Sigfox signs Here to access global location platform, targets logistics

LPWAN operator Sigfox and mapping provider Here have announced a commercial agreement that will see Sigfox use Here’s cloud platform to power a real-time location solution (RTLS) aimed at logistics applications. No mention of licensing or cash has been made so far, but Sigfox is gaining a valuable partner here, which should improve the accuracy of its system.

Sigfox says that the system will not require dual-mode devices, but will use an embedded WiFi module in sniffing mode – which is what will pick up those WiFi networks and allow the Sigfox cloud to work out where the device is. The SSID is sent via the Sigfox connection, not through WiFi. The Sigfox device doesn’t have to join those WiFi networks, it just has to know their SSIDs in order to find them in Here’s platform.

Sigfox says that there are live use cases, including shipping, air transport, and luggage tracking. Until now, Sigfox-only location accuracy has not been great – typically measured in hundreds of meters. This is useful for many applications, where you might want to know if an asset has left a ring-fenced area or a particular depot, but it is not good enough for more demanding applications.

The pair cite a prediction from Cisco and DHL that the global supply chain and logistics sector could create some $1.9tn of economic value. Sigfox argues that current RTLS systems are not always viable due to the costs and battery life performance – although it isn’t providing pricing for the current service or expected hardware costs.

When pushed, the company said that ‘Sigfox-enabled’ devices start at $2, and that WiFi components cost between $2-3, which suggests a $5 ballpark for such a system. When asked about battery life, it said that this was highly dependent on the frequency of WiFi used, but that it will be “significantly lower than using GPS.” It added that there are confirmed customers, but that it can’t disclose their names yet.

In the announcement, Sigfox says that the new offering provides an opportunity for companies that couldn’t afford RTLS before, so one can infer that this is still a relatively low-cost offering. Examples of such potential customers are luggage/trolley management, stolen car recovery, shipping container location, and industrial asset management – and Sigfox says there are live deployments of these use cases.

Here says its Here Location Suite references billions of WiFi hotspots, and that the joint initiative will allow the pair to pinpoint millions of connected objects around the world in the coming years. Sigfox CMO Laetitia Jay added that “locating assets while guaranteeing the lowest total cost of ownership of the solution is a key driver for the logistics and supply chain industry, to benefit from massive IoT business impact.”