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French Company Building a Mobile Internet Just For Things

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the series-of-tubes-for-things dept.

Network 35

holy_calamity writes "France now has a dedicated cellular data network just for Internet-of-Things devices, and the company that built it is rolling out the technology elsewhere, says MIT Technology Review. SigFox's network is slower than a conventional cellular data network, but built using technology able to make much longer range links and operate on unlicensed spectrum. Those features are intended to allow the service to be cheap enough for low cost sensors on energy infrastructure and many other places to make sense, something not possible on a network shared with smartphones and other consumer devices."

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Sounds like SNL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41976925)

"It's a Internet,, for THINGS!!!!!"

Re:Sounds like SNL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977175)

"It's a Internet,, for THINGS!!!!!"

Things, things, beautiful things!
Things without wings, or rings or skings!

Dr Suess reincarnate...

Where the data gonna end up? (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 2 years ago | (#41977305)

So you hook up your "things" to this network and they start sharing data, like time you turn off your home heater.

If that kind of data falls into the wrong hand, others will know what time you go out of your house every day and when you come back home.

Data like that might be very valuable to TPTB and also to people with not-so-nice intentions.

Re:Where the data gonna end up? (-1, Troll)

lucm (889690) | about 2 years ago | (#41977595)

Data like that might be very valuable to TPTB and also to people with not-so-nice intentions.

This story is about France, a near-bankrupt country where people cannot encrypt stuff unless the government can decrypt it, and where you go to jail for making a racist joke in public, while the poor people in suburbs are burning cars and throwing rocks at the cops. In Paris many people don't lock their cars to avoid damage to windows when thieves do their regular rounds (on their way to gang-rape schoolgirls). In this context I would say that someone using the time people turn off home theaters to do harm is a long shot.

Re:Where the data gonna end up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41978453)

I am French ... there is only one thing that is not true in your post : the crypto law is now abrogated.

Re:Where the data gonna end up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41979469)

I didn't know that sales bougnoules was French for 'poor people'.

Re:Sounds like SNL (1)

Hatta (162192) | about 2 years ago | (#41980087)

Does this mean I will finally be able to download that car?

Goodie! (2)

sgt scrub (869860) | about 2 years ago | (#41976985)

I'm going to start counting download speeds in 15 bits/sec/hz now so I'll be ready for when it hits Texas.

So, what's the cute trick? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#41977085)

Hmm... Long range, works on unlicensed spectrum, low power and cheap for client devices. How, exactly, are they planning on keeping other people(either competing operators or individuals) from setting up their own gateway hardware and skipping the delightful world of the cellular data plan model and having their every device phoning home to an untrusted 3rd party?

Do they have some sort of remarkable improvement over current low-power/low-speed RF links(zigbee, bluetooth, and friends) that is patented, proprietary, and only client chipsets are for sale, with base stations remaining in-house? If so, do they seriously plan to avoid the scrap heap of ghastly, non-interoperable unlicensed band RF links? If not, what is the new element that allows them to achieve the impressive range numbers where presently available low power links(especially if the ISM band is noisy) tend to be pretty lousy, and worse if you need to use omnidirectional antennas and deal with buildings and other clutter?

If they can perform as promised, this seems like it would have to be based on some very neat RF tricks; but I have to wonder what sorts of hobbling they will be doing to maintain their subscriber base on a technology that runs in unlicensed spectrum...

Re:So, what's the cute trick? (5, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 years ago | (#41977129)

The cute trick is that this technology is extremely slow, as in, low bandwidth, per TFA. We are talking 100 bps. (Not 100 kilobytes per second, but 100 bits per second).

So, no, nobody is dumping their cellular data plan for this. But for a weather station, or "where is the bus right now?", or burglar alarms, it could be interesting.

The main "problem" I see is that more expensive, more capable networks (cellular and wifi) are already so pervasive.

Re:So, what's the cute trick? (4, Interesting)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 2 years ago | (#41977297)

Right now, you're looking at a couple of bucks per month per device on traditional cellular networks for machine to machine interfaces. If you can pay $1K/month and have all of your devices within 30-50 miles reachable, even if its low-speed, that's a big deal.

Re:So, what's the cute trick? (1)

lucm (889690) | about 2 years ago | (#41977603)

The main "problem" I see is that more expensive, more capable networks (cellular and wifi) are already so pervasive.

Note to self: dump RIM stock!

Re:So, what's the cute trick? (4, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#41978253)

Companies have been doing this for years so I can tell you exactly how they work. I happen to work on firmware for a product that uses such a network, called HomeRider.

Each device has an 868MHz proprietary radio link to a repeater, which itself has an 868MHz link back to a "concentrator". The concentrator contains a GPRS modem that reports back data in batches periodically. In that way a large number of devices can use a single GPRS connection, keeping costs down.

Devices are mostly things like smart meters or network monitoring. The device I make detects leaks on water pipes, for example.

What these guys seem to be proposing is to put the GPRS modem into each device. We actually do a similar product already, except that it sends SMS text messages because you need less power and can get away with a weaker signal that way. Cost of the data isn't really an issue, which makes me wonder where these guys think the market is. If they are going to go really low speed there will be no advantage of SMS, and if they go higher they won't get the range or keep the cost down.

Re:So, what's the cute trick? (1)

romiz (757548) | about 2 years ago | (#41979091)

The company claims it does it differently, with base stations using the ISM band to discuss directly with the devices on the field, and advanced signal processing in the base station to detect those signals.

They have a pending patent on it, and they call it Forced Statistical FDMA [wipo.int]

So it's exactly like Wireless Sensor Networks? (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | about 2 years ago | (#41977149)

It even uses the same parts of the spectrum as the well established Zigbee devices that do exactly what's described here.

Re:So it's exactly like Wireless Sensor Networks? (1)

kirinyaga (652081) | about 2 years ago | (#41978925)

The difference is they traded the speed for range. It's 1000-fold slower than zigbee (0.1 kb/s) but with a bigger range. They say they can cover whole France or California (including unhabited areas) with only 1000 antennas, thus cheaply creating a global network. With zigbee, you can really do only a local network and still need a local relay to internet.
So, Zigbee allows you to make a fast, fee-less, local sensor network. While this is a global network with yearly fee designed for low-bandwidth sensors.

Jets and birds; flying things in the sky (1)

andersh (229403) | about 2 years ago | (#41979027)

The article doesn't tell you anything about the technology used or what development they've done. So I assume you don't know more than that? Could it possibly be that the concepts sound similar but the implementations are in fact different? Maybe there's more to this than simply claiming it's Zigbee in disguise. Who knows?

Slow things (1)

formfeed (703859) | about 2 years ago | (#41977167)

A sort of internet for slow things. - Which is not as useless as it sounds. If power and water meters could communicate and relay usage information towards the nearest node it wouldn't really matter whether that information gets there in 2 minutes or two hours. Same for appliances sending out error or service codes.

This is what T-Mobile should do: embedded network. (2)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#41977217)

If you look at T-Mobile's financials, they're doing horribly with consumers. On the embedded side they're growing like crazy.

Embedded is perfect for 2G/EDGE: low data usage, occasional connections, reliability. T-Mo could become -the- provider for embedded monitoring and make a fortune.

It's not sexy, but it's profitable. The should buy Orbcomm and go end-to-end.

Sold off soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41978997)

they're doing horribly with consumers

In that foreign market called the US? Who cares.

A Dream of the 70s (2)

ALeader71 (687693) | about 2 years ago | (#41977341)

So if I move to France I can FINALLY control my coffee maker and blender from my computer? The boyhood dream born out of a 1977 Radio Shack catalog and the groundbreaking X10 technology to control thngs that don't actually need controlling is made possible by Europen beaurocratic perfection. No wonder so many people suddenly want to move abroad.

So much for the "it's Obama's fault" theories. LOL

Finally my croissant will be able to talk to me! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977463)

Finally my croissant will be able to talk to me when I am not at home!

Perhaps Norville Barnes is really a French name (1)

I_am_Jack (1116205) | about 2 years ago | (#41977619)

"You know——for things."

We've all been waiting for this (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 2 years ago | (#41977693)

One day, apparently soon, we'll be able to hook up Things [thingiverse.com] to The Internet.

montesqueux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41977879)

what about zee intefrerece yiu englisch typs !?

zee it known zthat zee intefrerense c'est' une major reasonne de bas ecoutage in zee urbain areas ! four instanse, vith WMBus 169 , wich iz zee mandatory frequenzy for gas - burb ! , sorry , trop aioli ! - pour zee gas metereing withz 169 mega Hetzrtz en veritè is wuerry but wueery bad in zee urban areas duet too zee stuff that emits all sortz of spurious zignsals, n'est pas ?

comment pout cette frequenzy do ore better zhan all zee other stuf whic is bazically zee same on very very similar frequenzies ?

yiur mother waz a hamster anz your father a huckleberry...I spit on your frequenzy, you englisch typs !

Security problems (2)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about 2 years ago | (#41978241)

Must be great for finding exploitable home appliances. When is the last time you updated the firmware on your TV or your fridge? Wouldn't it be great if it were on an open network?

Re:Security problems (4, Informative)

psergiu (67614) | about 2 years ago | (#41978281)

Ah, but a firmware update is very easy to install. Just power-cycle or reset the device and push a firmware update OVER-THE-AIR. What could possibly go wrong ? [trollface.jpg]

Quot from the PDF on their site (emphasys mine):
-----
4 Bootloader

The TD1202 module contains an integrated bootloader which allows reflashing the module firmware either over the RX/TX UART connection, or over the air using the built-in RF transceiver.

The bootloader is automatically activated upon module reset. Once activated, the bootloader will monitor the UART/RF activity for a 200 ms period, and detect an incoming update condition.

If the update condition is met, the TD1202 will automatically proceed to flash the new firmware with safe retry mechanisms, or falls back to normal operation.

Re:Security problems (1)

TheEffigy (2666397) | about 2 years ago | (#41979011)

Must be great for finding exploitable home appliances. When is the last time you updated the firmware on your TV or your fridge? Wouldn't it be great if it were on an open network?

I updated the firmware on my Panasonic plasma not long ago, every now and again it asks me just as every other computing device these days does.

Re:Security problems (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41981001)

MA! THE MILK'S BAD UHGEEN!

WUT? AH THOUGHT I TOLD YEW TEE CRANK TO THE COLD WHEEL ON THE FREEDGE.

AH DEED.

WELL DO IT UHGEEN!

THE GOLD DANG WHEEL'S ALREADY ALL THE WAY UP TO ELEVUHN!

DON'T YEW SASS ME BOA!

WELL THEN THAT THAR FRIDGE IS DONE BROKED. ALL TELL PA TO GIT A NEW ONE FROM THE RENT-TO-OWN STORE.

Tune in for more exciting misadventures on next week's episode of Honey Boo Boo. Same bat time, same bat channel!

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Ubiquitous computing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41978445)

Fsck yeah! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_computing

I can't wait (2)

SnowHog (1944314) | about 2 years ago | (#41978561)

Surely the greatest thing since Minitel. By the way, how is Quaero coming along?

Quaero (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41978981)

The European research and development program with the goal of developing multimedia and multilingual indexing and management tools for professional and general public applications (such as search engines)? It's continuing, but it was never meant to be a Google rival.

The German engineers split and favor a text-based search engine, while the French engineers favor a multimedia search engine. Many German engineers also balked at what they thought was becoming too much of an anti-Google project, rather than a project driven by its own ideals.

The UK is doing it properly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41979941)

The UK is doing it properly http://www.weightless.org

Already have it in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41980107)

Utility HAN networks run on unlicensed spectrum and connect your utility meter(s) to your fridge, thermostat, A/C system, washer/dryer, furnace, and other items, to help you better understand your electricity and/or gas and/or water usage.

hate mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41984505)

hate the digtal storm in the air get hyper of that only my brain dus not untherstand the communication, the red one of t'pau sing about that china in youre hands wordles at lest i must have a cable else it disapears someday

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