Peux-tu nous parler de ton rôle à Shayp ?

Je suis le CTO de Shayp, je suis responsable du design, du développement et de l’installation de la solution de Shayp. J’intègre les hardware et software à la stratégie commerciale.

Un protocole IoT, qu’est-ce que c’est ?

-It’s a protocol that defines how a device sends data to a computer, the cloud, or another device. I have tested many in the very early development phase of Shayp and in my past job. Sigfox, LoRa, Zigbee, NB-IoT, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy)…: the first Shayp prototype was an Arduino*, sending data by ZigBee* to a Raspberry Pi* that acted as a gateway*. There were a lot of possibilities that we investigated, but Zigbee seemed to have the best building penetration and lowest power in combination with a gateway.

Quel protocole IoT utilisez-vous à Shayp et comment fonctionne-t-il ?

-Today we almost exclusively use Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT). It is a GSM* protocol made for moving IoT devices that sends data directly to the network and forwards the data to Shayp. When we started, people were talking about it but it was not even available for testing.

Quels critères techniques devais-tu respecter pour développer la solution de Shayp et pour quelle raison ?

-Our main goal was: easy installation. Working in places where you have no network and having an easy installation on a water meter without being invasive, it’s a challenge. Creating, like we are doing now, a sensor that works with 90% of the water meters. You can have water meters in classic basements where there’s no problem, the temperature is always the same, no humidity… You can believe the datasheet of the battery. But then you have places where the water meter is outside, it can be -20 degrees and at the end of the day +20, you can have the water meter under the water, underground… That’s also a challenge in electronics.

Comment Sigfox, LoRa et NB-IoT diffèrent-ils ?

-In the beginning, we had two big networks to choose from for what we wanted to use: Sigfox and LoRa. At that time we decided to go for Sigfox. The main advantage of Sigfox is that you are paying for a service so you don’t need to worry about managing antennas. LoRa, being also a good option to consider, wasn’t that developed in Belgium. It was also a business decision seeing that a mobile network provider called Proximus However was who handled LoRa in Belgium. The company deploying Sigfox in Belgium is actually their main business, so it was also something to take into account.

Désormais, nous utilisons le protocole NB-IoT parce qu’il a une excellente couverture intérieure. Pour nous, ce réseau était mieux que Sigfox. Le NB-IoT (512 octets) permet de transmettre plus de données en un message que Sigfox (12 octets) et le NB-IoT consomme moins d’énergie par rapport à notre utilisation. Avec le protocole Sigfox, il fallait envoyer le message trois fois pour s’assurer qu’il arrive à bonne destination alors qu’avec le NB-IoT, on n’envoie le message qu’une seule fois.

Wireless connectivity

Comment gérez-vous les données ?

Les données sont envoyées à notre serveur via le protocole UDP* (user datagram protocol ou protocole datagramme utilisateur) puis enregistrées dans notre base de données.

UDP* and then we save the data directly to our database.

Quel standard de communication dédié aux dispositifs IoT est le plus adapté aux compteurs d’eau ?

La plupart des compteurs d’eau se trouvent dans les sous-sols ou dans les endroits où la connexion sans fil est difficile, mais, grâce au NB-IoT, nous n’avons pas ce genre de problèmes, même dans les conditions extrêmes, ce qui permet un déploiement plus large et versatile.

Quelles sont les différentes catégories de protocoles IoT ?

Si je devais les classer, la première question que je me poserais est : fonctionnent-ils par batterie ou doivent-ils être branchés ? Dans le premier cas, il faut un protocole à basse consommation énergétique alors que dans le second cas, je ne dois pas me soucier de l’énergie puisque je peux le brancher. Ensuite je me demanderais : que dois-je envoyer ? Combien de fois par jour ? Quel est le volume du message ? Par exemple, si je sais que je vais devoir envoyer des messages volumineux, je ne vais pas utiliser Sigfox parce qu’il n’a que 12 octets. Enfin, je me demanderais s’il est disponible dans ma location. Le protocole NB-IoT par exemple n’est pas disponible partout même s’il s’étend rapidement.

Quel protocole est le plus adapté aux compteurs intelligents et pourquoi ?

Je recommanderais le protocole NB-IoT parce qu’il a une excellente couverture intérieure. Il ne nécessite pas l’installation d’antennes. Il suffit de sélectionner un bon fournisseur télécom et ils se chargeront des antennes installées dehors. Si vous êtes une société des eaux, votre mission première est de fournir de l’eau, pas de vous préoccuper des réseaux sans fil, des stations de base, des pertes de données ou des bugs dans le système. Certaines entreprises des eaux effectuent une analyse des coûts, mais sous-estiment l’ampleur des problèmes pouvant se produire. Nous estimons qu’environ 20 % des compteurs d’eau n’envoient pas de données.

Another added value is that you can have long battery life and also give more services to the customer. With other technology, you send a message once a day in the best case. But you can’t give a lot of insights with a message once a day or once a week. At Shayp at least, we are maximising value for the end-user. We’re seeing more water utilities realising that smart metering isn’t just about saving time and costs on their end.

With NB-IoT you can have high precise and high-resolution data, so the water company can give more services to the final customer. We believe that this is much more in the public’s interest than, for example, shutting off somebody’s water when they missed a payment of their bill.

Est-ce que c’est moins cher d’installer ses propres antennes ?

-I didn’t do the math personally but I’m seeing way too much optimism. It’s always a question of make or buy for companies, and engineers tend to push to make because that’s what we all love doing. You need a wireless network specialist because you can’t install antennas wherever you want. I don’t understand why we should do that if the network infrastructure already exists, it implies extra pollution (producing more materials, transport…).

There are a lot of companies: Sigfox, LoRa, T-Mobile, Orange… Whose main purpose is to take care of these infrastructures, I would just work with them to be able to be more focused on my own business. Just negotiate a contract that is fair for both parties.

Si vous avez un problème, vous devez payer pour le réparer donc je ne pense pas que ça revienne à moins en fin de compte. Vous aurez besoin de personnel qu’il faudra payer pour entretenir ce réseau.

Quels sont les avantages et inconvénients d’un réseau filaire par rapport à un réseau sans fil ?

-If I had an endless amount of money, I would always go for high quality wired solutions. You have unlimited data, uncapped data rates and transmission frequencies making it truly a real live feed. And well, you don’t have to worry about battery consumption. But the clear disadvantage is the costs associated with wired solutions, sometimes even the technical feasibility. We reduced installation costs by over a factor of 20 compared to some wired solutions but really focused on maintaining the major benefits of wired solutions.

The most complicated part regarding the installation of our solution is finding the water meter ensuring the client has access to the basement.

Comment Shayp a-t-elle relevé les défis liés aux objets connectés sans fil ?

-Our naivety helped. We said to ourselves: 10-year battery with maximum transmission frequency and never assumed it was impossible. We figured out clever ways to compress the data in the limited packets of data using algorithms and tried to find the right balance. In the beginning, with Sigfox, we had to use algorithms that produced more data with a smaller size, by compressing it. It may look easy but it’s not that easy actually.

-What are the advantages of long-range protocols VS short-range protocols and how do you choose between one or the other?

-Early on, we were inclined on using a sensor using a short-range protocol that would send to a gateway, which in turn would send to the cloud through WiFi or 3G. However, you’re already integrating an antenna into the sensor, so why not just send it immediately to the cloud instead? This reduces the bill of materials considerably.

I believe that if there is a gateway and there are only so many end sensors required for your application, it’s good to look into long-range protocols.

Quels étaient les objectifs les plus difficiles à atteindre ?

-Hardware development is a pain, if you make a mistake, you’ll have to recall your devices. And believe me, every mistake or bug that you think can happen, will happen. If there is something on the market that already fits most of your technical criteria just go for it. At Shayp, we set ourselves high-level criteria but it did take close to 3 years to have a polished and commercialisable product.

Quels étaient les besoins du marché ?

-After investigating monitoring solutions, especially for water meters, they were rather invasive and costly (some of them required ethernet cable, cabling, wiring…), and they weren’t battery-driven so they needed to be plugged into an outlet.

Moreover, any wired solution seemed completely unreliable, so either the data wouldn’t go through because of the walls (especially in commercial or multi-residential buildings). And water meters, especially when they come to wireless solutions, the level of difficulty increases because they are in the basement, under the street level or under metallic plates outside. That makes these solutions completely unreliable. So the challenge we took at Shayp was to provide scalable non-invasive and low-cost solutions. So we are able to equip water meters in buildings and to send data with a high data rate.

The technical challenge was to build something that was easy to deploy, completely battery-powered, and that had a life battery time that exceeded 10 years. That is due to that when building operators install something they don’t want to have to change it every year. Maybe they are managing tens of hundred buildings at a time. That means that you have to change ten hundred batteries every year, that’s not possible.

And the last aspect was that without plugging in, it equals sending enough data with a rather high resolution so that we could run out much more reliable leak detection algorithms.

-Why is it important to have such long battery life, why not recharge it?

Dans notre cas, la plupart de nos clients sont responsables de plusieurs bâtiments et changer de batterie tous les ans serait très coûteux. Changer de batterie implique d’envoyer quelqu’un, prendre l’appareil, le charger, le renvoyer, le connecter. Tu perds du temps et de l’argent.

In the minds of building operators, the lifetime of the buildings is not just a matter of years, but a matter of decades. The investment that’s made is usually for at least ten years. That’s why the customers prefer it to be long-lasting so they can just forget about it for 10 years.

-Why do we need such high-resolution data? What was that for?

-There is no solution that parallels that level of data resolution combined with such long battery life. But it’s a requirement, as well as it can tell you really precisely if you have an issue, what’s the likely cause of the issue, how much it will cost and when, if it’s correctly fixed.

We’re capable of applying non-invasive load monitoring (NILM) to water consumption. This allows us to not only detect leakages but also consumption discrepancies such as a dysfunctional pump or water tank.


→ Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs and turn them into outputs. You can tell your board what to do by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board.

ZigBee → Zigbee est un protocole utilisé pour connecter des appareils intelligents tels que des lampes, des prises et des serrures intelligentes à un réseau domestique. Zigbee est un protocole à faible consommation d’énergie qui ne transmet des données que sur demande.

Raspberry Pi → The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing and to learn how to program.

Gateway → Un gateway est un dispositif au sein d’un réseau de communication qui vous permet d’accéder à un autre réseau sans avoir besoin d’un autre intermédiaire. Elle connecte deux réseaux ayant des protocoles et des architectures différents. Son objectif principal est de transposer les informations du protocole d’un réseau à un autre.

GSM → The Global System for Mobile Communication is a standard that specifies how 2G operates. GSM represented a transition from analogue to digital telecommunications.

UDP → Le protocole de datagramme utilisateur est un protocole de communications qui facilite l’échange de messages entre les dispositifs informatiques d’un réseau.





4 Thoughts on “We tested Wireless IoT Protocols for Buildings and Smart Meters, so you don’t have to.”

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