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Silicon Valley To Get a Cellular Network Just For Things

Soulskill posted about 3 months ago | from the apparently-this-is-happening dept.

Wireless Networking 42

An anonymous reader writes "MIT Technology Review reports that French company Sigfox will soon roll out a cellular data network in the San Francisco Bay Area aimed exclusively for low-bandwidth, low power devices such as household appliances and sensors. It's the U.S. debut for a technology already in use in France. The network uses the 900 MHz unlicensed spectrum used by cordless phones. Sigfox says that and their technology's very low bandwidth makes it possible to connect devices significantly more cheaply than with conventional cellular modems and service."

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yay more EMF and RF! (-1, Troll)

strstr (539330) | about 3 months ago | (#47054107)

that is giving us mad cancer, dna damage, autism, and causes illness/extinction to birds/bees/other life, among many other illnesses.

movie documentary: resonance: beings of frequency: http://www2.oregonstatehospita... [oregonstatehospital.net]

movie documentary: energy weapons and emf/rf (covers military radar/satellite use, to deliberately injure people based on the same principles. radar/satellites are hidden forms of radiation all around us, being used to spy on us, image us, and dose us with radiation on top of everything else.): http://www2.oregonstatehospita... [oregonstatehospital.net]

PDF White Papers by Dr. Martin Pall and Dr. Paul Dart, hidden dangers of 4G, WiFi, and cellular technologies, effects of EMF besides heating effect: http://www2.oregonstatehospita... [oregonstatehospital.net] http://www2.oregonstatehospita... [oregonstatehospital.net]

We're killing ourselves with EMF carrying pocket cellular masts and building massive cellular masts all around our homes. Typical house has 10 microwave EMF masts from all the portable wireless devices/household appliances, blasting you and everyone around you 24/7..

Re:yay more EMF and RF! (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 3 months ago | (#47054659)

Not sure if I should respond, but so many people are afraid of EM radiations and stuff because they seek something to scare themselves with. Eat organic or whole grains, use the cell phone with a headset, wipe the floor and do laundry with ecological products blah blah blah and then they're missing actual threats like indoor pollution, or failing to protect one's head from the sun - that will heat you many orders of magnitude more than wifi and cell phone signals. The former is dealt with by opening windows daily to vent the air, not by watching documentaries.

Re:yay more EMF and RF! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47057121)

Good info. Vimeo has Resonance [vimeo.com] as well. In fact, since it can be downloaded form Vimeo, maybe the OSU hospital did that. To save bandwidth, especially if you are many hops from OSU, I'd get it from Vimeo.

Is this for real? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47057311)

Is this for real? Oregon State Hospital is hosting all these "conspiracy" files [oregonstatehospital.net] ?

Seems more like unauthorized uploads. Except for the very official "media_archive" folder name.

I'd definitely stick to Vimeo for the "Resonance: Beings of Frequency" documentary.

just for Things (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 3 months ago | (#47054139)

Ben Grimm will be happy

Why? (4, Insightful)

epyT-R (613989) | about 3 months ago | (#47054149)

Why do I want my household appliances sending usage data to who knows where?

Re:Why? (0)

NIK282000 (737852) | about 3 months ago | (#47054179)

To improve the customer experience!

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054203)

Why do you think you need to know?

Re:Why? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054215)

How else can we remotely control each others dildos?

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054277)

You have the microwave usage patterns of a terrorist

Re:Why? (2)

colloquist (3616707) | about 3 months ago | (#47054415)

The NSA needs to know what you're up to when you're not within reach of a computer or cell phone, silly. "You wouldn't be worried about it if you weren't guilty of, er.. something, hold on while, yup, there's my probable cause." Knock, knock, "We have a warrant open up!"

Re:Why? (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47055005)

There are quite a few of these networks in the EU already, and they are being standardized. They are used mostly for automatic meter reading, so you no longer have to let a guy into your home to check your electricity/gas/water usage. Your bills tend to be more accurate as well because they are based on readings instead of estimates.

The networks are also used for monitoring things like the water networks too. Flow monitoring and leak detection allow the water company to find leaks and fix them faster. On average about 25-30% of the water supply is lost to leaks in a typical modern network.

It's not really about your random household appliances, although some people might appreciate being able to automatically take advantage of cheap energy outside of peak times.

Re:Why? (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 3 months ago | (#47055501)

The energy and water companies will know exactly when you shower, cook, are on a vacation, and when your wife has a visit she doesn't tell you about.

As long as you live in a country with enough rainwater, I rather like water leaking from the network than data leaking about me.

Its a nice idea to have a meter that monitors when I consume how much. But I don't want it to send the data to the energy company first, the data should stay in my network.

You can design billing protocols without fine-grained monitoring. Just have a device that monitors how much you consume, that is controlled by the energy company, but that can't communicate with the energy company, only with your device, that acts as a proxy. The communications between the device and the company should be not encrypted, but signed, to ensure no data leaks. When its billing day, the energy company submits a signed mask containing when energy costed how much. The device then compares the values with its stored data, and answers with the amount to pay. No fine-grained data involved here, and the proxy ensures this is the only communication. For information purposes, the proxy can retrieve fine-grained information from the device and show these to the customer /without/ sending it to the company first. And for the leaks it is sufficient to monitor only one hour, say, per month, then the devices can send fine grained data, and the companies can check whether there is a leak.

Re:Why? (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 3 months ago | (#47056357)

Why would your meter be inside your home? In America, they are outside of your home, not sure what idiot thought putting them on the inside was a good idea.

Why doesn't your power meter use the power lines its connected to for data transmission? Data over transmission lines was going to be the next cable competition, remember?

Why doesn't your water and gas use the pipe its connected to for data transmission? Yes, its trivial to send data down a 'pipe in the ground'

How is reading my meter over cellular going to help them find leaks versus any other method of reading it? If you mean they can add sensors to more spots on the lines and get more data back, then sure but you don't need cellular to do that.

Using cellular for something thats already wired is pretty stupid and reeks of payoffs and bribes.

Re:Why? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 3 months ago | (#47057483)

Why doesn't your water and gas use the pipe its connected to for data transmission? Yes, its trivial to send data down a 'pipe in the ground'

I think this comment alone reveals why you are wrong about everything. It really isn't easy to send data down an existing, in place pipe. They don't even know exactly where half the pipes are because they were installed over 100 years ago and the records are long gone, or refer to landmarks that no longer exist. Believe me, they would love to send data down a pipe because at the moment they have to use RF, and it is very short range when in a utility pit that is basically a Faraday cage.

But hay, if you think it is trivial, patent the idea and sell it to them. You will be incredibly rich because you solved a major problem for a multi-billion pound industry.

Re:Why? (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about 2 months ago | (#47059033)

Here where it is cold during winter, water meters have to be inside or freezing pipes would be very very bad. Even gas meters have to be carefully located else people clearing snow off the roofs break the meter connections and now you have a gas leak surrounded by a mini avalanche zone.

Physical reads require someone to access the meter to get an actual read. Even radio based meters that broadcast the info require a drive by.

If they cannot get access to the meter or the radio signal, the flag the read for an estimated read.

Suppose you have a water leak during this time, and maybe it takes 3 months before they can get an actual read.

When the read catches up, its going to report a huge upswing, and you're going to play the wonderful game of WTF chasing down the leak, and how to get that actual meter read adjusted.

Re:Why? (1)

LoRdTAW (99712) | about 2 months ago | (#47061333)

I would like to point out that meter placement is quite random in America. I own two commercial buildings and both buildings have their water, electric and gas meters inside. My home has its gas and water meters inside but the electric meter is on the outside. A family friend has his electric meter inside his home as well as his water and gas. Some new "brick shit box" multifamily homes that were hastily erected to cash in on the housing bubble have both the electric and gas meters right out in the open. Often right in the front of the house next to the entrance. My brother lived in an apartment where the gas meter was actually inside one of his overhead kitchen cabinets and was only for the stove. The electric and water meters are probably in the basement.

The only meter that you will never find outside in a region that has cold winters is the water meter as they will freeze and burst in the winter. I imagine in some warm parts of the US (that never see freezing) could have their water meters outside.

Also, most meters are electronic and do not require entrance to your property.

Also you can't send out a signal along a pipe that is exposed to earth. Its like burying an antenna and then wondering why you cant get a reception. They also now use plastic pipes for gas mains.

Re:Why? (2)

crashumbc (1221174) | about 3 months ago | (#47055013)

The use case will most likely be comercial. a cheaper way to connect atm's,parking meters, and vending machines to a data network for credit card transactions...

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47055491)

Why do I want my household appliances sending usage data to who knows where?

You don't. As far as I can tell it has no legitimate, non-surveillance, function. But some scummy corporation thinks they can make a buck selling this information to criminals who will monitor your usage, build a profile of your comings and goings so they know when it's safe to rob your home.

Re:Why? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 3 months ago | (#47055539)

Why do I want my household appliances sending usage data to who knows where?

You're low on milk.

I mean, you could find out of you were low on milk. You know, wirelessly. Yeah.

Re:Why? (3, Informative)

NewWorldDan (899800) | about 3 months ago | (#47056201)

It's called equipment monitoring. I make a monitoring system for stand-by generators. It turns out that there are laws about how often you can run your generator in a non-emergency fashion in some states. My monitoring service costs a tiny fraction of the fine for an incomplete log book. As an added benefit, it can automatically notify your maintenance company that the generator needs repair or fuel.

No one cares about connecting your toaster to the internet. However, there are a lot of monitoring applications that can really benefit from a low cost low bandwidth service.

PG&E (4, Insightful)

Ion Berkley (35404) | about 3 months ago | (#47054205)

They're rather late to the game, PG&E has been running a 900MHz ISM IPv6 mesh network for several years over the whole of Silicon Valley, every electricity meter is a node, with gas meters relayed via the electricity meters, and indeed the same radios proliferate many other places in the world.

Re: PG&E (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054407)

To be fair, their system is a bit different. The main idea appears to be that they uses an ultra narrow band signal (fancy way of saying very low bit rate) to increase the range of a transmitter operating in the unlicensed ism band where power is limited to 100mW. They are claiming up to 40km. This means they can effectively set up a low cost network that doesn't need spectrum licenses.

The general principle is just a Shannon theorem trade off between bit rate and SNR in a power limited channel. For remote industrial sensing applications with very low data rate requirements this system could certainly be useful, though in the end I'm not sure why you would pay sigfox when it would be easy enough to roll your own. For household users this is probably of little use.

Re: PG&E (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47054509)

Because to roll your own requires capital investment, ongoing maintenance of the network and locations to place the network devices. Each cell site also needs its own power and a higher bandwidth connection to the other cells.

Re: PG&E (2)

Ion Berkley (35404) | about 3 months ago | (#47054535)

No, it's not different at all in most senses...technically they are governed by the same legal rules stated in 15.247 (ISM device power is not limited to 20dBM BTW), and most definitely the same Eb/N0 curves. There's pretty good odd's that they even use the same fundamental radio IC. What's a little bizarre is why anyone would want to trade bitrate for range in such an application, the rest of the world is not interested in range, but capacity, so the smaller the cell size, the more cells you can pack in and the more customers you can serve. There's no cost advantage in 100 bps vs 100kbps, its the same single chip IC technology in the $2 range. You might be able to argue it's slightly more energy efficient, but it wouldn't be a strong case with contemporary technology. Plus when you cap the potential bitrate for a single arbitrary device then you cap the range of services. Better to have higher bitrate and very low duty cycle for future proofing. In truth the RF part is uninteresting its mature technology, what makes anything like this potentially more interesting is what gets layered above it.

Re: PG&E (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054905)

My understanding of their business model is that they are specifically trading bit-rate for range so they can get very large cell sizes and cover an entire country economically. They are probably banking on industrial customers who can't be bothered setting up their own infrastructure, and those with mobile applications. The fact it uses ISM means eventually they could provide global coverage (well, land anyway) which is pretty cool. It would be a bit of competition for satellite data services in non marine roles.

In the end it is for niche applications. Rolling it out in Silicon Valley is probably more about trying to get PR among developers than actual uses there.

Re: PG&E (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47056035)

The Eb/N0 curves relate to the spectral efficiency and performance of a particular modulation scheme. For any given modulation scheme though, reducing the signal bandwidth (i.e. increasing the symbol period) reduces the total noise accepted into the receiver. For the same receiver this will increase its sensitivity.

I haven't done the maths, but intuitively it would seem you can increase the sensitivity by 3dB for every halving of bandwidth. This would then explain why they ended up with such a comically low bit-rate.

Oh, I see from the standard you listed, if they arenÃ(TM)t frequency hopping, they can transmit at 1W, which would account for the bulk of their range improvements over zigbee, bluetooth etc.

You're right there certainly isnÃ(TM)t anything ÃnewÃ(TM) about the radio side of things but that doesnÃ(TM)t seem to have stopped them getting a shit loads of patents.

Re:PG&E (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47055543)

Can you hook your fridge up to the PG&E network? NOPE. Not at all the same.

Dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054267)

Between Z-wave, Bluetooth LP, and Wifi I'd say our bases are covered. This is dipshittery.

Re:Dumb. (3, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 3 months ago | (#47054413)

That sounds like saying that we don't need CAN and I2C because we have USB.

Re:Dumb. (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 3 months ago | (#47054575)

and LIN, TWI, 1Wire, LVDS, CSI, RS232,485,422....

Re:Dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054753)

amen.

Re:Dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47055129)

LVDS is not a bus, nor a protocol. It's a differential signalling standard, which can be used by many busses and protocols.

Re:Dumb. (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 3 months ago | (#47054557)

It's a WAN so not fucking the same.
The alternative to using this new thing is a GSM modem and SIM card, to send a SMS.

No security, no acknowledgement, only one way (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054789)

So they slap a PA on to a garage door bleeper and call many of these a "network".

It has no security and because is only one way, there is no acknowledgement so the "connected" device has no way of knowing if the message got across the air.

Great.

And that's not all America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47054891)

Just wait till France introduces you to the minitel!

Cordless phones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47055219)

Will this affect my cordess phone in the future?

Re:Cordless phones. (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about 2 months ago | (#47059053)

If you are still on 900mhz, and in a broadcast area, then yes.

Anyone remember Metricom? (1)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about 3 months ago | (#47055405)

This will not end well for this company once Verizon and AT&T get in on the act.

This is Nigger Technology. [Score:-1, Truth] (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 months ago | (#47056453)

I'd rather be raped by a wild pack of HIV-infected niggers than have my "things" networked.

900mhz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47059501)

Lets just use 900mhz for absolutely everything and assume it will all work trouble free. home internet, cell phones,power meters, 911 location, 2 way radios, cordless headphones.

Municipal need is far greater than residential (1)

psydeshow (154300) | about 3 months ago | (#47076143)

Think for a moment about all the things that any medium to large city needs to keep track of. Lights. Traffic signals. Parking meters. Fire hydrants. Garbage trucks. Water flows, valves, drains. Sewerage flows. Air quality sensors. Weather sensors. Burglar alarms.

It seems odd to pitch this for household use, when most of the use cases you can imagine are somehow privacy invasive or creepy.

But a network like this could provide an amazing amount of transparency and insight into the web of things that is owned by the public.

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