President, Sigfox Canada
We’ve spent decades waiting for the technology of connected devices to catch up with the low-cost, low-power promise of the Internet of Things. Today, it has.
The Internet of Things was one of the boldest ideas in the early heady days of the Information Age. Before the modern Internet was even born, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon and Cambridge were connecting vending machines and coffee pots to precursors like ARPANET, and, while the implications of a world full of connected autonomous devices were as yet unexplored, those on the cutting edge knew it was going to be revolutionary. And then, for a long time, that idea simmered. The Internet of Things (IoT) was a movement ahead of its time. The technology and the understanding needed decades to catch up. Now, it has.
“The Internet of Things as a concept was very early, but the practicality of it and the technical capabilities of the technology were limiting,” says Kent Rawlings, President of Sigfox Canada, pioneer of Canada’s “0G” IoT communications network. “It just wasn’t developed to the point where you could actually generate a return on investment for a customer, and if it doesn’t generate an ROI, it’s not worth implementing.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) was a movement ahead of its time. The technology and the understanding needed decades to catch up. Now, it has.
The cheaper IoT gets, the more opportunities it opens
Just five years ago, the average cost of connecting a device to the Internet was a couple hundred dollars, and so you really needed to have a very clear case for value proposition. But, as prices have dropped to tens of dollars and then to single digits, and as improvements in energy efficiency and communications technology have made operation seamless and almost free, the horizons of positive ROI for IoT have been blown wide open.
“We’ve got technology now to maximize battery life so that you can get a deployed battery in the field that’ll last three, five, ten years, depending on how many messages you’re sending per day,” says Rawlings. “Sigfox devices power-on and send their message and then power down. There’s no two-way communication between the device, so it becomes very, very efficient.”
More efficient systems are more sustainable systems
The opportunities and applications of this technology range from agriculture to logistics, from manufacturing to healthcare. In Ontario, there are over 3,500 people who have been in hospitals for two years or longer, at a cost of thousands of dollars per day. For some of them, there’s a direct and urgent need to be close to the facilities and care, but for many others it’s actually data that is physically tethering them to the hospital. IoT technology is actively helping move those people out of the hospitals and into their own homes, improving quality of life while freeing up hospital beds and maintaining quality of care by essentially extending the “information hospital” beyond the walls of the building.
The key that frees these devices from the bonds of technologies like WiFi, 5G, and Bluetooth is Sigfox’s low-cost low-power 0G network, though this tech does still interoperate with all those standards. “The right technology for a given IoT application shows a better picture once you start drilling into what the application is.” says Rawlings. “Sometimes you really do need to push massive amounts of data with 5G, but a lot of the time you would rather move small amounts of data long distances in a power-efficient way. That’s where Sigfox plays and that’s why 0G is so powerful.”
In every industry, the value proposition of IoT has gotten a lot clearer. Thanks to innovators like Sigfox the technology and the cost has finally caught up with the vision of the early IoT dreamers. It’s still cool tech, but now it’s practical and profitable too.