Internet of Things spin out avoids mobile operators

Interviews |
By eeNews Europe

Senaptic is commercializing ultra narrowband technology developed by Cambridge consultancy Plextek and will supply basestations, sensors and apps using the long range, low bit rate technology to system integrators and building contractors under the Apella brand. It plans to be a global venture with over 100 people in the next 18 months.
The technology has already been used by other Plextek spinout companies for vehicle tracking and smart street lighting, which will now become licensees of Senaptic. The technology is also being used for a large scale smart parking trial in Moscow and Plextek has already shipped over 6m devices to 30 countries.
"What attracted me about it is wireless – I’m always fascinated with wireless and the particular uses of this type of technology," said Franks, co-founder of Swindon-based small cell pioneer Ubiquisys that was sold to Cisco in 2013. "It’s clear that the Internet of Things is more than just game-changing. It is world-changing. The big question is how it can be rapidly developed and monetized."
"The other interesting aspect is this can be done without the stranglehold of the mobile operators because they own the spectrum so it can be the local government, utilities or building contractors," he said. "By removing the dependency on traditional networks, we believe that Senaptic has the answer."
The technology is now in its fourth generation and has been used commercially for five years.
"This is the time now to set this up as an offshoot so we can take this globally for different verticals," he said. "What Senaptic is doing is finding system integrator partners in the regions and they are the ones that implement the systems for the local governments and utilities. Rather than be an operator and rollout a network and then find customers we are building on the business case. We are providing an end to end system for different verticals – parking, street lighting, smart meters. We own the IP and the products for the base stations and the sensor technology and the middleware and we partner for the actual applications," he said. "We will find local opportunities and local licensees who are the right ones to deliver the solution – that could be a building contractor, not necessarily a system integrator – and we provide all the equipment, the application, custom sensors if needed."
The system uses a 60bit/s 120Hz link in a number of bands with a basestation the size of a large shoe box linking unidirecitonal or bidirectional sensors. The basestation has 3G backhaul that supports 5000 devices off each basestation and its very easy to install using PoE, says Franks. “We use 868MHz in Europe, 470MHz in China, 950MHz in the US – there are some bands that are ISM or where a company or a city have their own spectrum, and you can get a 2km range or a 10km range depending on the application," he said. "We are avoiding white space at this time as its quite difficult to guarantee you have clear space and its difficult to build a reliable system on white space at the moment."
The initial focus is on infrastructure roll out rather than consumer systems, he says. "I expect we will do [consumer systems] but we need some further maturity in the market, getting devices smaller with better battery life – the lifetime is 5 years for the parking system in Moscow and we can go up to 10 years but we do need to get the sensors down in size and cost," he said.
The new venture also includes co-founder and CEO of Plextek, Tim Jackson, as CTO. "A vast market exists for IoT solutions across sectors as diverse as smart energy, healthcare, asset tracking and much more," said Jackson. "Senaptic’s focus is as much on understanding the opportunity as on applying technology that has already proven itself in the market. We are now looking forward to expansion throughout 2014 and well beyond."

Related stories:
Plextek to announce solutions for both E-band and V-band
Plextek wins MoD contract for comms research
Software tool speeds 3G and 4G network development
Free Windows leaps to IoT: OS battle takes new angle


Linked Articles
eeNews Europe