If Ludovic Le Moan had to explain to your grandmother what Sigfox does, he would talk about a "giant radio telescope that can listen to messages from the objects all around us". Le Moan isn't a science fiction writer, he's the CEO of one of France's hottest start-ups — one in which Total has just invested through its Total Energy Ventures fund. We talked with the man who wants to connect the real world with the virtual world to find out more.
What is Sigfox?
Ludovic Le Moan / Sigfox is a company based in France and with operations in 28 countries that develops ultra-narrow-band technology for the Internet of Things (IoT). We install Internet-connected sensors on all types of objects, which then transmit basic data that can make life easier for businesses. For example, this technology enables remote maintenance of boilers, fall-detection systems for people living alone, optimized public lighting and more. We've even got a oyster farmer who is thinking of connecting his oyster cages to stop thieves. There are as many possible applications as there are objects, which is to say hundreds of billions!
What's new about connecting objects to the Internet?
L. L. M. / There are two types of connected objects: those that send large amounts of data via WiFi or GSM and that require lots of energy, like telephones and tablets, and those that are in sleep mode most of the time and only need to transmit a small amount of data each day. We're focused on the second category — sensors connected to a narrow band network with very low energy consumption. Ultimately, we hope to eliminate the need for batteries entirely by recovering other available energy sources such as heat or sunlight. All of this will allow us to offer a very competitive price. We are the only worldwide operator today who can get millions of objects to talk to each other reliably, and that's why more and more large groups are interested in us!
Speaking of which, Total has just invested in your company. What type of collaboration do you foresee?
L. L. M. / That's for Total's teams to decide, but the scope of possibilities is enormous! Sigfox could, for example, help you completely re-invent your customer relationships by installing sensors that would allow you to offer new high-value-added services. Sigfox could also give you ways to improve predictive maintenance at your industrial sites. Today, you've got sensors on some of your key equipment, but they are costly and their batteries need to be changed on a regular basis. With Sigfox, you could put sensors on all your devices for less and with very little maintenance.
And on your end, what are the benefits of linking up with Total?
L. L. M. / For a Toulouse-based start-up with 300 employees created in 2009, it sends a huge signal to have the largest market capitalization in the CAC 40 index show an interest in us. It raises our visibility and credibility and facilitates our development. Our goal is to be present in 60 countries by 2018. Africa is one of our priorities, and we hope to leverage Total's network to develop there.
What is Total Energy Ventures?
Total Energy Ventures (TEV) is the Group's venture capital arm. It identifies and invests in start-ups that are innovating in areas such as energy efficiency, energy storage, digital technologies, renewables and mobility, with the goal of making profitable investments.