Wireless operators are decommissioning their 2G networks to make way for higher-bandwidth cellular technologies just as an explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices are coming online. To fill the void, a handful of companies are now racing to expand their own low-power wireless networks to connect these devices that don’t require much power or bandwidth.
In case you have been living under a rock, the IoT links physical objects embedded with sensors and actuators to the Internet. It allows the “things” to exchange data and communicate with each other, allowing a smoke alarm to send a text when the alarm goes off or a sensor placed on a fire hydrant to alert authorities when a leak is detected. The types of applications—ranging from agriculture, buildings, security or logistics—that can benefit from the IoT appears limitless.
San Diego-based Ingenu recently launched its “Machine Network,” a wireless public network dedicated entirely to machine-to-machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity. The company has previously deployed 38 private networks using its proprietary Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMA) technology primarily serving utilities and the oil and gas industry.
Ingenu is run by former Verizon and Qualcomm executives, including the former Verizon CTO Richard Lynch as chairman and former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and Qualcomm CTO Andrew Viterbi as board members and advisers. The company closed a $25 million funding round earlier this year and is now raising an unspecified amount from unnamed investors to buildout their nationwide network.
“Ingenu is changing the way machines are connected,” said Ingenu’s new CEO John Horn, who previously led T-Mobile into M2M communications. “We offer unprecedented network longevity because we control the technology. We are not beholden to technology sunsetting as is the case with cellular 2G networks.”
According to Ingenu, its RPMA technology can cover 300 square miles per tower in real world conditions and its signals can penetrate underground, through concrete, or inside dense buildings.
Phoenix and Dallas were chosen as Ingenu’s first public network locations in part because the company is negotiating to make some of its existing private networks there available to the public, which it has also done with private networks in Italy, where it also does business.
Ingenu’s Machine Network expansion will be competing against France-based SigFox, another company building its own low-power IoT wireless network. Last month, San Francisco City officials agreed to run a one-year pilot project with SigFox. The dedicated network will provide low-cost, energy-efficient connectivity for smart-city programs, as well as businesses in multiple verticals.
“We are in an increasingly connected world where decisions must be made quickly,” said Ludovic Le Moan, SigFox Founder and CEO and founder. Before Sigfox, Le Moan headed several French tech businesses, such as Goojet and Anywhere Technologies. “Reducing the latency between an event and an action must come from autonomous behavior in the objects that surround us. This can only be achieved if every object is involved in the decision making.”
San Francisco City leaders view their new network as a way to offer residents innovative services while positioning San Francisco as “the leading smart city in the U.S.” The City’s Department of Technology will install the antennas and SigFox will maintain the network. Also, in November the City will host a hackathon, in order to allow developers and makers to use the technology and generate new ideas for how the network can be used to create innovative smart-city solutions.
Allen Proithis was recently hired as president of SigFox North America, to spearhead the company’s rapid expansion. The company is planning to deploy the network in 10 major metropolitan areas by early next year including San Francisco, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, Dallas and San Jose.
SigFox and Ingenu are both competing with multiple other telecom players including several that are developing LoRa networks, a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery operated devices. Big name companies like IBM and Cisco are counting on LoRa’s open standard to help ensure worldwide interoperability.
“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,” predicted Proithis.