Europe/ETSI and 902Mhz in the US/FCC. It uses an Ultra-Narrow Band (UNB) modulation, which is key for providing a scalable and high capacity network. With a 162dB budget link SIGFOX enables long range communications, with much longer reach than GSM.
No negotiation is required between the device and a receiving station: the devices simply emit in the available frequency band, being the signal detected by the closest base stations, decoded and forwarded to the network backend. Protocol operations like deduplication (and others) are handled by the network itself. Messages are then forwarded to the developers own application and made accessible using SIGFOX’s API.
Each transmitted message is authenticated using a hash mechanism and a private key specific to the device, offering great protection against replay attacks.
What about the messages sent?
Each message can contain data up to 12 bytes (96 bits) and you can send up to 140 messages per day. The protocol metadata already includes a timestamp and the device unique id. The limit of 140 messages per day is imposed by european regulations, which state that the 868MHz band enforces a transmission duty cycle of 1%. Since each message can take up to 6 seconds to transmit there is a maximum of 6 messages per hour (1 hour = 3600s; 3600s x 1% = 36s; 36s /6 = 6 messages per hour; 6mph * 24h = 140 messages per day).
Cool! How can I get started?
Since I haven’t been to the event yet, I still don’t know 😛 But stay tuned to this blog because once I know how to do it I’ll surely make a new post about it. For now, the only thing I know is that you need three things:
- A SIGFOX-ready module or transceiver;
- A valid subscription. Most of the evaluation kits come with a one-year subscription;
- Being in a covered area (See current coverage here)
By the way, a SIGFOX representative sent me a nice map with the coverage near Faro and I was pretty amazed with the network coverage. Most of the region around Faro (south of Portugal) is covered by more than 3 base stations! 😀
What’s happening at the event?
The objective of the event will be to present the SIGFOX technology to the Maker community and support developers in the development of new solutions. The event will last half a day, from 2 to 6PM.
The event will start with a presentation, followed by a demonstration, a workshop, some drinks and finally, coming home with a SIGFOX-ready kit (Evaluation board + 1-year subscription)! 😀
I also received information that the kit that will be offered to participants is an Akeru board from Snootlab:
The board is essentially an Arduino Uno with an integrated 868MHz SIGFOX modem.
Wanted to attend the event but it’s too late now?
Worry not. More events will be announced in the near future by SIGFOX. In the 12th of February of 2016 the SIGFOX Maker Tour will be in UPTEC in Oporto (registrations closed) and in the 16th of February they’re going to FabLab London (registrations still open!). Check their agenda regularly for new events here.
To know more about SIGFOX you can check the sources that were used to obtain some of the information in this post:
After the event I’ll make a new post about it so stay tuned and keep following this blog for updates on SIGFOX and Internet of Things! 🙂