Thanks to SIGFOX, San Francisco now has its own IoT network

SIGFOX has completed its rollout across San Francisco, with 10 other U.S. cities planned by the first quarter of 2016.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Cable cars. Rice-A-Roni. The Giants. These are just some of the things that San Francisco is known for. Next on that list: its own IoT network.


As part of an ongoing project to implement a wireless network throughout the Bay Area, SIGFOX has officially completed its citywide rollout of San Francisco. What’s more, the French startup plans to do the same across 10 U.S. metropolitan areas by the first quarter of next year, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and San Jose.

Whereas employing a conventional cell modem to connect everyday objects to the physical Internet would consume a tremendous amount of energy, SIGFOX enables millions of low-power devices with minimal data streams to communicate with one another in a slower but more efficient way. The company’s LPWAN (low-power wide-area network) only transmits a minute amount of information at a mere 100 bits per second, but can support millions of connections.

The use of UNB (Ultra Narrow Band) based radio technology is key to providing a scalable, high-capacity network, with very low energy consumption, while maintaining a simple and easy star-based cell infrastructure. Not only is building out SIGFOX’s infrastructure much less expensive than an entire phone network, it runs on the unlicensed wireless band of 900MHz in the U.S.

For its flagship rollout in the Bay Area, SIGFOX has partnered with the city’s Department of Technology, the Mayor’s Office of Innovation and critical leadership to place 20 of its briefcase-sized base stations on the top of libraries and city buildings, each covering a radius of 12 to 18 miles. Instead of the smartphones and tablets we use to stream video, this particular network is catered towards all the other “things” you might want to link to the Internet that only need to send a few packets of data periodically, such as parking meters, fire hydrants, utility panels, traffic sensors and even wearables.


In order to achieve scalability, the startup partners with existing cell tower owners and uses off-the-shelf hardware. With an annual subscription of approximately $1 per year per device, SIGFOX’s connection price will still be much lower than those of other mobile operators. Meanwhile, device makers will have to integrate an inexpensive SIGFOX-Ready radio chip like the Atmel ATA8520 SoC.

SIGFOX tells Forbes that a geographical region the size of the entire state of California only calls for around 1,500 microcells, in comparison to a 20,000-somwhat for a conventional cellular network. Take Spain for instance, which took just one year to be entirely covered.

“If the last 10 years of technology development were about making it easier for companies and people to exchange information with one another—Google, Skype, Dropbox, and so on—the next 10 years will be about making it possible, cost effective and easy for the unconnected physical world to transmit data to the Internet,” explains Allen Proithis, president of SIGFOX North America.

In November, SIGFOX and the city of San Francisco will jointly sponsor a hackathon, in order to allow developers and Makers to use the technology and generate new ideas for how the network can be utilized to create innovative smart city solutions. Intrigued? Head over to SIGFOX’s page to learn more.

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