The Internet of connected frozen things has arrived.
France’s Sigfox, which operates a low-powered communications network for smart devices, announced today that it will be expanding its network to the Belgian polar-exploration station. The goal is to: “strengthen safety and security during research operations at the Antarctica expedition, which is underway now,” according a press release.
If this sounds like the least commercial use of a network possible, well, that’s because it is. The plan was announced as part of a broader effort by the new Sigfox Foundation, a nonprofit that will work toward using the benefits of IoT (Internet of Things) to “protect people and the environment, improve health care and social ties,” according to the press release.
Sigfox, based in Toulouse, France, partners with telecom operators to create a network that carries short signals from smart devices over long ranges. The messages are transmitted in short bursts and small packets, which allows the connected devices to run on low battery power for extended periods.
The hope is that the foundation can find ways to partner with other nonprofits and with government agencies, using the network to power communications in times of crisis, such as during a forest fire or earthquake, and to continue to monitor the impact of climate change in remote areas.
“There are so many challenges that can be addressed by the Internet of Things,” said Sigfox CEO Ludovic Le Moan in a statement. “The IoT must be seen as part of the solution, because detecting and reporting signals that are unknown to us, or before a disaster occurs, will allow us to respond sooner and give us opportunities to solve crises.
In the case of Antarctica, deployment to Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station will allow researchers for an upcoming expedition called “Belare” to transmit data over longer ranges than their short-range radio systems permit.
“The Belare expedition is just one example of the many, many ways that SIGFOX can support programs that protect people and the environment, improve health care and establish social ties, with its network and the best associated resources from partnering with startups and device-makers,” Le Moan said in his statement.
The establishment of the foundation is the latest big bet for fast-growing Sigfox. In February 2015, Sigfox raised a round of $115 million, making it one of just a handful of French unicorns. Now it’s using that money to push into new markets, including the United States.