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Wireless Networking The Internet

Silicon Valley To Get a Cellular Network Just For Things 42

An anonymous reader writes "MIT Technology Review reports that French company Sigfox will soon roll out a cellular data network in the San Francisco Bay Area aimed exclusively for low-bandwidth, low power devices such as household appliances and sensors. It's the U.S. debut for a technology already in use in France. The network uses the 900 MHz unlicensed spectrum used by cordless phones. Sigfox says that and their technology's very low bandwidth makes it possible to connect devices significantly more cheaply than with conventional cellular modems and service."
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Silicon Valley To Get a Cellular Network Just For Things

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  • Ben Grimm will be happy

  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by epyT-R ( 613989 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @02:40AM (#47054149)

    Why do I want my household appliances sending usage data to who knows where?

    • To improve the customer experience!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      How else can we remotely control each others dildos?

    • The NSA needs to know what you're up to when you're not within reach of a computer or cell phone, silly. "You wouldn't be worried about it if you weren't guilty of, er.. something, hold on while, yup, there's my probable cause." Knock, knock, "We have a warrant open up!"
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      There are quite a few of these networks in the EU already, and they are being standardized. They are used mostly for automatic meter reading, so you no longer have to let a guy into your home to check your electricity/gas/water usage. Your bills tend to be more accurate as well because they are based on readings instead of estimates.

      The networks are also used for monitoring things like the water networks too. Flow monitoring and leak detection allow the water company to find leaks and fix them faster. On av

      • The energy and water companies will know exactly when you shower, cook, are on a vacation, and when your wife has a visit she doesn't tell you about.

        As long as you live in a country with enough rainwater, I rather like water leaking from the network than data leaking about me.

        Its a nice idea to have a meter that monitors when I consume how much. But I don't want it to send the data to the energy company first, the data should stay in my network.

        You can design billing protocols without fine-grained monitorin

      • Why would your meter be inside your home? In America, they are outside of your home, not sure what idiot thought putting them on the inside was a good idea.

        Why doesn't your power meter use the power lines its connected to for data transmission? Data over transmission lines was going to be the next cable competition, remember?

        Why doesn't your water and gas use the pipe its connected to for data transmission? Yes, its trivial to send data down a 'pipe in the ground'

        How is reading my meter over cellular goi

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Why doesn't your water and gas use the pipe its connected to for data transmission? Yes, its trivial to send data down a 'pipe in the ground'

          I think this comment alone reveals why you are wrong about everything. It really isn't easy to send data down an existing, in place pipe. They don't even know exactly where half the pipes are because they were installed over 100 years ago and the records are long gone, or refer to landmarks that no longer exist. Believe me, they would love to send data down a pipe because at the moment they have to use RF, and it is very short range when in a utility pit that is basically a Faraday cage.

          But hay, if you thin

        • Here where it is cold during winter, water meters have to be inside or freezing pipes would be very very bad. Even gas meters have to be carefully located else people clearing snow off the roofs break the meter connections and now you have a gas leak surrounded by a mini avalanche zone.

          Physical reads require someone to access the meter to get an actual read. Even radio based meters that broadcast the info require a drive by.

          If they cannot get access to the meter or the radio signal, the flag the read for an

        • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

          I would like to point out that meter placement is quite random in America. I own two commercial buildings and both buildings have their water, electric and gas meters inside. My home has its gas and water meters inside but the electric meter is on the outside. A family friend has his electric meter inside his home as well as his water and gas. Some new "brick shit box" multifamily homes that were hastily erected to cash in on the housing bubble have both the electric and gas meters right out in the open. Of

    • The use case will most likely be comercial. a cheaper way to connect atm's,parking meters, and vending machines to a data network for credit card transactions...

    • Why do I want my household appliances sending usage data to who knows where?

      You're low on milk.

      I mean, you could find out of you were low on milk. You know, wirelessly. Yeah.

    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Informative)

      by NewWorldDan ( 899800 ) <> on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @10:50AM (#47056201) Homepage Journal

      It's called equipment monitoring. I make a monitoring system for stand-by generators. It turns out that there are laws about how often you can run your generator in a non-emergency fashion in some states. My monitoring service costs a tiny fraction of the fine for an incomplete log book. As an added benefit, it can automatically notify your maintenance company that the generator needs repair or fuel.

      No one cares about connecting your toaster to the internet. However, there are a lot of monitoring applications that can really benefit from a low cost low bandwidth service.

  • PG&E (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ion Berkley ( 35404 ) on Wednesday May 21, 2014 @03:05AM (#47054205)

    They're rather late to the game, PG&E has been running a 900MHz ISM IPv6 mesh network for several years over the whole of Silicon Valley, every electricity meter is a node, with gas meters relayed via the electricity meters, and indeed the same radios proliferate many other places in the world.

    • Re: PG&E (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      To be fair, their system is a bit different. The main idea appears to be that they uses an ultra narrow band signal (fancy way of saying very low bit rate) to increase the range of a transmitter operating in the unlicensed ism band where power is limited to 100mW. They are claiming up to 40km. This means they can effectively set up a low cost network that doesn't need spectrum licenses.

      The general principle is just a Shannon theorem trade off between bit rate and SNR in a power limited channel. For remote

      • Because to roll your own requires capital investment, ongoing maintenance of the network and locations to place the network devices. Each cell site also needs its own power and a higher bandwidth connection to the other cells.

      • No, it's not different at all in most senses...technically they are governed by the same legal rules stated in 15.247 (ISM device power is not limited to 20dBM BTW), and most definitely the same Eb/N0 curves. There's pretty good odd's that they even use the same fundamental radio IC. What's a little bizarre is why anyone would want to trade bitrate for range in such an application, the rest of the world is not interested in range, but capacity, so the smaller the cell size, the more cells you can pack in a

        • by Anonymous Coward

          My understanding of their business model is that they are specifically trading bit-rate for range so they can get very large cell sizes and cover an entire country economically. They are probably banking on industrial customers who can't be bothered setting up their own infrastructure, and those with mobile applications. The fact it uses ISM means eventually they could provide global coverage (well, land anyway) which is pretty cool. It would be a bit of competition for satellite data services in non marine

  • So they slap a PA on to a garage door bleeper and call many of these a "network".

    It has no security and because is only one way, there is no acknowledgement so the "connected" device has no way of knowing if the message got across the air.


  • This will not end well for this company once Verizon and AT&T get in on the act.

  • Think for a moment about all the things that any medium to large city needs to keep track of. Lights. Traffic signals. Parking meters. Fire hydrants. Garbage trucks. Water flows, valves, drains. Sewerage flows. Air quality sensors. Weather sensors. Burglar alarms.

    It seems odd to pitch this for household use, when most of the use cases you can imagine are somehow privacy invasive or creepy.

    But a network like this could provide an amazing amount of transparency and insight into the web of things that is owned

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis