IoT firm Actility raises $25M in funding from telcos, others

Internet of Things specialist Actility has raised $25 million (€22 million) in fresh funding from investors including Orange, KPN and Swisscom, marking the France-based company's move into full deployment phase.

Established in 2010 by CEO Olivier Hersent, Actility initially raised funding of around €10 million from financial backers including BPI France, Truffle Capital and Idinvest Partners to develop and build its ThinkPark IoT platform.

The latest funding round was led by Ginko Ventures, and includes the existing financial investors as well as the three European telcos and Foxconn. Acility said the investment will now allow it to accelerate its go-to-market strategy for ThinkPark, which is a low power wide area (LPWA) radio network built on the LoRaWAN standard that was developed by the LoRa (Long Range) Alliance. The company also recently formed a technology partnership with Swisscom.

Actility's ThingPark is designed to enable IoT services for any market sector, offering ready-to-go IoT connectivity plus a full set of ready-to-sell applications in less than one month.

"After the rise of personal connected objects, such as consumer wearable devices, we are now witnessing the emergence of a second wave: managed connected objects," said Hersent. "Managed connected objects are creating a more efficient, more sustainable world. With a ubiquitous and cost-effective IoT network in place, utilities for instance will be able to accelerate their smart-metering plans, to optimize the filling of fuel tanks, to increase the use of renewable energy by dynamically controlling thermostats."

According to Hersent, key target markets for LoRa-based networks are public IoT networks operated by telcos, municipal networks for smart cities and corporate networks.

"We try to enable operators," he added, noting that the platform aims to tackle all elements of the IoT network for operators from the core network through to operational support and applications.

Actility is strongly endorsing LoRa, and Hersent said he sees a strong wave of support for the technology and the alliance. Indeed, in March Bouygues Telecom launched what it described as France's first IoT network based on LoRa technology.

LoRa technology also competes with the low-energy, low-cost wireless networks developed by France-based Sigfox, which in February raised $115 million from investors including Telefónica.

According to a report published in March by the Rethink research firm, the fundamental difference between Sigfox and LoRa is that Sigfox focuses on an ultra-narrow-band implementation, while LoRa has opted for a wideband CDMA approach.

"LoRa seems more suited to applications that demand higher bandwidths, while Sigfox's lower throughput will appeal more readily to developers who only need to send and receive small messages…the choice will largely come down to network requirements and deployment schedules," the Rethink report said.

However, the report noted that in terms of the business model, the Sigfox approach seems more likely to win new customers, with already-installed national networks "a powerful bargaining tool'.

"LoRa and its supporters might argue that the Sigfox technology isn't as good as the LoRa approach, but for businesses looking for a quick rollout with a small upfront investment, Sigfox currently wins over LoRa," the report said.

Rethink noted that some industry experts believe the two approaches will be able to coexist in the market. "LoRa and its supporters have ground to make up, and the LPWAN market may be very different in a couple of years," the report added.

For more:
- see this Actility release
- see this Rethink report

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