Cisco continues to invest in the booming Internet of Things (IoT) space, plunking down cash in low-power wide area networking (LPWAN) technology provider Actility, and bolstering its own product offering.
France-based Actility was the recipient of the latest investment, with Cisco joining in on the LPWAN provider’s latest $75 million Series D funding round. Cisco joined BNP Paribas as new investors in the funding, which was initially announced in April.
Actility said it will use the funds to roll out industrial IoT products targeting logistics, supply chain, smart buildings, energy, and utilities; and for investments to boost its platform.
The investment builds on previous work between Actility and Cisco. Actility last year joined Cisco’s IoT ecosystem program.
Actility’s ThingPark IoT platform works with LPWAN to manage the communications between sensors, base stations, and applications. It also has an operations support system (OSS) that activates devices and gateways, and provides data management, storage, and analytics. The company is working solely with IoT networks that use unlicensed spectrum like LoRaWAN, which operates in the unlicensed spectrum in the 430 MHz and 900 MHz bands. The company said this allows it to keep module costs down to $10 per unit and connectivity costs as low as $1 per year.
Cisco Geolocation Support
Separate from the Actility investment, Cisco added native geolocation support for its LoRaWAN gateways to “approximate a sensor’s location” for use in tracking assets. The company said the support results in a lower cost compared with a separate GPS subsystem. The cost savings comes from lower power consumption and longer battery life.
The gateways also gained a software update that allow them to operate as a standalone unit for deployment within an existing network. Additional software updates are targeted at helping with deployments, including control over the polling of sensors, and enhancing communication between sensors.
“This investment in Actility is an example of Cisco keeping its finger on the pulse of the IoT communications marketplace,” said Steve Hilton, analyst at MachNation. “I don’t believe Cisco is wedded to LoRa technology for IoT. Cisco will support all sorts of communications media as IoT continues to develop.”
MachNation predicts there will be 24 billion IoT devices in use around the world by 2025.
IoT Business Focus
Cisco last year made IoT headlines when it acquired Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion. Jasper at that time counted more than 3,500 enterprise and 27 service provider customers connecting devices through its cloud platform. The acquisition was seen as a way for Cisco to diversify away from hardware into a cloud software model.
A Cisco executive earlier this year told investors the firm’s Jasper business was “on fire” with 95 percent of business from recurring revenues.
Cisco last month looked to start a fire under the IoT market by bemoaning a low success rate for early IoT initiatives. The company claimed that 60 percent of IoT initiatives stall at the proof-of-concept stage, and 26 percent of companies claimed “complete success” of their initiatives.
LPWAN in the Middle
LPWA networks serve the middle ground for IoT between wide-area cellular networks and more localized short-range networks like Bluetooth, Zigbee, and WiFi variants. LPWAN technologies include Sigfox, LoRa, LTE Cat-M1, and narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT).
ABI Research predicts LPWAN and cellular-based IoT networks are set to take market share from more localized technologies.
“These technologies are specifically designed for IoT and are arguably much better matches for outdoor, larger-scale IoT applications due to their abilities to target greater coverage areas, their ease of deployment, and their greater scalability,” said Andrew Zignani, senior analyst at ABI.