Internet of Things (IoT) has emerged as the hottest trend of the year, so far. Driven by some important technological developments, IoT is all set to forever change our lives. IoT promises to turn science fiction into reality much sooner than anticipated. Gartner forecasts that revenue from IoT products and services will exceed $300 billion in the year 2020. There is at least one prominent IoT-based announcement almost everyday.
The year 2016 is the year of LPWAN partnerships and marketing wars to determine which standards will dominate the IoT deployments. Two prominent technologies which are competing aggressively in Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) are SigFox and LoRa. The main difference between SigFox and LoRa is that while SigFox focuses on ultra narrow-band implementation, LoRa does that in Wideband CDMA, though both of them use LPWAN for implementation. Both the platforms claim to offer benefit for long range and low power consumption and are aimed directly at IoT applications. Both the technologies use unlicensed spectrum.
Both Sigfox and LoRa have managed to find backers from important Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) companies. SigFox on the other hand has got the support of Texas Instruments, Microchip Technology Inc, On Semiconductor Corp and Silicon Labs. ZTE, Tata Communications and SK Telecom are among the LoRa supporters.
The choice between the two will depend on the specific requirement of the deployment. While LoRa seems suitable for applications that demand higher bandwidths, SigFox is apt for applications that only needs to send and receive small messages. Both the technologies are bidirectional. SigFox was initially unidirectional but that is no longer the case.
Business Model Is The Key?
Sigfox particularly has faced a lot of criticism because of business. As per the business model, Sigfox takes a huge cut of service revenue from its network partners which obviously adds to their discomfort. It is also believed to be proprietary technology, while LoRa is believed to be an open standard. Some of the big manufacturers, like STMicroelectronics, Atmel and Texas Instruments make SigFox radios. Sigfox’s chips are comparatively inexpensive mainly because it seeks to make money from network operators. It also deploys the network and acts as network operators, like in the US and France, its home country. It is also one of the oldest standards in this field and has raised as much as 100 million Euros to push operators to adopt its technology. This means that any network operator which wants to use Sigfox’s technology would need to work with it directly.
On the other hand, LoRa is believed to be more open than SigFox. Initially Semtech was the only company, which could manufacture radio for LoRa. However that is no longer the case with STMicroelectronics also being in the fray. LoRa Alliance has been stressing the openness of the technology as its key focus area.
Some of the key LoRa and Sigfox developments over the last few months are:
1. SK Telecom Completes Nationwide Deployment of LoRa
2. Orange Joins LoRa Bandwagon
3. Sigfox Expands In Ireland
4. Swisscom Takes IoT Leap
5. Mexico City Goes With Sigfox For IoT
6. Sigfox To Deploy IoT In Singapore