The IoT market still appears complex to many companies, big and small, and they wonder about the benefits of connecting their business. At Sigfox, we therefore work hard to make the adoption of the IoT as simple and cost-effective as possible for our clients. More and more people trust in our know-how and that is why just one week ago we celebrated a big milestone: we reached 3M objects connected to our global network.
The analysts’ predictions speak of billions of connected objects in just a few years’ time and that means we need to be ready to take a great leap, while always guaranteeing the highest levels of satisfaction for our clients. That’s where the role of our OSS (Operations Support System) becomes essential. To understand more, we spoke with Sigfox’s Raoul Mallart, Chief Technology Officer and Gilles Bolumar, Operations Director.
SIGFOX HAS JUST REACHED A SIGNIFICANT MILESTONE: IT NOW HAS MORE THAN 3M CONNECTED OBJECTS IN ITS NETWORK. HOW WILL WE SEE THE COMPANY’S EXPANSION CONTINUE THROUGHOUT 2018?
Gilles Bolumar: This is very good news from a pure business perspective. This volume reflects the efforts we have made during the last month and confirms that we are headed in the right direction. At an operational level, we have been fully focused on operational processes, procedures and tools to keep our systems up and running and guarantee our SLAs to our partners and to markets.
Raoul Mallart: With 3M connected objects, we have just scratched the surface of the market. I expect an acceleration in the adoption of Sigfox and of the number of connected objects throughout 2018. Two factors will contribute to this acceleration. First, with 45 countries open, of which 18 are now fully covered by our network, we have reached a unique territorial footprint that global companies can exploit to achieve interesting ROIs. Second, many companies we work with have successfully conducted Proof of Concept or Proof of Value trials and are now entering a deployment phase.
HOW DOES SIGFOX’S OPERATIONAL SUPPORT SYSTEM (OSS) UNDERPIN THE NETWORK?
Raoul Mallart: The Sigfox network is at the service of its objects and allows them to remain as simple, low cost and energy efficient as possible. This involved shifting intelligence from the object to the cloud or OSS. Sigfox’s OSS has been designed from the start with scalability, robustness and security in mind. We knew from the beginning that our goal was global coverage and massive connectivity. At the same time, we also recognised that we are in a business where cost efficiency is key. This has led to some very strict design criteria and to unique architectural concepts that enable us to smoothly adapt our infrastructure to our operational needs and revenue.
Gilles Bolumar: As far as robustness is concerned, we defined some pretty strict SLA targets and implemented high availability approaches throughout the system. Our territory network, the Base Stations providing the coverage, have the capabilities to compensate for OSS disconnection – this is the first level of high availability. But to be clear, without OSS, there is no message delivery. That’s why our Ops and Development Teams are maintaining all the components on a 24hr basis, 365 days per year. Even though our OSS SLAs are very good (around 99,2%), we continue to improve the system, the monitoring and to anticipate the increase in traffic because now the real adventure is starting!
AS THE NETWORK EXPANDS, WHAT IMPACT DOES THIS HAVE ON THE OSS AND THE VOLUME OF MESSAGES RECEIVED?
Gilles Bolumar: Sigfox’s network expansion has a double impact on the OSS: on the one hand, we have an increasing number of connected base stations that are sending data to the OSS and, on the other hand, we need to manage the massive volume of device messages.
For the first point, we have chosen a building blocks approach – we scale our frontal line according to the deployment forecast and monitoring. In parallel, in a continuous improvement approach, we are preparing the migration to a new technology, to be able to concentrate more connections with less frontal.
Regarding the volume of messages, we are scaling the architecture according to the traffic and forecast. We invest a lot in a Staging environment as well, a carbon copy of the production, where our Test and Validation Team is playing traffic simulation to validate the absorption of the traffic increase and then we scale the production accordingly.
WHICH NEW INDUSTRIES WILL BE ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SIGFOX’S TECHNOLOGY AS THE ROLLOUT CONTINUES?
Raoul Mallart: While Sigfox is present in many different verticals (Transport, Utilities and Energy, Industry, Retail, Smart Building, Agriculture, etc.), asset tracking and logistics are still the most important verticals in the IoT industry today. Sigfox with its simple technology, based on cost efficiency and low-energy consumption, is doing a lot of work in this area.
We have recently announced the release of a luggage tracker for Louis Vuitton that uses Sigfox technology. This device allows passengers to track their checked luggage in major airports, even while travelling between different countries. It uses the new Monarch service that enables devices to run seamlessly across the world, by automatically recognising and adapting to the local radiofrequency’s standards. As global operations are split into three geographical zones, the use of Monarch unlocks endless applications in logistics and supply chain, the consumer market, and automated maintenance for the shipping, aircraft and railway industries.