French firm Sigfox’s proprietary Internet of Things (IoT) network will be connected to the 2015-16 Belare (Belgian Antarctic) expedition, based in the Princess Elisabeth Antarctica Research Station, “to strengthen safety and security during research operations”.

Sigfox is partnering with the Belgian Polar Secretariat, which manages the research station, and Belgian-based Sensolus, which builds turnkey solutions for low-power, long-range networks.

“This is the first time that IoT network coverage has been deployed on the continent, where electronic communication has been limited to short-range radio and satellite communication,” Sigfox said in a statement.

Expedition members will be equipped with 45 GPS trackers connected to the Sigfox network. The trackers, provided by Sensolus, will allow real-time tracking of the movements of the researchers and some of their equipment in extreme weather conditions.

Sigfox will connect the trackers to its low-power network with two antennas installed at the station. Its ultra-narrow band technology enables a signal range of around 40 kilometres in open space.

First results on the contribution of the network to the mission will be released in March.

Sigfox Foundation
The company’s founders have also launched the Sigfox Foundation, which will aim to bring the benefits of the IoT to “nonprofit, humanitarian causes around the world”.

The Paris-based foundation will support programmes “designed to protect people and the environment, improve health care and social ties, with the contribution of the company’s network and the best-associated resources”.

Last year, Sigfox raised $115 million as it looked to extend its dedicated IoT network. It is one of a number of technologies playing in the Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) IoT space. Other proprietary technologies include LoRa, while 3GPP-backed cellular standards NB-LTE, LTE-M and EC-GSM also aim to grab a slice of the pie.

Last week IoT analyst firm Machina Research forecast that “at least one of the major LPWA technologies today will effectively be rendered redundant but there will still be more technology fragmentation. During 2016 we’ll see quite a shaking out of the LPWA space.”