The Sigfox-EVRYTHNG Partnership and the Future of Traceability

April 10, 2017

We’re called EVRYTHNG for a reason: We believe that all products in the world should (and will) receive a digital identity. This doesn’t just refer to high-end home automation devices such as voice assistants, but also to the three trillion consumer goods produced every year.

After all, these products were the ones the IoT first pointed at. Traditionally, supply traceability for these items has meant deploying passive tags-based systems, in which the items would communicate with their digital profile whenever in close proximity with a tag reader (e.g. UHF RFID, barcode). Tags have two big advantages over embedded systems. First, tagging technologies, even the most advanced ones, cost a fraction of what embedded systems cost. Second, passive tags do not require their own power source, making them deployable on literally any kind of product. Of course, tags also have a number of drawbacks. For instance, they do not provide a continuous stream of information about the object, and they require partners in the supply chain to deploy a significant and compatible tag scanning infrastructure.

This is the game LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technologies are set to change, particularly in the field of supply traceability. They provide a way of actively tracking goods without the need for brands to deploy a complex infrastructure. In a nutshell, LPWAN technologies offer a mobile network for “Things,” similar to the one your mobile phone uses but with some key differences: a very affordable “data plan” and a set of networking protocols that consume far less power than the ones your mobile phone uses.

As a use case close to our hearts, imagine a traditional luxury brand shipping goods in all corners of the world. Today, the brand has to rely on a huge number of players to scan the goods at every step along the supply chain to ensure visibility. With LPWAN, a tracker could be placed on a container or a pallet and could automatically “ping home” to a cloud platform like EVRYTHNG on a regular basis. This provides up-to-date information about the shipment and ensures regulatory constraints are met (e.g. temperature monitoring).

The space of LPWAN is populated by a number of players, from the well-established Sigfox to the open LoRa and the global 5G NB-IoT. While they are often clustered in the same group, these technologies yield key differences. One of the particularities of Sigfox (when compared to NB-IoT, for instance) is the radically low-power consumption of the protocol. This comes with a cost: The protocol is not the best fit for use cases needing actuation (e.g. home automation) or continuous real-time sensing. However, it’s an ideal candidate for use cases needing to rely on batteries, including implementing complex supply traceability scenarios, especially when you consider the relatively low cost of Sigfox modules (as little as $2). Finally, the network coverage of Sigfox is growing rapidly, making it possible to start thinking about cross-country traceability.

This is why we are particularly happy to announce our partnership with Sigfox, as an officially supported and certified IoT platform. The integration is seamless and documented in our developer portal, and we are looking forward to launching the first pilots with this new technology. While there are a number of IoT platforms supporting LPWANs out there, EVRYTHNG is the only one that can support “Wide Area Tracking” using LPWANs, as well as “Local Area Tracking” using tags. This comprehensive approach enables tracking all the way from the factory floor to the item (and even ingredient) level (e.g. corks and bottles).

It’s also worth mentioning that we’re certainly not turning our back to other LPWANs such as the LoRa or NB-IoT networks. So be sure to stay tuned for future integration announcements.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dominique Guinard

Dominique Guinard

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