It’s seems to be a big week for IoT fundraising – Actlity, a network specialist building IoT solution on top of LoRaWan (Low Power Wide Area Network) has announced a $25 Million fundraising led by Ginkgo Ventures, with participation by FoxConn, Orange, KPN, and also its traditional investors BPIFrance, IDinvest & Truffle Capital. Actility has built a network solution that it plans to distribute indirectly through existing Telecom actors as Orange, but also in the Enterprise through existing network solution providers like Cisco & IBM.
“ThingPark is available now, allowing Telecom operators or municipalities to deploy an IoT network in a month.” – Olivier Hersent, CEO at Acility
Their solution, ThingPark, that they’ve developed on top of LoRa, an open standard maintained by the LoRa alliance, allows telecoms to deploy not only the network solution, but also the commercial products that go along with it, enabling their salespeople to activate & manage clients immediately.
Speaking with Hersent on the telephone this week, it seemed clear that the race to enable the billions of devices coming online in the next three years will be quick, and, according to Hersent, decided in the next 36 months. With SIGFOX’s €100+ Million fundraising this year, as well as other local competitors like Qowisio raising €10 Million, Actility will need to move fast. These industrial partners will give Actility the ability to do so. On the topic of Foxconn, Hersent says that they are working specifically with them to conquer the Chinese market quickly, developing a custom commercial partnership together.
We spoke briefly of Bouygues Telecom, who announced earlier this year they would be investing in an IoT Network – SIGFOX’s Ludovic Le Moan said on stage at Connected Conference last month that he was convinced Bouygues would fail in this effort. Of Bouygues, Hersent said he saw them as more of a potential client than as a competitor, implying that Bouygues is currently looking at Actility among other actors as their network solutions provider. With Orange as an investor in Actility, however, this may be complicated.
Proprietary or Open Standard? Minitel or Internet?
The Telecom market is currently betting that the future of IoT networks will go the same route that ‘it’ always has – that is, towards an open standard. SIGFOX has moved fast and on a global scale to build out their proprietary network, meeting mixed reviews by Telecom players: some are investors, some are vehemently convinced this is a bad direction. Actility has positioned itself as the Alcatel Lucent of IoT, providing network solutions based on the open standards that are still being defined and refined as the needs to connected hardware evolved; however, it’s tough not to see the connection between SIGFOX and Minitel, between the Internet (an open standard) & LoRa.
Was Minitel’s only mistake not developing globally fast enough, or do networks want to be open?