Orange pushes “augmented planet” vision at Hello Show 2017

Features

Orange cited the space age in its annual technology showcase, with CEO Stéphane Richard saying the operator's aim was to help create the "augmented planet".

The French operator went wide in showing off new technology for the years and months ahead during its Hello show in Paris, spanning virtualised and "intelligent" Wi-Fi, a digital assistant and LoRa enabled smart buttons, among others.

Richard said: “The digital planet is emerging before our very eyes. At Orange we are always making choices – we ask ourselves two questions. Is it useful for the person using it, for society, for the planet, and will people be able to accept the technology?”

Among the new products and services, Orange was keen to emphasise Djingo, a voice or text-controlled virtual assistant within a speaker that can also be activated through an associated app, the Orange remote control or the most recent Orange TV box.

Similar in format to Amazon's Echo speaker and associated Alexa personal assistant, it enables interaction with all Orange content and services.

This can include navigation of the Orange TV service, management of the connected home or resolving queries such as searching for transport information or searching social networks.

Richard demonstrated at the event telling Djingo to search for the number of tweets with a certain hashtag.

The CEO said that the technology was intended to be “open”, with third parties potentially able to integrate their services with it.

Key to the Djingo launch was the announcement of a strategic partnership with Deutsche Telekom. The partnership involves collaborating on the assistant's artificial intelligence engine as well jointly developing APIs.

Richard also revealed Orange was moving the functionalities of its Livebox wireless router to remote servers in its network.

This would allow the sharing of data, technical resources and services, allowing them to be accessed remotely in a move that aims to help individuals and independent professionals.

Richard said transferring intelligence to the network would increase agility. One function of this virtualisation, set to be rolled out in 2018, would be Orange being able to remotely diagnose and manage the boxes. 

“The boxes you have today are last generation of boxes as you know them,” the CEO said.

The Livebox received another upgrade with the launch of Intelligent Wi-Fi, supported by Wi-Fi extenders that will allow customers to improve coverage in their homes. Orange's Livebox app will help users to find the optimum locations to place the extenders.

Richard said Intelligent Wi-Fi would automatically provide the best available connectivity to each user, offering the optimum throughput and access point depending on where they are in the home.

Richard said its Wi-Fi app was being reinvented as a “network control tower”. 

These new features would gradually become available from the end of 2017.

Elsewhere, Orange also launched Live Button, a wirelessly connected button that can be programmed to perform any recurring activity, including controlling lights or heating in a household.

Live Button can be programmed to provide notifications to the user through a flashing light, sound or vibration. It is connected through LoRa or GSM and will be available in the fourth quarter of this year.

Elsewhere, the Family Go app was announced for Android and iOS. This allows family members to track each other’s locations, designating geographical zones and notifying a user when a family member goes outside of this zone. The app has been in a commercial pilot with Center Parcs throughout spring 2017.

Finally, Orange launched two cyber security products at the event, Cyberfilter and End User Malware Alerting.

Cyberfilter analyses network activity to detect unusual or suspicious activity and creates a smart filter to protect small enterprises. This can be integrated easily into the enterprise’s Livebox Pro.

End User Malware Alerting provides organisations handling sensitive financial customer with alerts when a customer is infected with malware.

The Cyberfilter will be available in Q1 2018 while End User Malware Alerting is already available.

The event also saw the long-anticipated launch of Orange’s finance arm, Orange Bank, amongst other announcements about its TV offering. The event can be controlled through an application for mobile and tablet. This includes a dedicated virtual assistant which can respond to customer queries and suggest relevant offers.

Richard said: “All this innovation is helping us to unleash our potential.

"[It is] making life simpler, bringing us closer together and allowing us to step beyond time and space constraints.”