In 2014, Orange budgeted €732 million for Research and Innovation, with its 5,000 researchers, engineers, technicians, designers, sociologists, developers and marketers who dedicate their time and energy, and share their expertise, to assist customers.
Almost 700 of them are researching and working hard to invent a future where people are the focus of the digital revolution, in an effort to find technological breakthroughs and keep Orange at the ready.
Lastly, in partnership with university laboratories, Orange has brought in 150 PhD and post-doctorate students who are furthering their training through research with Orange teams.
Orange intends to use this research to improve the daily lives of all users by creating innovative and responsible uses for new digital technologies and providing easy and seamless access to services. Other crucial interests include controlling network performance, increasing their speed and their energy efficiency. In addition, the researchers at Orange invent, develop and standardise the technologies required to deploy the networks and services of the future.
In the wide-ranging field of digital technology that is now global, increasingly open and where cooperation has become key, the Group's Research Division is working in a state of permanent interaction with all the innovative, academic, institutional and industrial ecosystems.
They are positioned at the centre of innovation. 50% of the products introduced at Orange's “Hello Shows” originated from research initiatives. Almost all of the 250 patents filed every year and the technical contributions to standardisation (4G/5G, HEVC, etc.) are the result of research.
The Orange Scientific Board is a consulting body composed of world-renowned high-level scientists whose mission is to give the Group recommendations on its research policy. Since July 2015, Cédric Villani, Director of the Henri Poincaré Institute, has been the Chairman of the Orange Scientific Board.
In an effort to tackle these new technological trends and actively help invent the uses of the future, Orange Research is divided into nine research fields:
Digital personal life
The movement to digitise human activity is prompting people to generate and use a growing amount of online content. This content can be managed and marketable (i.e. digital books), emotion-driven (i.e. photo memories) or practical (i.e. connected object data), but it can also be considered as traces or snippets of information (i.e. conversations and browsing information). All of this amounts to personal digital goods intended as a sort of history or memory that constitute an individual's private digital footprint.
By using the digital assets that users provide operators (voice and email, personal cloud, multimedia content management, etc.), this field of research is developing new personal and interpersonal services for communicating, generating, managing and sharing enhanced digital content. By providing highly effective solutions to uniformly, securely, responsibly and efficiently manage these personal digital assets, it is laying the groundwork for future personal assistants that can help, protect and eventually represent users in their digital lives. Finally, this research field is inventing and testing innovative approaches to analyse the quality of experience that links together services, interfaces, devices and customer patterns.
Technology is endlessly evolving (Internet of Things, Big Data and artificial intelligence, etc.) and is now part of every facet of society, even in our homes. While digital technology is still a key interest for the scientific and new information technology communities, it has become a fully-fledged social issue that is shaping a brand-new society.
It touches every element that makes up our digital society, from education to healthcare, roaming activities to connected transport, our daily lives as individuals to the industry and agriculture of the future – everything is undergoing gradual and deep-rooted changes.
Orange is one of the developers and logical partners in geographical areas like cities, towns and rural areas as well as a recognised and trusted third party for implementing and operating a wide range of services for consumers.
This field of research is working to bring this bundle of technologies to multidisciplinary experimental platforms such as network engineering, services design, navigation, sociology, customer experience, business models, value and the law.
Performing real-life large-scale simulations in places from the city to the home will result in the most accurate determination of which services to industrialise by measuring the learning curves, advantages and signs of resistance from all actors involved in the digital society. As such, one of the key components of research is social observation and lessons learned from the social sciences about these complex mechanisms.
Digital emerging countries
Developing countries are at the forefront of the expansion of mobile technology. Since 2010, 94% of new mobile subscriptions have come from emerging countries (source: ITU). Alongside this, the spread of the mobile Internet in terms of coverage, network accessibility and smartphone devices is helping design a future where digital technology plays a key role in guiding the economic and social growth of these countries.
This field of research aims to set up digital ecosystems tailored to the issues and constraints in developing countries.
To expand this vision, our research targets geographically and economically accessible connectivity for the widest audience possible, the development of innovative services for an open platform to foster local innovation as well as to design digital interfaces that account for the cultural differences and capacities of users to in turn offer services that provide the maximum quality of experience.
Digital technologies are transforming the business world.
But both technological and organisational changes still need to be made so companies can take full advantage of digital tools and in order for collaborative methodologies and start-ups to act as guides.
This field of research is intended to lay the groundwork for the digital business of tomorrow so it can be people-driven, responsible and effective. This entails creating the basic components of a digital and people-driven employer model as well as transforming the tools and processes that specifically enable agility and new approaches in the customer relation.
To this end, our research is focused on studying organisational formats and operational procedures so they can be agile, collaborative and empowering. This research also focuses on designing an adaptive and effective work environment as well as proactive digital open processes that make it possible to include customers and partners.
This field of research focuses on designing alongside our ecosystems the flexible effective networks of the future that resolve issues with quality of service, cost control, energy consumption, capacity, speed and coverage and new connectivity challenges.
Researchers in this area are developing new connectivity technologies for people and devices. They do this by studying new access and transport solutions in radio and optics alike (networked grids, new frequency bands and types of aerials, microsatellite constellations, etc.). They are helping design 5G while focusing on its potential to become a global standard for connectivity on the Internet of Things, providing consistent quality of service regionally and its energy efficiency. They are also looking into the most advantageous ways to use the increasing intelligence of smartphones, connected objects, networks and services to provide agile selection of the best available connectivity. They research alternatives to networks as we know them to provide our customers enhanced connectivity while addressing both the technological and economic factors.
Virtualisation will be one of the prevailing trends in the coming years for the telecom sector, and more specifically for networks. Access to the core network, from public and private networks to fixed and mobile networks, service platforms and devices to data servers – this transition will cause deep-rooted changes to the entire infrastructure. Currently, storage and computing resources are mainly located in large data centres and centralised service platforms, but they will be migrating toward more distributed points of presence, including inside networks and eventually to connected objects themselves.
This research field is working to define a uniform operating environment between clouds and networks supported by next-generation network points of presence that are specially designed to meet requirements on costs and quality (performance, reliability and security). It is creating new technical bricks, platforms and information systems that are virtualised and automated for communications, computing and storage distributed across networks, data centres, boxes and devices. It aims to establish a trusted software environment embedded in the equipment itself. It is developing intrinsic value for networks like distributed storage and execution infrastructures to meet the requirements of future uses.
Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is usually seen as the current Internet revolution with its billions of connected objects for which new applications will be developed by analysing and cross-referencing the data generated by different types of devices. But for the time being, it is very fragmented and contains several sector-based ecosystems of objects and applications that each form their own cluster. In order to realise the vision and full potential of the Internet of Things – the same way HTML/HTTP language layered on the IP protocol brought about the Web services boom – the "IoT language" has yet to be structured in a way that enables interaction between personal objects, home devices or smart cities, industrial objects and agriculture 4.0.
This area of research is looking into very large-scale management for objects and semantic enhancement for them so the objects (sensors, actuators) can expose their functions to service developers and those functions in turn can be used and arranged to build safe interoperable IoT services on a large scale. This research also studies the shift from cloud computing to Fog Computing to offer IoT software developers a way to deploy storage and processing on the edges of networks as close as possible, if not inside, the objects themselves. Lastly, it is studying how users surrounded by these connected objects within cyber-physical systems are going to change the ways they interact with services through objects or their "digital avatars".
Data and knowledge
The digital technology sector is increasingly using connected systems to collect vast amounts of data on a large scale. Information is retrieved from Big Data using new specially designed data transmission, management and analysis methods. In addition to these Big Data approaches, so-called "deep learning" technologies have significantly advanced artificial intelligence technologies over the last few years. The knowledge drawn from the data (not the input itself) will be the strategic factor across all sectors whereby companies will differentiate themselves to improve customer experience, optimize their business model and develop innovative services.
This field of research is focused on developing privacy protection algorithms, technical bricks and platforms for Big Data (operational research, statistical analysis, data lifecycle management, smart processing placement, modular API-based data exposure, data integrity and semantics, etc.) and for artificial intelligence (deep learning, visual recognition, natural written and verbal language processing, reasoning, etc.).
Trust and security
Orange aims to gain recognition from its customers, users and partners as a "trusted operator". This concept of trust is rooted in both the rational and the emotional, involves both practical usage and general belief, and is built up gradually in a relationship. Taking this course of action requires being fully committed to the relationship being transparent, reciprocal and reliable.
This field of research is helping to achieve this objective for both consumer and industrial uses by exploring new architectures that are being referred to as high-trust, fact-based, safe, personal data protective and usage-enhanced. It is addressing major interdependent security issues: the trust experience (building trust through the service experience, intelligible and emotional Big Data), data trust (anonymisation, cryptography, proof of origin, etc.), network security and virtualised services (contextualisation and local security proof, remote proof, computerised services, etc.), secure architectures (general security models, complex systems and multiparty dynamic topologies, infrastructure and service reliability, end-to-end isolation and security, etc.), security supervision (cyber security: new IT threats, big analysis for security events, security policy deployment, operational maintainability of complex systems, etc.).
Each of the Group's research and innovation centres is integrated into a geographic ecosystem of its own, and works as part of a network with all local actors (start-ups, businesses, universities, research laboratories, etc.) as well as within international bodies and collaborative projects.
Orange is strongly involved in ecosystems
Orange est un acteur majeur des research programmes and contributes to more than 80 collaborative projects, tboth in France (Single Interministerial Fund, the National Research Agency, Investing for the Future Programme) and at the European level (European Commission Seventh Framework Programme, EUREKA-CELTIC, Horizon 2020). In particular, the Group is part of public-private partnerships such as:
- The "Advanced 5G Network Infrastructure for the Future Internet" public-private partnership In December 2013, Ericsson, Orange, Alcatel-Lucent, Nokia Solutions and Networks et SES, the founding members of the 5G Infrastructure Partnership Association, signed the "Advanced 5G Network Infrastructure for the Future Internet" public-private partnership agreement with the European Commission. This European research project, which is part of the Horizon 2020 programme, is intended to define the infrastructure of the fixed and mobile communications networks for the next generation - 5G networks.
- The Big Data public-private partnership. A memorandum of understanding was signed in October 2014 between the European Commission and Big Data Value, an association acting on behalf of digital companies including ATOS, Siemens and Orange, to push forward research on controlling the proliferation of data.
As part of the French government's Investing for the Future Programme, the Group is working with two Technological Research Institutes (IRTs). It chairs the b<>com IRT that is working on ultra-high-speed fixed and mobile networks and future content, plus participates at the SystemX Institute, which is conducting research on digital systems engineering.
Orange is involved in over 150 research partnerships with universities and public laboratories in France and all over the world. The Group is a founding member of the Institut Mines-Télécom, the Supelec Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Cergy-Pontoise, the University of Rennes 1 and Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble. Outside of France, Orange has research partnerships with MIT, the University of Technology, Mauritius, ETH Zurich (Federal Polytechnic School), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, RMIT University Melbourne (Royal Institute of Technology), and many more. Orange also funds six university Chairs, one with the Polytechnique and Télécom Paris Tech for economics and regulation and another with the Institut Mines-Télécom and the Telecom Foundation for values and policies on personal information.
Orange has also formed 60 research partnerships in the industrial sector to work with the most highly specialised actors to anticipate and measure the attractiveness of new products or services and accelerate time-to-market.
Orange is involved in 10 competitiveness centres in France established to promote local synergies on the basis of innovative projects and, most notably, chairs the "Images et Réseaux" ("Images and Networks") centre. These centres enable Orange to be an agent for the development of more than 3,000 digital start-ups and SMEs.
Orange is a stakeholder in many solutions for the New Industrial France and, along with the Images & Réseaux centre, is spearheading the augmented reality plan for the smart object solution aimed at partnering with all digital actors and studying new augmented reality services.
Orange also runs several Fab Labs, which are platforms for the rapid prototyping of physical objects, allowing large numbers of people from a variety of backgrounds to make their ideas the reality by "doing it" themselves. In particular, Orange started FabLab Thinging! in Grenoble and is a backer of the FacLab in Cergy-Pontoise.
Orange Labs and Orange Silicon Valley also actively watch, or scout, to catch the latest trends and best initiatives coming out of Asia and the United States or Israel by being immersed in local ecosystems and constantly interacting with local digital players like start-ups, companies, manufacturers and academics.
Orange has always been very proactively involved in standardisation agencies helping all actors within the ecosystem accelerate the adoption of new disruptive technologies.
As of the end of June 2015, Orange is the leading European operator with a portfolio of 6,950 patents and patent applications and over 2,200 types of software, part of which originated from research activities with its partners (start-ups, manufacturers, public and academic partners).
Each invention described in Orange's patents is in itself an opportunity for joint innovation with its partners to create new inventions, for example in the fields of communications services, multi-screen televisions, terminals or network intelligence.
Orange shares and develops its intellectual property in various ways: licensing agreements, participation in "patent pools" (groups of patent holders by technology), the transfer of ownership of innovative technologies or spin-offs.
Orange is the holder of vital patents on standardised technology and licenses these patents via patent pools.
For example, Orange Labs was directly involved in introducing many technologies that have become industry standards, such as: audio compression (MP3, MPEG 2 Audio AAC, MPEG 4 Audio AAC, MPEG Surround), speech coders (G723.1, G729, G729.1, G711.1), audio coder optimization for digital radio (DRM Audio), Wi-Fi networks (802.11), mobile networks (CDMA2000, W-CDMA, 4G/LTE) and contactless technologies (RFID, NFC).