As a coming soon produit, widely available as an open design, Sigfox has introduce during the Sigfox Connect conference the Bubbles: They are basically a Sigfox Beacon.
Working on the technological basis of the Monarch technology the bubble allows a device to identify the zone where it is. This is basically a kind of solution existing on bluetooth, LoRa but Sigfox was not positioned on it. This is now fixed with the Sigfox Bubble technology.
Compared to bluetooth the Sigfox solution is offering a large range of operations: thanks to the long range communication capability, you can imagine to cover a zone like a complete building or a parking as a single cell ; this is for future as the current technical offering is covering 10 meters max. Like on bluetooth you can manage the beacon power to reduce the cell (bubble) size to 1 or 2 meters and get your device position on this range. On top of this with no technology addition, you get access to the Atlas service locating your device on public area with the usual 1km precision.
The main difference with other technologies comes with the service proposal. Bubble is not just a technology ! Following the Sigfox business model, Bubble is a manage service: you have your bubble devices managed by Sigfox, you are able to share positions with business partner across the bubble global network and you get benefits of the public Bubble network operating on different point of interest.
This service is where the disruption starts !
Compared to LoRa eco-system, where there are equivalent solutions like ineo-sense in terms of capabilities, the Sigfox solution proposes a standard to be implemented by multiple solution providers on Sigfox technology. You will have multiple technology providers and they will be compatible altogether. An on-top manage service provided by Sigfox will federate this.
On the device side, any monarch compatible device will also be compatible to this beacon technology allowing to have a really low cost solution on the device side. For getting really long autonomy as seen in the badge demonstration (see above) the radio front-end could have to be rewritten but it is not a mandatory option. A device can just regularly listen on beacon signal to get positioned.
Let see how it works:
I’ve seen the solution deployed on Sigfox Connect Event, the solution is used to get the Sigfoxer location in the event: each of them wear an active Sigfox tag (this tag simply have the size of a credit card). This tag reports its location on its own based on the beacon seen around.
The following screenshot displays the location of the Sigfoxer on the area. Each circle is a bubble and the number shows the how many people wearing the active tag are in this zone. Even in an open context with small bubbles the precision is quite good.
The tag is part of the Sigfoxer badge as you can see on the following pictures
The PCB is really thin with an integrated battery, so we are front of an activ tag based on the OnSemi pretty nice SIP chip.
The tag consumption for receiving signal goes from hundreds to tens of nano-amp. The next step will be to have a passive tag !!! you can take a look to the passive Sigfox bubble Tag post as it has also been announced ! The autonomy of the current badge is about 1K message and a target autonomy is 1 year with 8-10 msg per day on a credit card format. The same device will able to get positioned as on ATLAS service once outdoor in the public area with a 1Km precision and back on BUBBLE solution when in a known zone with a precision of some meters… in a seamless geolocation callback for the end-user application integration.
On the beacon side, the promise is to only have to stick the bubble on a wall and decide of the coverage of this bubble. Compared to WiFi or BLE.
The target is to have a 4 year full autonomy for a 1m to 10m bubble size solving one of the main issue with BLE and WiFi solution you have to plug on power for long autonomy. The beacon device is reporting its health ans status over sigfox network for being globally managed by Sigfox BOC (Bubble Operating Center)
On top of the bubble a management service is proposed : the Bubble infrastructure is operated and as a consequence we can imagine to have shared bubble location informations. The bubble network will be in fact a global positioning solution with a potentiel reduction of the precision based on bubble owner decision. Partnership in progress on the tourism domain will be announced today about deploying a public network of bubbles. Bubble service offer is not yet fully clear: we can imagine it to be as an option part of Atlas ou like Atlas…
The bubble will be reported by the Sigfox device as a standard uplink message according to a specific frame format. At start with the best bubble signal received will be reported, later we will have multiple bubble & signal reported to improve precision.
The bubble solution can also work on mobile solution by adding a GPS on top of it to dynamically localize the moving bubble and allows to get location on goods for low-cost by dynamically associating them to the moving bubble.
The full availability of the solution is planned for H2 2019 ; Beta is open.