“The Sigfox network will cover the entire country by late 2016”

A network able to interconnect all everyday connected objects, wherever they are, via low-speed communications: this dream has become a reality in Belgium thanks to the Sigfox technology implemented by ENGIE M2M. Dirk Indigne, ENGIE M2M’s CEO, sheds light on this new network dedicated to the Internet of Things.

ENGIE M2M Dirk Indigne jbc

Digitisation is one of the four pillars of the ENGIE Group’s strategy to have everyone ‘better experience energy’. Does this mean that investing in and creating a wireless network to interconnect connected objects was not a choice?

Dirk Indigne: “The Internet of Things will transform our day-to-day lives. By 2020, 50 billion connected objects will communicate with one another over the Internet. From mobility and energy to the home, health and towns, all sectors will be affected. As a result, a top quality network had to be developed in Belgium so that the apps related to these objects could be launched.”

And this network is based on Sigfox technology, yes?

D.I.: “Absolutely. In early 2015, ENGIE acquired shares in Sigfox, a French company and global trailblazer in the development of wireless networks used to interconnect devices. Sigfox is already used in around 20 countries and will be rolled out in 60 more in the next five years. In fact, Sigfox is part of a web of European networks that provide for multinational coverage to connected objects. Through Sigfox, ENGIE M2M is the first and only company in Belgium to offer a global cellular network dedicated to the Internet of Things via low-speed communications!”

Why low speed at a time when everyone is talking about 4G, or even 5G, speed?

D.I.: “We are aiming for very low energy consumption to guarantee the autonomy of the connected objects. A high-speed network consumes too much energy and is not necessary for most existing or future applications.”

Which other benefits does Sigfox offer?

D.I.: “Sigfox is based on an infrastructure of antennae and base stations that are entirely independent of existing networks. As such, objects connect to one another instantly on the ENGIE M2M network. Sigfox has also patented a bidirectional, ultra-narrow band technology that will revolutionise the world of M2M connectivity as it enables objects to interconnect on a large scale using a simple, reliable and secure connectivity solution that consumes little energy and is available at competitive prices.”

Could you be more specific?

D.I.: “The connectivity offered by Sigfox consumes 200 to 600 times less energy than traditional cellular networks, which means that communication costs are 5 to 10 times lower and maintenance costs are also low. As for security, all data transfers over the ENGIE M2M network are secured by integrated authentication mechanisms and security processes.”

Is Sigfox already fully operational in Belgium?

D.I.: “The network currently covers all of Flanders and will cover the vast majority of Belgium by mid-2016. All Belgian companies and consumers will have access to Sigfox by the end of the year.”

Will ENGIE customers be the only ones with access to Sigfox?

D.I.: “Future developments will help to open up this technology for people in Belgium, regardless of whether they are ENGIE Group customers. ENGIE M2M together with ENGIE Electrabel, ENGIE Cofely and ENGIE Fabricom will market a range of services and solutions associated with this very efficient technology. With this in mind, ENGIE Electrabel is investigating how to incorporate this technology into its offer to professionals and individuals to further enhance services.”

Are there any practical Sigfox applications at the moment?

D.I.: “Around 10 innovative, very practical applications are currently being developed. These applications will render the management of energy, maintenance and waste, for instance, more efficient. For example, ENGIE M2M is currently working with four water distribution companies in Flanders with a view to testing the smart water meters via the Sigfox network. This development should make it easier to track water consumption, detect leaks and thus facilitate the maintenance of facilities and secure sustainable water consumption.”

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