Discovering the Internet of Things

Interview with Pascal Ancian, who manages the Orange Group’s program focused on the Internet of Things.

What does the Internet of Things involve?

This expression refers to a transformation of the profession of operator: with landline and mobile telephony, communication between people became a reality. With the Internet, we were able to connect people with information and ideas, and now with the IoT, we will connect people to things or things to each other. These are everyday things, but also machines and business applications. They could be bracelets to monitor physical activity, electric meters, scales in bathrooms, cars, thermostats in houses, and so on. The huge number of things with electronic chips and connectivity can now communicate data in real time – for example with users’ apps on their smartphones, or to other “things” to develop new applications through this interactivity with the “physical” world.

What is Orange Group’s position on this issue?

Pascal Ancian, Orange Group IoT Program Director
We have been working on this topic for a long time. Your Livebox and smartphone are already connected things. What is changing today is the number and variety of things that our technologies allow us to connect.
Pascal Ancian, Orange Group IoT Program Director

For Orange, it is more than another line of diversification. All of our business units are geared up to develop offers and services in this field. Throughout the value chain, we are present as a distributor in our online and smart stores, and as a service provider. I am thinking of Homelive for the general public, for example, or Datavenue for companies. Ultimately, we offer connectivity solutions: more than 12 million things around the world already communicate in M2M from machine to machine via our mobile networks. And to round out this offer, we have also chosen to deploy a network using LoRa® technology that is specifically adapted to things. It was launched in France in early 2016. It already covers 4,000 municipalities and industrial sites and will be extended in order to answer our enterprise customers’ needs with the aim of a national coverage by the end of 2017. Right from the start, we will also offer targeted LoRa® coverage in other countries. We are also planning to upgrade our 4G networks to LTE-M technology in Europe, which will enable one to connect to things by means of extended coverage and low power consumption.

Will the IoT change the way we communicate with our customers?

The IoT forces us to be closer to our customers. Through connected things, customers ask us to help them simplify their lives (at home, in the car, on their trips, etc.), to put them at ease (safety, well-being), to save time and money (on an individual level in in terms of managing expenses and energy, and on a corporate level in terms of works methods and processes). This level of customer proximity will require a vertical approach. We have identified six priorities to date: the individual, the home, the connected car, smart areas, health, and industry.

Does the IoT also raise issues regarding security or confidentiality?

The IoT will be an endless source of data regarding our lifestyles and companies. Security and confidentiality are at the heart of commitments made to our customers. Orange is therefore actively working to develop the best security conditions for networks, service platforms and things so that we can provide services that can be trusted. In order to play an active role in the structuring of the IoT, Orange will be able to offer end-to-end customer support, while assuring confidentiality in regard to the security of things, connections and data on the one hand, and managing confidentiality of the collected data on the other.  These conditions should be of benefit to our customers and our partners, but also to the entire industry in general in building their own IoT services.

What makes IoT a revolution?

The IoT is a new revolution because it involves all markets, the general public along with companies, all countries and lastly the various businesses in the value chain. This is clearly the beginning of a new chapter: from 750 million connected things in the world at the end of 2016, we will exceed 21 billion things in 2020. Estimates vary, but all point to an explosion of these services, especially because the size and costs of the sensors have greatly decreased, while the autonomy of the things has increased. Today’s uses will be enriched as new services appear in a wide range of areas: health, transportation, security, agriculture, and logistics. At Orange, we are also convinced that these technologies will help resolve major global issues (such as sustainable development) and sociological issues (such as smart cities) to the benefit of our customers. By enabling us to manage energy consumption, natural resources and access to essential services more intelligently and responsibly, the IoT is a catalyst for progress. It is up to us to ensure that these solutions benefit the greatest number of people possible, as quickly as possible. The Internet of Things is also being built with people as the starting and end points of our actions.