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Other innovations 04/12/2018

CES 2019: ENGIE M2M - Global IoT Connectivity

ENGIE M2M, exclusive operator of the Sigfox network in Belgium, will be on the ENGIE booth at CES in Las Vegas next January. Maarten Van Aerde, the Key Account Manager, told us about the company and the network.

Q: - Hello Maarten. What do we need to know about ENGIE M2M and Sigfox?

Sigfox, which was invented by a French company, is an IoT network based on a patented technology which allows long-distance bi-directional communication at low cost, with the lowest energy use possible, by using the 868 MHz free licence band. All European operators are using the same technology which means that roaming – the system whereby your cellphone is passed from one operator to another when you cross a border – is not necessary: you can stay with the same operator wherever you are, which offers a massive saving & greater simplicity!

In 2014, ENGIE was looking into the business opportunities offered by the IoT and big data, and chose to invest in the Sigfox network and launch ENGIE M2M as Belgian operator. Currently, the service is available to more than one billion people in 56 countries. Ultimately, the objective is global IoT connectivity: to enable global coverage Sigfox is preparing the launch of two satellites soon.

Q: - What sort of possibilities does this offer, and what is the situation in Belgium?

The possibilities are endless. Sensors can tell you, at a distance and in real time, the quality of the air in your conference hall, your gas or electricity consumption, where the free parking spaces are, the level of liquid in a tank, or whatever.

In Belgium, the IoT footprint is quite large. We work mainly with B2B projects for the moment, which already generate close to a million messages daily. One example is an ongoing project for the installation of 200.000 smart water meters.

Q: - What would you have to say about innovation at ENGIE?

First of all, that the level of innovation is surprisingly high for such a long-established company! ENGIE's 'four D's' (digitalisation, decentralisation, decarbonisation and decrease of energy use) imply a movement towards total solutions that will change the world. Big data and the IoT come under 'digitalisation' of course, and Sigfox is part of that.

Q: - What does it mean for you to participate in CES?

For me personally, it's a dream coming true. As something of a 'Mr. Gadget', I have always been fascinated by innovative new things, and it will be a great experience to be not only present at CES, but there under the ENGIE corporate hat, representing digitalisation and connectivity in Europe.

Q: - What will you showcase at CES and why?

We will be concentrating on "hands-on" connected devices: smart meters, track and trace systems, temperature sensors. Tangible things that allow visitors to push buttons and see things happen.

Q: - What would be the "magic encounter" for you at CES?

I can think of two: big European customers for the Sigfox market, and contacts for testing on a global scale.

Q. – And how do you imagine connectivity in 2030?

It will be everywhere. The only limit is people's inventivity. It's possible to imagine clothes, for example, that say to you: "Hey, you gained weight. It's time to go do some sport!"

We already have an insurance company in the ecosystem using Sigfox to monitor their customers in order to recompense positive behaviour – not speeding, for example. Currently, we're working on connected luggage; and what about disposable IoT? You could have a connected label on a package which does track and trace, temperature checking, whatever... and on delivery the customer unwraps the package and just throws the label away. I look forward to the future…

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