Sigfox is currently working with two pallet companies in U.S.
Sigfox is bringing low-cost asset tracking technologies to the U.S. market and sees pallets, containers and other logistics assets as an exciting area of opportunity. “What we are all about is very low cost, very power efficient communication to the Internet, with very low data rate applications. That’s what we do,” explained Michael Orr, VP Sales and Partners, North America at Sigfox.
So for Internet applications, Orr continued, Sigfox will be “in the basement” in terms of low cost, power consumption, and data rate. “Small byte packages, up to a couple of hundred times per day,” Orr elaborated. “Think of things like On/Off, Empty/Full, Where am I? Things like that. Simple enough data and battery powered devices. You put them out in the field and they talk to the Internet perhaps 3 times per day, and that battery lasts for several years before it needs replacement.”
With a network now found in 36 countries, Sigfox is currently building out its network in the United States. Orr explained that Sigfox is a network operator. Components such as chips and devices required to effectively create IoT solutions are supplied through the company’s ecosystem of partners. The U.S. network currently covers 20% of the population. Its target is 80%
Current limitations of network coverage should not dissuade decision makers, however. “There are things you can do in the interim,” Orr explained. “You can put down a base station, or run dual mode, Sigfox plus cellular. There are a number of ways we can mitigate coverage.”
Pallets and Logistics
“We spend a lot of time in the supply chain,” Orr said. “The reason for that is because that is the vertical with the most traction, quickly. People see the need and want to apply it right away.”
“We have been working with companies particularly in the shipping space and particularly logistics providers around pallets, shipping containers, those types of things,” Orr said. He noted that individual pallets and containers mostly have not been tracked previously. Tracking could be more easily justified with more expensive assets. “A cellular device may cost $50 to $200, and you pay $5 to $10 per month to connect it.” He sees the low-cost Sigfox solution as being a good fit for lower cost assets, such as pallets.
“We are all about the lowest level of unit to be shipped, to be tracked cost-effectively.”
Sigfox is currently working with two pallet companies in the U.S. Orr describes one of them as being a major player in the U.S. consumer products market. They have been working together for “a couple of years.”
“We have had extensive trials already, and we are in a ‘thousands of units’ trial right now. And that is all going really well,” Orr said. The trials are taking place in a major U.S. city.
The other pallet customer Orr described as a “high end” niche pallet. Sigfox is also participating in a number of other projects, which he said were “mainly in the smaller scale and pilot stage.” These include a variety of pallet bins, shipping containers, seed bins and other agricultural containers.
One project involves helping a heavy manufacturing facility track the location of portable equipment in its plant. They know the equipment is in their plant, but they may not know its current location within it. “They want a better handle where it is at all times,” he said.
Orr described Sigfox as low cost, long range, low power, with the company working on a number of different variations of that theme. “So it is $2 right now for that particular piece of equipment and it is dropping quite rapidly as volume increases, and that can last 5 years,” he said. “We have some applications where it can last 10 years. But the connectivity for that is only $1 per year on the low end and $10 per year on the high end. We are bringing in a whole new era of what you can deliver for the cost.”