The Australian government’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is to invest AU$10m in IoT network builder Thinxtra in exchange for 15 percent equity.
CEFC is a Green Bank that was established to ensure investment would be driven into the clean energy sector. Its investment in Thinxtra is part of a AU$20m Series B round, valuing the company at about AU$66m.
Sydney-based Thinxtra last year obtained the licence to roll out French network company Sigfox’s low-powered, wide area network (LPWAN) technology across Australia and New Zealand, with an ambitious aim of covering 95 percent of both countries’ populations by the end of 2017. The LPWAN technology runs independently from telco IoT networks in Australia and New Zealand, but taps into these networks for data backhaul.
It is this technology that was an attraction to CEFC, as it consumes less energy than many alternative methods in connecting devices to the internet.
Smart city potential
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said: “Australia is a vast country with a scattered population. A large amount of energy is expended in physically monitoring millions of pallets, waste containers, gas canisters, farm gates, livestock and more. By providing a low-cost solution for tracking and monitoring these assets, we can save a huge amount of emissions.
“Our finance for Thinxtra will help build essential support technology which is set to play a key role in transitioning the Australian economy to net zero emissions by the second half of the century.
“We’re talking about the potential to operate smarter cities, more energy efficient and liveable buildings, better monitoring of environmental assets, better health monitoring and more sustainable agricultural practices,” he said.
A growing presence down under
Thinxtra’s presence in Australia and New Zealand has been ramping up over the last year. In May, the company announced a joint venture with Tasmania-based telco Tasmanet to build a dedicated IoT network that would cover 95 percent of the island state’s population before the end of 2017.
In the same week, Thinxtra said it would be providing the connectivity for a new IoT-based security product from ATF Services, a company that specialises in protecting construction sites from theft and vandalism, with products including temporary fencing and video surveillance.
Last month, Australian smart water meter company WaterGroup announced it had signed a five-year IoT connectivity partnership with Thinxtra.
WaterGroup said the partnership could lower the costs of implementing water conservation measures for organizations in both the private and public sectors.
Not as forward-looking
The investment from CEFC suggests that it believes in Thinxtra’s decision to back Sigfox. However, Clive Longbottom, analyst at IT advisory company Quocirca believes that the investment may not be as forward looking as the Australian government may think.
“The world of LPWAN is changing: Sigfox was a first mover in the space, but is soon to be left behind in the overall functionality stakes,” he said.
“It is cheaper than other approaches, such as LoRa and NB-IoT/LTE-M, but there are reasons for this; Sigfox is one-way only: it can only upload data from the device. Therefore, if Thinxtra wants to build a fully intelligent IoT network, it will have to find other means of sending signals to actuators and other devices – which could result in an overly heterogeneous platform with different control systems,” he added.
He concluded that while it was good to see that there was a lot of work and investment going into IoT, governments should be taking a much longer-term view on the technologies they back.