France's Orange aims to be the leading service provider in the fast-developing Internet of Things (IoT) industry as part of its Essentials2020 transformation strategy.
Last November, the telco announced details of 17 French cities in which it is rolling out a low-power, wide-area (LPWA) network based on LoRa technology. It has also revamped Datavenue, its data management platform, to include new IoT and big data features branded Live Objects and Flexible Data. The broad aim is to generate €600 million ($655 million) in revenues from all IoT services by 2018.
Telco Transformation spoke with Olivier Ondet, marketing and customer experience director for Orange Business Services , Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s enterprise division, about the French incumbent's evolving role in the IoT business.
Telco Transformation: You've announced an ambition of being the number one IoT operator. How will you go about achieving that and what makes you think you are better placed than other service providers targeting this market?
Olivier Ondet: There are several reasons. One is that as an operator we have a significant presence in 28 countries, we have roaming agreements, we formed an alliance called the GMA [Global M2M Alliance] with Deutsche Telekom to address big deals on cellular. We have also announced the deployment of LPWA in France with LoRa technology. But we also have other skills and assets, like IT and skills for integrating with the ERP [enterprise resource planning] and CRM [customer relationship management] systems within companies. We also have a data management platform called Datavenue and the ability to source and find the devices that are important for any IoT project. As an operator we are forming the alliances we believe are important, but we are also investing throughout the value chain in terms of skills.
We are focusing commercial resources on eight verticals. In automotive, for example, we are selling connectivity, data management platforms and integration services to OEMs [original equipment makers], car manufacturers, fleet management actors and insurance companies. We also have a fleet management activity in France following the integration of Ocean [a fleet management service provider] last year. We are selling to several thousands of companies actually performing a fleet management business. By having a presence throughout the value chain we are facing different situations, but they all have common points.
TT: What is the main focus of your IoT strategy?
OO: Our point is to be able to be present throughout the value chain. When we are providing connectivity, that's an area where as an operator we can obviously sell our own resources, except in countries where we using roaming agreements. With integration, there are countries where we can do it with Orange Applications for Business [the systems integration part of Orange Business Services] but elsewhere we need to partner with local integrators to do the job. And we have the data management platform that supports many verticals. But if a customer has the full Microsoft environment, we are going to be selling connectivity and professional services and integration in an Azure environment. Our strategy is to be present throughout the value chain and mobilize the proper components depending on the deal. If we are not using our components but our partners', we are still building the relationship between these components so we are as relevant as possible as they market is getting formed.
TT: Is the strategy to form partnerships only when you have to?
OO: It's more pragmatic than that. If I take our offer, which is called Live Objects, it has four components. So one is devices and while there are a few devices we would design as Orange most of the time we are sourcing devices. When we are providing security we do it by ourselves -- it's a job we know, we have licenses and so on. With the data management platform we have our own platform but it's not the only one. There are new data management platforms popping up every week. It's a question of having our own but being able to integrate others. And when it comes to integration, we do that in some areas and otherwise rely on partners. It's a question of assessing the assets.
TT: Where is most of the growth going to come from in terms of revenues, with regard to particular verticals as well as specific parts of the value chain?
OO: From a traditional connectivity standpoint, automotive is definitely the number one because it works with cellular. With transportation it's about providing WiFi inside buses, trains and planes, and we are working with Air France here. You have to make sure people can easily connect but also easily be identified by police in case of security concerns. We need to help the transportation company be a good WiFi operator. So we are providing a solution that is not just about connectivity but experience. Another example is smart cities: We have developed a solution to analyze the flows of population within a given territory and we are using that in France and Belgium and looking at other territories. It means you can see how many people are attending a particular event, for instance. We are doing similar things for the retail industry and analyzing profiles in terms of age, male/female segmentation and so on. We need to mobilize big data skills in that case. In a smart city scenario we can use LoRa technology to get data from parking lots to manage city needs.
The Nuts & Bolts of LoRa
A kit for connected object designers to prototype LoRa technology-based services.
TT: What investments are you making to support these big data services?
OO: The first area is in extracting value out of the data that we manage as an operator using anonymization algorithms. The raw data is inside our mobile networks and then we anonymize so that it's not personal anymore. We've built up the solution and we're currently managing more than 4 million data points every minute and it's increasing. The big challenge with data is to protect it and share it. We have a solution called Flexible Data that helps customers to protect and secure data but also to share it.
TT: Is that an area where you need partnerships with some of the IT players that are developing big data solutions or are you going it alone?
OO: It's a mixture. When we talk about Flexible Data, it's our own technology. When we do a big data project using the Microsoft or SAP environments, we will be using the framework from them and doing integration on the project. The challenge is not just processing data but having relevant data from which you can extract value. We are carefully working on getting more value from the data and being cautious in following privacy regulations because that is a matter of trust with customers. When it's about sharing customer data, it's about making sure customers know what is happening.
TT: What progress are you making on monetizing big data?
OO: I prefer to say creating value. But we have been able to develop offers for the tourist industry just by replicating something developed for the first customer. We are creating something new that didn't exist before. We also have a geofencing offer in France where the consumer is using Orange to say that I accept my data is being sent to a retail company and that I will receive an SMS when I am close to a shop. We are helping retail actors to deliver a better service -- it's not spam and it's coming at the right time.
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