One of the key drivers of growth outlined in Orange’s Conquest 2015 plan is leveraging digital technology to help support the transformation of cities. With all the modern challenges faced by today’s urban areas, including optimizing power supplies and transport, improving quality of life for inhabitants and attracting business and tourists alike, Orange believes their experience as an operator and integrator makes them well-positioned to help cities tackle these challenges. All the ‘big data’ they gather on their mobile network alone puts them in a ripe position to give local governments access to the information and analysis needed to address these issues. As a result, Orange has launched their 5-point development plan called SmartCities to assist authorities and stakeholders as they look to transform their cities. As Nathalie Leboucher, Head of Orange Smart Cities puts it:
“We believe that networks, the ability to exploit data and to propose dematerialized and mobile services are key to the transformation of cities. That is why we wish to place our expertise as an operator and integrator at the service of local authorities and all cities’ stakeholders. The smart city is a rich, but very fragmented ecosystem and that is why cities need to be able to rely on a single player capable of developing partnerships to provide them with a global solution. It is what we are mindful of with our Smart Cities program.”
Orange plans to draw on its close relationships with authorities and its global presence to achieve the program’s 5 following key objectives, namely:
1) Improving mobility within cities and making traffic more fluid with connected cars
There are two main components of this part of the program. The first is development of connected devices (in this case cars). In order to achieve this, they are working alongside partners in the automobile sector, to develop onboard entertainment, security services, and other services aimed at improving the driving experience. The second is providing the information/data to power the connected devices, so this includes utilizing data on their mobile network to empower commuters with information on real-time traffic data and analysis, carpooling services, and real-time parking availability in collaboration with Streetline.
2) Encouraging the use of public transport
Their goal here is to make public transport more user-friendly via increased real-time information, e-ticketing, and connectivity. This effort will roll-out on September 1st when for the first time in France, users of a new fleet of coaches in the Loire Atlantique region will have access to high-performing wifi via Orange’s new 4G network. In addition, Orange’s e-ticketing solution will be deployed in Strasbourg where residents can subscribe, purchase and validate tickets using their smartphone. Hopefully this will be something that takes off rapidly and is extended to metro and tram services throughout France. Other markets, such as Japan and some urban centers in the US, have been rolling this type of service out for some time, so it would be nice to see Orange help France be one of the early adopters of this innovation.
3) Smart Grids: Helping distributors manage energy more efficiently
Orange has teamed up with Véolia to create ‘m2o’ joint venture which helps optimize distribution networks via smart meters, allowing for quick identification and remote resolution of malfunctions. They currently have 700k meters operating across France.
4) Developing services to improve daily life for citizens and tourists
With the launch of their ‘Ma ville dans ma poche’ (my city in my pocket) initiative, Orange is launching a range of applications offering citizens all kinds of information about their cities. Bordeaux will be the first city to roll this out in early 2014. Orange is also leveraging the data collected (anonymously) on its mobile network to provide the information required to generate tourism indicators on visitor behaviors, travel patterns, variations in tourist numbers, etc. The Bouche du Rhone region will be the first working with Orange on this. Finally, they’ve also teamed up with Thales Alenia Space to develop a natural disaster risk management portal called CEMER, with the ultimate objective of helping local governments improve their disaster preparedness and response.
5) Smart Building: Supporting the development of smart buildings at the service of the city of tomorrow
Orange’s aspiration is to encourage the transition towards digitalized business/office spaces. Mobile, and specifically NFC, is at their heart of how they envision this transition. So, for example, Orange offers personalized and simplified visitor reception, real-time, multisite management of energy consumption, displays of enriched communication data for employees, and geolocation data for routing and flow of management applications. They also are supporting real-estate developers to build more ‘smart buildings’. The geographic focus at the moment for this part of the initiative is the Middle East and Gulf States
As an increasingly global company who is taking a fairly aggressive approach towards expanding around the globe, one can only assume that, with the exception of the one piece of the program in the Middle East, they’ll look to quickly expand these ideas beyond France. They’re attempting to do some pretty innovative and transformative things here in France that would likely be well received elsewhere. It’s also interesting that Orange has taken a France wide approach to rolling out these services, focusing first in the regions rather than Paris/Ile-de-France. Although many of these ideas are badly needed in heavily populated Ile-de-France, small to medium-sized urban centers do perhaps offer an easier deployment environment offering a more contained, straightforward testing ground as well as local governments and citizens that welcome these new innovations with open arms.