Bosch, Inmarsat Back Startup That Links Canals to the Internet

  • Actility taking different tack than French rival Sigfox
  • Startup raised $75 million to target the industrial sector

Actility, the European startup battling with rival Sigfox to connect things from fuel tanks to Amsterdam’s canals to the internet, has raised $75 million from investors in a bid to win business in the industrial sector.

Private-equity firm Creadev SAS, industrial company Robert Bosch GmbH and satellite operator Inmarsat Plc are among new investors, Actility said in a statement Wednesday. They join existing financial backers including Ginko Ventures -- the European investment fund of Foxconn Technology Co. -- as well as investments by operators of wireless networks like Koninklijke KPN NV, Orange SA and Swisscom AG. Actility had previously raised $25 million in 2015.

The so-called internet of things has attracted interest from a variety of backers, as companies attempt to predict the tools and applications that would be better served by being linked to the internet.

Actility sells services like monitoring how much fuel Belgians have in their heating tanks at home, or alerting the city of Amsterdam when the water is too high in its canals. It’s seeking to tailor to industrials by connecting objects to a wireless network to help automate anything from supply chain to lights and heating in a building or factory.

Unlike Actility, Sigfox is deploying its own infrastructure with technology that stems from submarine communications during World War I, which the company says costs less to deploy than traditional phone networks. 

While Actility played a part in developing a network protocol specific to connecting objects, it has relied on an alliance called LoRa, involving partners from IBM Corp. to Cisco Systems Inc. and a bunch of phone carriers, to build its services on top of partner networks.

Sigfox, which is also French, in November raised 150 million euros ($159 million) from the likes of Salesforce.com Inc. and Total SA, and financial investors including Elliott Management Corp., Intel Capital and Idinvest Partners. Samsung Electronics Co., Telefonica SA and NTT Docomo Inc. are also shareholders.

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