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SIGFOX extends its network to the Antarctic

William Payne
January 27th 2016

French IoT network specialist SIGFOX is extending its network to the coldest place on earth: the Antarctic. It is working with the Belgian polar research team based at the Princess Elisabeth Polar Station to connect the 2015-16 BELARE expedition to the global SIGFOX network. The aim is to not only support science but also to improve the team's safety and security during research operations from the station.

The 2015-16 BELARE expedition includes a team of technicians and researchers specialized in glaciology, climatology and geomorphology in charge of various Belgian and international scientific projects. These projects are key to the understanding climate change and sustainability of the planet.

During this mission, expedition members will be equipped for the first time with 45 GPS trackers connected to the SIGFOX network, allowing real-time tracking of their movements and some of their equipment, in often-extreme weather conditions.

Belgian startup SENSOLUS will provide the 45 GPS trackers operating with long-lasting batteries and SIGFOX will ensure the connection of these trackers to its low-power network with only two antennas installed at the station. SIGFOX’s ultra-narrow band (UNB) technology enables a signal range of more than 40 kilometres in open space.

Antarctica is the earth’s coldest, windiest and harshest continent. In the wintertime, temperatures reach a minimum range of -80°C to -90°C. Highs during summer are 5-15°C, near the coasts. The continent’s katabatic, or descending winds that carry air downward, can reach 250 km/h, with an atmospheric pressure of 830 hPa. Variable rainfall adds to snowdrifts, and on top of that, it is light round the clock for 100 days of the austral summer.

First results on the contribution of the Internet of Things and SIGFOX’s connectivity solution to the mission will be released in March 2016.

“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, Ms. Elke Sleurs. So we wait, eagerly, for the test results in March.”