Sigfox has become one of the main Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) technologies that is used for Internet of Things applications. Sigfox is a private company that is a global communication provider with a cellular network and its base station deployed in countries all over the world. Sigfox networks enable wireless communication over long distances with very low power consumption. In this article, an overview of Sigfox and an introduction to what a Sigfox module is will be provided. It will also discuss when to use a Sigfox module and provide guidance on how to choose a good Sigfox module for a certain design or application.
What is Sigfox?
Sigfox is a company based in France that provides a global network for LPWA communications. The network works on an unlicensed radio frequency spectrum and exists freely with other radio technologies without any collisions or risk of capacity. It is based on a star network architecture. It uses Ultra Narrow Band (UNB) based radio technology to connect the devices to the global network. This reduces energy consumption, and the cost of connected devices and improves scalability. In Sigfox, the communication is software based. All the network complexity is managed in the cloud and not on devices. The web application interface in the Sigfox backend makes device management and data integration simple. Sigfox is used in IoT applications in all industries including smart agriculture, smart energy, healthcare, logistics, and transportation, etc.
What is a Sigfox module?
A Sigfox module is a small electronic device that consists of all the necessary hardware and software components to connect a device to the Sigfox network that is available globally. Sigfox modules are based on a patented proprietary wireless protocol. It operates on the sub-gigahertz frequency range but the range can change from country to country. Sigfox modules use UNB(Ultra Narrow Band) modulation techniques which enable the modules to operate at low power, with high receiver sensitivity, and has good resistance to interferences and noise. Sigfox modules can be found in different forms, as chipsets, modules, or in development kits. In chipsets, they consist of a radio transceiver and a microcontroller unit. This form is preferred when integrating Sigfox into custom designs. Sigfox modules are fully integrated and include a transceiver, a microcontroller and other necessary components. These modules are ideal when they have to be deployed and implemented quickly and easily on an IoT device. Development kits include both the hardware and the software components that could be used to prototype and test Sigfox technology.
Sigfox modules are ideal for IoT applications due to their impressive features. Since Sigfox modules consume very low power, they can operate on small batteries for a long time without a need for replacement or recharging. They can communicate for very long distances in open environments due to their long-range operability. Since Sigfox modules use encryption and authentication mechanisms the data transmitted over the Sigfox network will be secure.
When to use a Sigfox module?
Sigfox modules are ideal for IoT applications that are battery-powered, and require long-range wireless data communication with low throughput and infrequent data transmission. They are one of the best options available when the user requires a module that is low in cost, and power consumption as well as easy to deploy and implement.
Sigfox modules operate consuming very low power. Therefore, when a certain design or application runs on battery power or has limited access to power it is better to use a Sigfox module. They can operate for a long time on battery power without replacement or recharging.
Sigfox modules are also ideal for applications where devices can be located in remote areas. Due to the long-range capabilities and the availability of a network of base stations covering a huge geographical area globally, devices with Sigfox modules can communicate with each other over long distances with very low interferences.
Sigfox modules are particularly a great option when the ease of integration into the product is a critical factor. Since Sigfox modules can be designed to fit into a wide range of form factors and can be easily controlled using their simple APIs, it is an ideal choice when users are looking to implement communication without having to design their own communication protocols from scratch.
How to choose a good Sigfox module for your design
To choose the optimal Sigfox module for a certain design or application several factors need to be considered.
- Coverage: Although the Sigfox network covers a huge geographical area, it is important to check and confirm that the specific location of your application is covered by the Sigfox network. It is also important to check the level of signal strength and whether it is sufficient to transmit the data at the required rate.
- Power consumption: A module with a lower power consumption rate will ensure a longer operation time and increase the reliability of the design.
- The data rate: The data rate requirement of the design should be satisfied by the selected Sigfox module.
- Security: It is important to select a Sigfox module that has end-to-end encryption and other robust security features to ensure the protection of the data transmitted over the Sigfox network.
- The antenna: Sigfox module selected should have a good-quality antenna that could provide sufficient signal strength and coverage. The ease of installation and compatibility with the user design should also be considered.
- Interface: The user should be mindful of the type of interface, ease of integration with the application, user-friendliness, simplicity, etc. The availability of software tools and support is also critical. Other general factors like environmental conditions and regulatory requirements should also be considered.
- Cost: The user should compare the different prices of the available Sigfox modules from different vendors and select the optimal one that provides the best features and performance for the value of money.
Sigfox is a global communication service provider that specializes in LPWA networks for IoT applications. Sigfox modules have the ability to communicate wirelessly over long distances using extremely low power consumption. The coverage of the Sigfox network over a vast geographical area makes it possible to use Sigfox modules in IoT applications even in most remote locations globally. It is up to the user to carefully consider different factors like coverage, power, cost, data rate, and choose the best Sigfox module to meet their requirements.