Buffalo now has a wireless network just for the internet of things

Downtown Buffalo skyline.

Credit: Douglas Levere.

UB engineer’s work attracts Sigfox, a boost for the region’s tech sector

Release Date: August 22, 2017

Josep Jornet

Josep Jornet

“It’s really cutting-edge technology for UB researchers to conduct groundbreaking experiments that could lead to great societal benefits.”
Josep Jornet, assistant professor
Department of Electrical Engineering

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo has joined a list of cities nationwide to have a wireless network tailored for the so-called internet of things — the tech industry’s buzzword for connecting everyday physical objects to the internet.

The network — a partnership between Sigfox, a global IoT (short for internet of things) connectivity provider, and the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences — puts Buffalo in company with San Francisco, Boston and a few dozen other high-tech hotbeds.

To stream video and transmit other data-intensive content, traditional wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G cellular systems are needed to support fast speeds and large amounts of bandwidth. While great for laptops and smartphones, these devices are relatively expensive, use lots of power and can cause wireless traffic jams.

Sigfox differs because it employs a unique device-to-cloud communications approach to put simple objects online. The approach, which uses radio frequencies ideal for sending small amounts of data over long distances, is known as a low-power wide-area (LPWA) network. It reduces the cost to connect to the internet, and it limits battery consumption.

Sigfox’s LPWA network is ideal for systems that track whether a parking spot is vacant or occupied, if a public recycling bin is empty or full, whether or not a shipment has arrived, or if a door is open or closed — virtually any modest-sized bits of information.

The range of a Sigfox network is greater than most cellular providers, too. For example, its network at UB provides coverage to the Buffalo Niagara region.

“It’s really cutting-edge technology for UB researchers to conduct groundbreaking experiments that could lead to great societal benefits,” said Josep Jornet, PhD, assistant professor of electrical engineering at UB, whose research attracted Sigfox to Buffalo. “We’ll also be able to implement the network into our classrooms, offering students an immersive, hands-on course specifically about the internet of things.”

As part of that course, UB is working with the City of Buffalo to identify how students can apply the technology to improve services.

Buffalo’s tech sector, startup community and hobbyists will benefit too. The internet of things is a segment of the world’s economy that could be worth more than $11 trillion by 2025, according to management consultant firm McKinsey & Company.

“We are excited the University at Buffalo chose Sigfox LPWA network as the backbone to support the internet of things academics,” said Sean Horan, director of sales and partners at Sigfox North America. “What can be achieved through IoT is limited only