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SqwidNet becomes first Sigfox-accredited lab in southern hemisphere

29 April 2020 News

iSERT (Safety, EMC, RF, Testing), a leader in the provision of turnkey testing solutions for EMC, RF and safety testing, has collaborated with SqwidNet, the only licenced Sigfox operator in South Africa, to become the first and currently only, Sigfox accredited test laboratory in the southern hemisphere.

The partnership has allowed for iSERT to provide customers with absolute confidence in their solutions by providing testing to ensure they will not degrade the Sigfox network. For SqwidNet, the partnership allows for further investment into South African innovation and development through collaboration and mutual growth.

“South Africa has huge potential and can lead the way when it comes to innovation and development within the Internet of Things (IoT) sector,” says Phathizwe Malinga, managing director at SqwidNet. “We were looking for a local lab that could perform Sigfox-ready testing and iSERT’s openness and ability to adapt to new technology were deciding factors. The company not only demonstrated the ability to accurately measure and plot antenna radiation patterns, but they share our belief that technology plays a vital role in changing lives and the future of the country.”

iSERT’s commitment to customer satisfaction and testing excellence also played a role in Sigfox’s decision. Established in 2017, the company may be a fresh face in the market, but it has already made significant inroads into the industry. As one of the only labs in South Africa to offer a turnkey solution for EMC, RF and safety testing, it brings something unique to the market, something crucial to the local electronics industry.

“With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), we realised it was essential for a test lab to have the capabilities of testing products that incorporate the latest technology in one convenient location,” says Riaan van den Berg, managing director at iSERT. “Our partnership with SqwidNet and Sigfox ensures that products are of good quality and that they will not degrade the Sigfox network. It’s similar to PTCRB testing for cellular networks.”

The local and international certification standards that were put in place to ensure that electronic devices can co-exist with limited emissions are of immense value to local companies. They ensure that the spectrum is used efficiently and that it is of benefit to the public.

Products have to be safe for use and they must be designed to take the environment into account. This forms the basis of the Radio Equipment Directive (RED) and to certify a product with RED, it must comply with EMC, RF and safety test requirements. This ties into iSERT’s offering and focuses on providing a seamless solution for wireless testing under one roof.

“We live in an era of connectivity and IoT will invariably play a huge role in bringing devices together through wireless communications and technologies,” says Riaan van den Berg. “One of the biggest advantages provided by the Sigfox network is its penetration into rural areas that makes it ideally suited to Africa, South America and Australasia. We’ve seen some remarkable designs for rural areas over the past few years, from fire alarms for informal housing to health sensors, and this partnership allows us to support these designs and initiatives and to play a role in changing lives. Engineers apply science to make life better for the general public and this is us, doing just that.”

Multiple factors influence the design of solutions that meet the high standards of the Sigfox network, as well as local and international certification standards. For iSERT, two elements stand out: antenna selection and EMC. Both require forethought and planning to ensure that the design is ergonomic, the quality to a high standard and that compliance is easily achieved. By eliminating the issues presented by poor EMC design and antenna investment early on, companies can minimise expenditure while maximising results.

“iSERT is committed to bringing about real and relevant change to the industry and customers,” concludes Malinga. “Their passion for design, compliance and testing standards is reflected in the solutions they work with and the results they achieve to satisfy their customers. Working with them will allow local companies to fully invest in the potential of their products while ensuring they are sustainable, compliant and capable of working seamlessly with the Sigfox network.”

Founded in 2017 by Riaan van den Berg and Johan Deysel, iSERT brings more than 30 years of experience in compliance testing to the fore. The company has plans to build a pre-compliance lab to assist engineers in product development, providing EMC and RF performance testing equipment and antenna performance and optimisation testing equipment to ensure high quality from the outset. The goal is to embed the company’s commitment to precision, discipline and attention to detail into locally developed products and solutions, showcasing the remarkable innovation talent in the country while holding it up to a very high global standard.

IoT poised for growth in 2020

SqwidNet ended 2019 on a high note after seeing an increase in network coverage and uptake during the year. According to Andrew Heuvel, chief technology officer at SqwidNet, the company saw several exciting concepts that use the Internet of Things (IoT), proof of concepts and use cases emerge, such as sensors for tamper detection that may be installed on traffic and roadside lights, notifying authorities of possible cable theft and events that could compromise the functioning of the lights. The market has shown that it’s shifting towards more adoption – a very positive sign for growth in 2020.

“Over the past three years the SqwidNet network has expanded rapidly and currently covers 90% of major highway and routes, 143 952 kilometres of paved tarred and 538 829 kilometres of gravel roads, reaching over 90% of the country’s population,” Heuvel says. SqwidNet also has indoor coverage in all eight metropolitan municipalities, namely the City of Tshwane, City of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, City of Cape Town, Ethekwini, Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay and Mangaung Metropolitan Municipalities, which enables new use cases for its partners.

As the exclusive operator of the Sigfox network in South Africa, SqwidNet is part of a single global IoT network. The Sigfox network is unparalleled, covering 1 billion people across 70 countries and with infrastructure covering 5 million km2.

“Over the past year SqwidNet has invested in growing its partner ecosystem and we are now approaching 100 registered partners who are actively developing devices, platforms and solutions that solve South African, African and even global challenges using IoT,” says Heuvel. “The growth in the industry is evident in our daily message numbers. We have over 1 million messages being sent across our network daily and we foresee even more growth in 2020.”


Andrew Heuvel, chief technology officer, SqwidNet.

Design-thinking to drive real growth

“We are already seeing growing interest in adopting IoT to solve business challenges and change lives and believe we will see even further growth this year,” Heuvel concludes. “This, coupled with an increase in design-thinking, where the focus is on the customer and their problem, rather than on the technology, will see existing solutions adapted to solve problems they were not originally intended to, as well as the development of new solutions that are specific to local challenges. With the right approach, support and network, 2020 could easily become the year where we see a fundamental shift in IoT adoption.”

For more information visit www.isert.co.za or www.sqwidnet.com


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