GO Transit is managed by Ontario's Metrolinx transportation agency. Metrolinx photo

Published: November 29th, 2019

Sigfox Canada announced the launch of Canada’s first national low-bandwidth, Internet of Things (IoT) network in April, 2019, and it has been on its toes to deploy a national network since then.

As of today, Sigfox Canada has about 13 million Canadians and the largest city in each province covered.

“Our very first site went up in Ontario, but we were doing multiple provinces at the same time. Our goal is to deploy a national network and we have multiple different applications and proof of concept in the work already with devices and network deployed in the country,” Kent Rawlings, president and chief executive officer of Sigfox Canada said in an interview with IT World Canada.

Formed in 2018, Sigfox Canada is a 100 per cent Canadian owned company that’s indirectly associated with Sigfox, a French global network operator that builds wireless networks to connect low-power objects such as electricity meters and smartwatches.

Sigfox launched in 2009 with the aim to cover the entire world with an IoT network. It currently operates in 65 different countries and licenses its technology to other technology companies that then operate its network on its behalf.

Sigfox Canada signed an agreement with Sigfox to become an operator in December 2018. It then began building the IoT network in January 2019.

“We’re going to continue to build quite aggressively. We want to make sure that we ultimately have 85 per cent of the population covered, and the ability to deploy quickly and cost-effectively. We’ll soon also have the capability to deploy network in an unpowered environment, which simply means that we will soon be able to connect a solar panel to one of our base stations and that will be able to operate in remote areas fairly easily,” Rawlings said.

In Canada, SigFox has built its IoT network using the 902MHz band, which is part of the industrial, scientific, and medical frequency (ISM) band. Being in the lower frequency range, the 902MHz band boasts superior signal strength over long distances. This capability is critical for Sigfox to achieve its national coverage plans.

The company leverages a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology, with the capacity to support millions of IoT sensors, and benefits from a current ecosystem of over 693 different Sigfox IoT enabled sensors, to provide connectivity solutions from coast-to-coast throughout Canada.
The combination of the national network and hundreds of devices has been providing Canadian businesses with simple and cost-effective connectivity to help drive efficiency in almost any area of their business.

“The applications built by Sigfox Canada right now are primarily industrial, meant for businesses. The company plans to launch consumer devices, such as devices with IoT tracking technology to track pets and vehicles, pool temperature sensors, and there are a lot of smartphone applications for the technology as well that you will start seeing coming into the marketplace in 2020,” Rawlings said.

The company does not actually manufacture devices just yet. Instead, it produces a communication chip that users can install into the device from which they want to communicate information back through its network to the cloud. Each chip costs about CA$4.

“You install that chip into your device and now that device can communicate that information back through our network to the cloud, and we can direct that information wherever it needs to go,” Rawlings explained.

The company partners with distribution partners, specifically the industry specialists that want to take a particular IoT device that Sigfox enabled and distributed across a certain industry. In addition, Sigfox Canada has partnerships with building operators and cities who want to be able to provide smart cities and smart building applications.

“We continue to build at the major cities and major transportation routes, airports, ports, train stations, etc. because the network’s good for tracking certain shipments there. That’s where we focus currently and the company has done major deals with Michelin Tires, Louis Vuitton luggage, DHL, and several other transportation hubs,” Rawlings revealed.

The company recently formed a partnership with Metrolinx to become its technology solution provider.

Subway track safety is one of the TTC’s foremost concerns. One factor that threatens its worker’s safety–especially maintenance workers–is the presence of lighting. It’s possible for a lightning strike to travel through the abundant metal rails within the subway track.

To combat this, the TTC has placed IoT sensors that could measure the frequency and the distance of lightning strikes. By accurately predicting the lighting strike patterns, the track workers can be warned ahead of time to prevent being struck by stray lighting.

Rawling elaborated by emphasizing the IoT’s increasing affordability.

“The technology’s been around but the ability to communicate has always been quite difficult. So now the fact that you can put a tick box communication chip into the device–and that cost is roughly about $4 for the chips–it makes speeds the device accessible. They’ve [Metrolinx] been working on it [for two years], and now it’s at the point where it’s ready to be commercially deployed.”

IoT’s explosive growth has seeped into a massive number of industries and is continuing to spread. Rawling exemplified its outreach by describing how fishermen in Maine are attaching IoT sensors to lobster traps.

By measuring the salinity, temperature, flow, and the presence of the lobsters, the data can help better predict migration paths and allow the fishermen to more efficiently place their traps.



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