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Enabling a Connected Future

Murray Hankinson
Murray Hankinson, Managing Director, Thinxtra Asia

In a classic example of multicultural collaboration, an Australian start-up is using French technology and Hong Kong as a demonstration hub to improve business processes and people’s lives through the Internet of Things (IoT).

Sydney-based Thinxtra, Asia-Pacific’s IoT infrastructure and solution provider, chose Hong Kong as its first Asian market outside of Australia and New Zealand. The office opened in last November and deployment of the IoT network will start next month.

According to Murray Hankinson, Managing Director of Thinxtra Asia, the company will bring to Hong Kong, the world’s most mature and global LPWA (Low Power Wide Area) network dedicated to IoT, developed by French technology company Sigfox. It also plans to nurture local IoT partners as part of a global ecosystem of device makers, platform suppliers, system integrators and solutions developers.

Smart City Leader

Hong Kong
Hong Kong is a market ripe for the roll-out of citywide low-cost IoT

“We’re bringing our expertise and experience to Hong Kong to support its ongoing transformation into a smart city and a leader in IoT adoption and development,” Mr Hankinson explained. “We also see great potential for Hong Kong to be a world-leading design and manufacturing hub for IoT innovation, and we’re investing here to support this growth.”

The expansion enables Thinxtra, exclusive Sigfox operator in Australia, New Zealand and now Hong Kong, to extend its network across the region. The company already has a live LPWA network covering much of the population of Australia and New Zealand (up to 95 per cent by end of 2017), along with a local ecosystem of more than 100 IoT partners. The Thinxtra network in Hong Kong will be a citywide open IoT LPWA network that links to the other 29 nationwide Sigfox networks around the world, Mr Hankinson said.

“With Thinxtra harnessing local talent and the IT community in Hong Kong to expand the international Sigfox ecosystem, IoT solutions developed here could be exported around the world,” he said.

The company has already been working with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on its research and development efforts, as well as the design of devices, sensors and solutions. According to Mr Hankinson, businesses will benefit from access to the most advanced and mature global IoT network, along with solutions and services that span sectors including logistics, building and infrastructure management, utilities, healthcare and environmental monitoring.

Bringing Solutions to Life

“Thinxtra is an entrepreneurial business with the creativity and agility to support the growth of IoT in Hong Kong,” added Rodolphe Baronnet-Frugès, Sigfox Executive Vice President Networks and Operators. “You need an efficient, global and ubiquitous LPWA network to design and deliver IoT solutions that improve people’s lives and help businesses and industries grow. With Thinxtra and Sigfox, Hong Kong will have the necessary network and support to bring IoT solutions to life.”

Established in June 2015 in Sydney by a team of six IoT and network experts originally from diverse parts of the world (France, Jordan, New Zealand, Netherlands, Turkey and Canada), Thinxtra is backed by NZX-listed high-tech company Rakon Ltd.

Low-Cost Devices

supermarket trolleys
The technology can track down unreturned supermarket trolleys, and find spaces in a crowded parking lot
Renald Gallis
Renald Gallis, Thinxtra Vice President, Ecosystem & Marketing

Renald Gallis, Thinxtra’s Vice President, Ecosystem & Marketing, said the company is developing small, low-cost devices such as GPS trackers – for pets, shopping trolleys and pallets, or monitoring devices for smoke alarms, motion detectors, temperature – which can be powered for 10 years, use only a small amount of data, and have a range of up to 50 kilometres.

For example, the cost of connecting a smoke alarm to the cloud now could be as low as AUS$1 (US$0.76) per year. “So the cost of acquiring data for usually unconnected devices is so low that insurance companies could see value in having all smoke alarms wirelessly connected to their monitoring platform, knowing early on when a fire is starting or making sure the smoke alarm detector is properly working,” Mr Gallis explained.

“We don’t intend to charge householders directly, but are signing large deals with major customers,” he said. “For instance, [we are] dealing with supermarkets to implement solutions to better track shopping trolleys and pallet deliveries or monitoring the whole cold chain.”

Model City in the Making

“The list of things that could be connected to Sigfox network with low-cost sensors is nearly infinite as we see new opportunities popping up every day,” he said. “Hong Kong could become a model city for low-cost IoT that could be replicated everywhere in the world.”

In Hong Kong, Mr Gallis sees plenty of opportunities to connect the usually unconnected things; for example, monitoring manhole covers to ensure they are closed, and the common “smart parking application,” identifying free spots in crowded city carparks. There are also opportunities for IoT-enabled smart street lighting, waste bins or air pollution and water-quality monitoring.

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