Has the IoT grown up?

  • February 19, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Steve Rogerson talks with Ana Maria Giménez (pictured) from Sigfox about the maturing IoT market.

Three years ago, I wrote an article looking forward at the how the different flavours of IoT technology would compete against each other and who would or would not win. For those old enough to remember, it was a bit like the VHS versus Betamax war, where the worst technology ended up on top.
Then, people were worried that this could happen too with the IoT. However, the problem was that nobody knew which was the best of the worst, with the proponents of each banging their own drums, and the module and other peripheral makers quite happily doing a bit of fence sitting.

The battle was seen as between LoRa and Sigfox, though Ingenu was in the mix too, plus the just-about-to-arrive cellular options such as NB-IoT and Cat M. Some of those fence sitters said everyone would win to a certain extent, though nobody really believed them.

That said, three years on that does appear to be the case, at least with Sigfox, which has carved itself out three good market sectors for which it believes its international make-up makes it well suited. Well, that’s according to Ana Maria Giménez, a director at Sigfox with whom I was chatting this week.

“We are seeing a lot of maturity in the market that we didn’t see a few years ago,” she said. “People are not looking at the technology but at the business applications. They want to know what they can do with it.”

She was very firm in saying that she saw the different IoT technologies as complementary rather than competing, but she saw Sigfox’s main advantage being it was one network that crossed international borders rather than being made up of different networks in different countries and regions. This was why she said the technology had found three main markets.

So what are they?

First is asset tracking and logistics. Here it can be used to track the movement of goods across borders and the company has had a number of wins in this field. The second area is in industrial, notably condition monitoring of machines and checking, say, levels in fuel tanks, where one firm may have such equipment spread over a number of countries.

The third area is one which fits her complementary theory well and that is as a back-up in areas such as security and set-top boxes, where the primary communications may be cellular or wifi but Sigfox sits in there ready to come to the rescue if something goes wrong. In security, there is an extra advantage in that Sigfox is a lot harder to jam than cellular and thus can step in if the main communications are under attack.

“We can have cellular and Sigfox in the same box,” said Giménez. “The conversations I am having with customers are about these types of applications and not about the technology. We don’t really look at the others, such as LoRa, and what they can do. We have this global, seamless network and that means we have a different approach.”

For the future, now that the market is beginning to settle and the different technologies are finding their places, Giménez believes that more major companies will start to adopt IoT technology.

“This will bring even more maturity in terms of a growing ecosystem,” she said. “The major players will come in and that will mean more business for all of us.”

The fence sitters may have got it right.