End September 2017, Sigfox introduced Sigfox Monarch, a pretty important service for applications and devices in an international Sigfox ecosystem context. What you should know about Sigfox Monarch.
The Sigfox Monarch cognition service enables devices to run seamlessly across various regions as it automatically recognizes and adapts to local radio frequencies standards
LPWA network provider Sigfox, still aiming to be the first global Internet of Things service provider (read: offering global coverage for wireless IoT in the low power wide area network space), has a proprietary technology, using the UNB or Ultra Narrow Band radio technology (signal technique) and the sub-gigahertz ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) radio band, the latter also used by others playing in the unlicensed spectrum field of non-cellular LPWA networks such as the LoRA Alliance.
The precise frequency range and center frequency for for ISM applications such as (but not solely) LPWA networks and thus also LPWA networks such as Sigfox depend on the region. Within that sub-gigahertz radio frequency bands space Sigfox uses 200 kHz of these unlicensed bands, more precisely 868 to 869 MHz and 902 to 928 MHz. Again: depending on region. In Europe and the Middle East it’s 868 MHz, in North America and Brazil 902 MHz and in South America, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong and South East Asia it’s 920MHZ (all this is regulated, in Europe, for example by ETSI and in the US by the FCC).
Sigfox Monarch: the global rationale
Without wanting to get too technical (sorry if we did) the point is this: if you have an IoT device in a Sigfox-based application of whatever type, there are several circumstances in which it needs to work in different regions.
By way of an example (and a popular category of IoT use cases in LPWAN that covers many possible “sub forms” of use cases, depending on asset, goal and so forth) think about an asset tracking application.
Of course, asset tracking (or whatever other IoT application) doesn’t always mean different regions with different frequencies, well on the contrary. In these early stages of IoT the large majority of IoT deployments is local (read: tied to a specific region or country).
At the same time, there are applications but also devices that should be able to work everywhere. This is important for IoT device manufacturers too and, in the end, thus again the end customer or consumer (and it’s not, yet at least, that there are easy universal ways for people to do all sorts of IoT device management and device-related IoT platform stuff).
It’s precisely in this context that Sigfox has launched that Sigfox Monarch cognitive service. Cognitive essentially means that Sigfox Monarch leverages some form of ‘intelligent’ software (artificial intelligence) that enables the device to not just recognize the local communication standards (and frequencies) when it’s used but also adapts to them. You immediately see the benefits of what, given the big global ambition of Sigfox really should be obvious but in practice isn’t (or at least wasn’t before).
The result of Sigfox Monarch: “seamless global connectivity” as it’s called (of course where there is Sigfox network coverage, interoperability with other networks is a different story in the strict sense of the word and food for another post).
Where Sigfox Monarch comes in the picture of application developers, companies leveraging IoT and manufacturers of IoT-enabled products
To cut a long story short and use the Sigfox description: Sigfox Monarch is a cognition service, allowing IoT connectivity anywhere as an extra layer to the Sigfox geolocation service.
Quoting from the press release in which Sigfox Monarch was introduced in September 2017: “Sigfox Monarch provides a unique radio recognition service enabling devices to manage the radio frequency changes, without any additional hardware such as GPS or Wi-Fi chipset”.
On top of being a solution for existing customer applications for the travelling consumer using the Sigfox network, Sigfox Monarch enables to build applications and devices across several use cases involving several regions with different Sigfox frequencies
Sigfox calls Monarch “a game-changer for logistics, freight, and consumer goods industries” and gives an example: lost luggage thanks to luggage tracking across the globe, indeed: an asset tracking application. Also think digital supply chain and asset management and maintenance in, for example the shipping industry with sloooooowly moving assets requiring little data and not where you would need constant updates as a container ship isn’t exactly a spacecraft.
On top of that, as mentioned, Sigfix Monarch enables smart manufacturers of all sorts of consumer IoT applications (whereby as per IDC consumer IoT climbs to the fourth spot regarding IoT spending in 2018 globally) to make products for consumers, whether it’s ‘smart luggage’, consumer electronics or white goods to, quote, “have a single hardware design for products sold around the world”.
Although investments in smart appliances and in consumer electronics with IoT features increase, the main area of spending in consumer IoT concerns smart homes in general and specifically home automation.
Here too you can of course imagine circumstances where some appliances and devices could benefit from Sigfox Monarch since some people for example like to travel or have the luxury of owning a residence abroad.
As for the name of Sigfox Monarch: knowing that the Sigfox logo shows a butterfly, that all its solutions are named after butterflies (Sigfox Geolocation has been rebranded into Sigfox Atlas) and a monarch, on top of several other things is a butterfly too, the monarch butterfly picture in our illustration probably leaves little room for doubt.