With Samsung again accounting for a big piece of the media buzz with their Galaxy S6 and Huawei announcing their entry in the race to be king of the fashionable, but techie smartwatch space, there was no shortage of big and, frankly, surprising news coming out of MWC day 2. Here are some other things that stood out for me on day 2:
Alcatel and Orange team up to launch super-affordable Klif
While media coverage of Orange tends to be geared towards their ongoing battles to maintain share in hyper-competitive developing markets, Orange’s ambitious goals in the developing world, particularly subsaharan Africa get fewer mentions. However, Orange has been working for years expanding their footprint in emerging markets, particularly via their roll-out of 3G in Africa and the Middle East. Orange CEO Stephan Richard tweeted yesterday that he was meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, presumably to discuss their emerging market plans and what synergies there might be with Zuckerberg’s big initiative, internet.org. So the timing fell nicely for Orange to announce a collaboration with Alcatel to bring a $40 smartphone, named Klif, to emerging markets.
Klif is geared specifically for African markets. It runs on Firefox OS and is essentially the same type of phone as Alcatel One Touch Pixi 3. It is essentially a lower tech phone that perhaps what mobile users are used to in places like Europe or the States with 3G connectivity up to 21mbps (where available), a 3.5 inch touch-screen, etc. However, for people there who are either still on feature phones or haven’t had the means up until now to afford a $100+ smartphone, this will likely feel like a big step up. Perhaps, most importantly, Orange is making things really interesting on the access side of things as with $40 price point, consumers will get text, voice, and 500MB of 3G data for six months. Orange and its partners are hoping that Klif will be the catalyst to propel the adoption of smartphone usage across the continent.
GSMA’s Innovation City gets bigger and more connected
One of the GSMA’s most touted sights at this year’s MWC is their Innovation City, essentially a much bigger and more connected version of their highly successful connected city last year. Teaming up with 6 big suppliers as well as each suppliers partners, they delivered a full, interactive, futuristic, innovation experience.
The zone included, as last year, a connected sports display, but instead of connected shirts, this year they included connected tennis rackets and BMX stunt riding experience. For the first time, Oculus Rift also played a prominent role as it was used to provide an immersive demonstration of the possibility of connected devices. There were also more industrial applications demoed as well, including Phillips who via a partnership with Sierra Wireless, are rolling out a IoT solution called City Touch for municipalities to manage street lighting.
But perhaps the most prominent segment of the connected ecosystem in the City was the connected car. AT&T were on hand to demonstrate, again using virtual reality, their solution for the rapidly developing space. Vodafone also showcased their collaboration with Porsche – Porsche Car Connect. This was obviously a big draw because, well, who wouldn’t want a connected Porsche? While most focus on the car itself, other solutions providers, such as Accenture on the systems integration side, were also on hand to explain the critical role they play getting connected cars on the road.
#FrenchTech continues to build its brand
Beyond the La FrenchTech label, tech from France played a prominent role this year. France’s most well-known superstar startups, namely Criteo (now moving past the ‘startup’ label), Teads, and Sigfox had huge presences this year and no shortage of interest from participants in the solutions.
La FrenchTech and Business France (previously Ubifrance) continued their mission, following their big sucess at CES2015, to showcase France’s best and brightest in tech. This year they’d increased their visibility with two French pavilions in two separate halls. Axelle Lemaire was again on hand to promote France’s tech scene and meet with her peers from other nations. Like CES, France was clearly one of the top nations represented at the event, a very positive development versus previous years. The only point of improvement next year would be to ensure that more French startups participate in 4YFN, where France is clearly underrepresented this year. With fully booked investor and startup pitch sessions (on both the startup and investor side) and super visible pitch competitions, this one should be on La FrenchTech’s radar next year.