Sigfox picks up €15M to expand its dedicated internet-of-things network

The French internet of things startup Sigfox has taken €15 million ($21 million) in new funding, to allow it to continue its international expansion.

Sigfox is a network operator of sorts, having designed a wireless architecture that’s purely for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. Its network already covers almost a million square kilometres in Europe. The ultra narrow band system can only handle tiny amounts of data, but its focus on this scenario means the hardware using its protocol can be very cheap and very low-powered.

We’re talking about chunks of data that are so tiny that even old-school 2G mobile networks can be seen as overkill – think a smoke detector that only sends out a signal when there’s smoke, or a vending machine that only communicates when it needs to notify someone to fill it.

Because the demands are so low, Sigfox rolls out networks that are dedicated to the task and very cheap to use. According to a recent promotional video, the connection for a smoke detector could cost a mere euro per year.

In order to keep costs down, Sigfox partners up with other network operators and infrastructure owners in its quest to build a global network. A recent deal with Abertis in Spain followed similar arrangements in the Netherlands (with Aerea, a former Intel(s intc) Wimax outfit), Russia (with M2M specialist Micronet) and of course France itself (with TDF). On the hardware side, it has deals with M2M module maker Telit and chip manufacturer Atmel.

Now Sigfox wants to find “Sigfox Network Operators” (SNOs) across the rest of Europe. The new round of investment will help it fund deployment support, marketing and continued research and development, according to a Friday statement in French.

The fresh funding comes from Sigfox’s existing investors, including Intel Capital, Partech, Ixo Private Equity and Elaia Partners – who had put around €12 million into Sigfox previously — and new backers Idinvest Partners and the state-supported BPIfrance.