A 5-Minute Q&A with CEO Fred de Haro as we add Sigfox to the growing number of networks available on Pycom boards, soft launching the triple-network SiPy which will be available from October 2016.

Q: Why Sigfox and why now?

No, its not because of my French heritage and the fact that Sigfox was setup in France…
Seriously though, Pycom’s DNA is underpinned by the absolute commitment to bring out developer centric multi-connect modules. To do this we need to be totally technology agnostic. Being able to offer Sigfox is critical for our customers. Sigfox networks are rolling out globally and there’s already enough network presence for organisations with global deployment requirements and network uptime Service Level requirements to make for an interesting playing field for the SiPy.
We’ve been working with the team at Sigfox for a while and we’ll certify the SiPy on their networks so that it works out of the box.

Q: Don’t Sigfox and LoRa do the same thing?

While both camps will agree to disagree (with Passion some may say), Sigfox and LoRa help customers achieve similar things. It’s about IoT and connecting things to the Internet. Both Sigfox and LoRa are based on a cellular-style system that enables remote devices to connect using sub-1GHz long range technology, often referred to as LPWAN. Both Technologies are disrupting traditional cellular offerings and in the world of Pycom, we love the word disruption. Disruption means, there is finally an alternative to the conventional way of connecting devices. The business model and technology behind the propositions however is different.

So, here are the technical bits, in a nutshell:

Sigfox is an ultra-narrowband technology that uses a standard radio transmission method called binary phase-shift keying (BPSK). It uses very narrow lumps of spectrum and changes the phase of the carrier radio wave to encode the data allowing the receiver to listen in a thin slice of spectrum and so reduces any noise. It can be achieved with unassuming endpoints and brainier base stations that manage the network.

LoRa (or LORAWAN as it is sometimes also referred to) uses a wider chunk of spectrum than Sigfox so it may have more noise with the larger receiver bandwidth but this risk is mitigated with coding gains.

LoRa networks can be either private or shared and both the endpoint and the basestation are typically relatively inexpensive because you can use the same radio for a receiver on the basestation and at the endpoint.

LoRa networks are rolling out as both private shared networks as well as open source networks. The analyst community believe that LoRa will primarily be used for Private networks although there is a large community based movement taking LoRa forward in their cities.

Sigfox is rolling out following a traditional Mobile Network Operator model where a private company runs the operatorship in each country or territory. The Sigfox network is a private shared network.

It therefore means some customers looking for specific network features, meeting specific business models etc will choose between either technology.

Q: LoRa versus Sigfox?

I think it depends on network availability requirements and very much on the IoT use case. It also depends on how you define Open Source. In this context we refer to Open-networks vs the technology itself. For a hobbyist developer or maker, where connecting to the network is not life and death it may be interesting to participate in one of the open source LoRa communities, such as The ThingsNetwork. For businesses wanting to adopt LPWAN it would make sense to use either LoRa networks from one of the MNO providers such as Proximus, Orange, KPN in Europe, TATA in Asia or Senet in the US or indeed Sigfox. Both in the context of the Operator LoRa and Sigfox networks there is a monthly charge for use of the networks but then again, nothing really good in life is for free (and with free we mean either no cost and no effort)! We see that as a price you have to pay for some of the quality that is then delivered from a network point of view and so we think Sigfox presents an attractive network use case for enterprises rolling out to locations where there is the network available. It is basically down to whether a customer requires a higher QoS and a series of SLAs for their device connectivity.

Either way, with Pycom modules, the choice is yours!

Q: Does that mean you will have less emphasis on LoRa and the LoPy?

No, Nein, Non, no way Jose!
LoPy is one of our core modules which through its nano gateway functionality enables customers to take control of their own networks. Each of the Pycom modules are here to stay. Watch out for further product announcements in the next few months! New multi-network boards are not here to replace a previous model but on the contrary, to compliment the other.

Q: Could the SiPy and LoPy work together in the same deployment?

Yes! And whilst I am not trying to act as a politician, there are some things which I am not able to reveal… yet!
In essence, customers with global deployments of say 50 countries with 50k individual locations cannot rely on one technology. In fact the need to rely on one technology alone would very much limit  their roll-out plans as no organisation would want to put  ‘all their eggs in one basket’.

By using Pycom multi-connect boards they can focus on their core activity (user application) knowing that their estate will connect… in some individual locations it could be with Sigfox and in others, it will be LoRa.

Two competing technologies now complimenting each other. Now that’s smart!

lopy -Expansion board - micropython programmable offering WiFi, BLE and LoRa gatewaySiPy - sigfox, wifi and BLE IoT Development Platform

Q: How do you see the Networks evolving – who will win the LPWAN battle?

I always get this question at conferences and my answer remains the same. No one knows yet and if someone told you differently then they are most certainly guessing! Pycom takes the guess-work out of the equation.
We are also working on NB-IoT so stay tuned while we work on adding all possible networks to our portfolio, truly removing the need to chose IoT network.

So, in conclusion, nobody can predict the future of IoT networks and how the landscape will change in the next 5 years, after all, nobody could have predicted Brexit and that only took place over a few weeks!

See the SiPy on the webshop today.