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Sigfox brings the internet of things to Antarctica

Connectivity provider teams up with GPS supplier Sensolus and Belgian government to use the IoT to support climate change researchers

Internet of things (IoT) connectivity provider Sigfox will provide a low-power, ultra-narrow band (UNB) network to Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth Research Station on Antarctica to support the work of its scientists and improve safety and security in the field.

Belgium’s Polar Secretariat – the government body that manages its Antarctic base – enlisted Sigfox along with GPS sensor supplier Sensolus to support the 2015-16 Belare expedition, which is studying glaciology, climatology and geomorphology to help improve understanding of climate change and sustainability.

Operational since 2009, the Princess Elisabeth base is located 125 miles inland in a million square mile region of Antarctica called Queen Maud Land, which is claimed by Norway.

According to the Belgian government, it is the only zero carbon emission base in Antarctica, running exclusively on wind power supplemented by solar energy. It can support a team of up to 40 people at a time during the brief Antarctic summer.

On top of the harsh temperatures, which dip to -90⁰C (-130⁰F) during winter, the research station is situated on a ridge and so is also highly exposed to Antarctica’s katabatic, or descending winds, which can reach speeds of up to 250kph (155mph).

The technology partners will supply the Belare expedition with 45 ruggedised StickNTrack GPS sensors, operating with long-lasting batteries, connected to a low-power network through two antennae located at the station. Sigfox’s UNB technology is thought to be able to deliver a signal range of 40km in open space.

“This partnership will allow us to test technology that could be useful for the safety of our operations in Antarctica,” said Rachid Touzani, director of the Belgian Polar Secretariat. “However, the security of women and men we send to Antarctica to implement key scientific projects for the preservation of mankind is a top priority for the Belgian Polar Secretariat.

“In addition, this collaboration perfectly answers our ongoing commitment to include the industrial world in our development projects. This commitment is also part of the strategy of the state secretary for science policy, Elke Sleurs. So we wait, eagerly, for the test results in March.”

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Sensolus CEO Kristoff van Rattinghe said: “We strongly believe that sustaining missions like Belare 2015-16 is the kind of real innovation we can achieve with the IoT.

“This is only possible through strong collaborations like the one set up for this mission. Via this collaboration, great opportunities are created to take big steps forward in the team’s knowledge of climatic changes and mission management.”

Ludovic Le Moan and Christophe Fourtet, Sigfox co-founders, added: “We are convinced that the internet of things is a great opportunity to ensure the safety of high-risk operations by Belgian teams in Antarctica.”

At the same time, Le Moan and Fourtet have launched the Sigfox Foundation to help use the IoT to support non-profit missions and projects around the world.

“Because we are sincerely convinced that we will change the world thanks to a weak signal – the ‘power of low’ can save a life – we have decided to create the Sigfox Foundation to solve major issues for the environment, public health and solidarity.

“The technology should not be an end in itself, but a way to achieve something ambitious, with a lot of impact. We will focus on causes that can be partly solved through connectivity and connected sensors.”

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