Sounding a bit like a QNX dream realized, a French startup called SigFox has launched their low-powered, long range mobile network for inanimate objects. Projects like this exist elsewhere like in wireless natural gas meters but this project has a bigger scope as it allows for various products and services.
The use cases for turning your dumb appliances internet smart internet-connected applicances sounds about as science fiction as the 60s promise of a futuristic push button home.
The system uses the ultranarrow band spectrum and while it won’t be useful for the lower-latency networks we need for smartphones, it’s perfect for sending smaller packets of data over longer distances with low power consumption and with far cheaper infrastructure. How cheap? They say that they could provide coverage similar to that of US cell phones with as few as 10000 towers as opposed to their several hundred thousand tower deployment. Furthermore ultra-narrow band has no licensing costs, lowering the barrier to entry.
The system is able to trickle data at rate of 100 bits per second making it completely useless for surveillance, audio or video. Even still, there are tons of use cases for connecting these objects to the internet. Smart metering of natural gas and for power grid management are two use cases that will inevitably come out of this. Other possible innovations include cars, bikes, appliances, consumer electronic, cheap home security, observing crops, monitoring wildlife and tracking livestock.