A surprise appearance by The Fifth Element director Luc Besson stole the limelight at Orange’s now almost annual innovation show on Wednesday, but the operator is hoping a range of new services will get the plaudits in the long run.
The France-based operator’s hello show, which took place in Paris, showcased a new router and set-top box combo alongside a range of IoT-related announcements.
The latest iteration of its Livebox router and set-top box offering is key in the battle for French broadband consumers.
Free Mobile owner Iliad launched a 4K STB running Android TV last year, while cableco Numericable, which Altice merged with SFR 18 months ago, presents a threat to Orange’s fixed-mobile play.
Add in Bouygues, which Orange remains in takeover discussions with but stayed silent on yesterday, and its Bbox service, and the market looks increasingly cutthroat.
The incumbent appears to have been thorough in attempting to create some blue water between its offering and the competition.
For example, it has upgraded the connectivity options by introducing a new Wi-Fi system that promises speeds of up to 1GBps.
It has introduced Ultra HD capabilities and channels, Dolby Atmos Sound and virtual reality services.
At this point, Besson was introduced and led attendees on a VR tour of the Livebox with an HTC Vive.
Voice recognition and actor facial recognition technology have been added to its TV offering, which Orange CEO Stephane Richard was keen to point out was thanks to his company’s growing relationship with the startup community.
Further, 1TB of storage capacity enables users to save content and access it away from the home if they sign up to Orange’s cloud app.
The product will be available in France by the summer and come to other countries down the line – no fixed destinations or dates were available.
CCS Insight analyst Paolo Pescatore said: “Orange’s latest device will allow it to bring new revenue generating services to its customers.
“With this in mind it seems clear that the next battleground will be on UHD 4K.
“The upcoming EURO 2016 tournament will represent a key opportunity for Orange to attract new users and upsell existing ones to sign up and more, not only to content but fibre as well.”
Richard then moved on to put some more detail on how Orange’s plans to generate €600 million revenues from the Internet of Things.
As outlined at last year’s five-year strategic plan, the operator wants to be present at every stage of the value chain.
This means connectivity, hardware, services as well as monetising the data all this activity generates.
Orange unveiled a range of new products for its smart home platform Homelive.
The operator has worked with Schneider Electric to develop a service that enables users to manage heating, with energy company EDF on monitoring power usage and with remote surveillance company EPS on a home security service.
However, Richard was keen to shift the focus back onto the consumer by announcing two new solutions aimed at boosting users’ control over the data generated by their connected devices.
First, Data Share is an interface that consolidates a user’s data from the services that Homelive provides.
Crucially, it also enables consumers to decide which data to share with the interface so they feel they have a degree of control.
Second Orange has created Trust Badge, which promises to provide users with “clear information on how their personal data is transmitted and allows them to control its use”.
It is being rolled out across all of Orange’s own apps, with the operator in discussions with over 30 companies about adding it to their own interfaces.
At the same time, however, Orange wants more businesses to come on board and drive more innovation in the connected devices space.
With this in mind, Richard outlined some of those that are using Orange’s Datavenue platform to develop new products and services.
Healthcare insurance company Harmonie Mutuelle, for example, has developed a remote assistance service for the elderly as well as a service that monitors blood pressure and temperature remotely.
AXA, another insurance company, has developed a range of security services that alerts users if a smoke alarm goes off or an intruder breaks in.
Some, however, looked to be rather off the wall.
Groupe SEB, a manufacturer of household goods and inventor of the pressure cooker, has developed an app that suggests recipes based on factors such as user preferences, the weather and prep time.
It remains to be seen whether Richard’s claim that “the home automation dream is coming true” will translate into solid business for Orange.