Interview of the month: Stéphane Allaire
Stéphane Allaire, chairman of Objenious, tells us about the activities, positioning and the technology from this Bouygues Telecom start-up.
What is the history of Objenious, how was it created and why ?
Objenious was created by Bouygues Telecom in 2016. The IoT (Internet of Things) is a real revolution for the world—this technology will change how humans relate to things. This is an industrial revolution that is starting in the corporate world, and Bouygues Telecom wants to address this market. For this purpose, the decision was made not to create a separate business unit, but rather a start-up, a small independent structure that could offer the agility and creativity required on an ever-changing market. Objenious is called Objenious by Bouygues Telecom, because it was important to keep the connection with the Group, particularly for its renown and its support for deploying the specific network for our connected things, whilst retaining the structure’s independence.
Objenious was therefore created to address the IoT market and provide real world and lasting solutions to customers. Consideration had already been given to the LoRa® network that has become a global standard. Objenious now offers a network, an IoT platform and adapted services that meet different needs, such as predictive maintenance, energy control or even logistics. The network was deployed at the start of 2016 using antenna installed by Bouygues Telecom. This network now covers 95% of the French population. We are a small company with thirty employees that is fully owned by Bouygues Telecom, but still independent.
Can you tell us about the technology you use and how you developed it?
The technology we use is called LPWAN (Low power wide area network); unlike mobile networks such as 3G or 4G that can carry large quantities of data, LPWAN modulation technology can only carry small packets of data. However, it is far more energy efficient. The fact that this technology uses very little power means that we can have things connected to the network without needing to recharge the battery for 10 years. This opens the way to many options. This technology also makes it possible to locate things without using GPS.
Once the network was in place, we needed to find the ‘things’, and more than just things, we needed to find uses that would appeal to our customers. A catalogue of things was created working with our partners and suppliers. These things include a “sensor” (for temperature, hygrometry, vibrations, etc.) and a radio part. The data collected, either by the sensor or by geolocation for example, are then sent via the network.
Then, naturally, comes the final brick in the wall: managing the things and the data they emit. For this, we developed the SPOT platform, which simultaneously manages geolocation and the data collected.
Once the data has been collected, a range of uses and applications are open to us: energy management, logistics, smart city (e.g. water meters or self-service bikes), etc.
Once the network and the management platform were deployed, we convinced our customers.
Objenious has a very specific positioning: we assume the role of a facilitator of innovations by giving a voice to things that could not previously communicate—it’s a real revolution that will change our lives. We provide the technology to innovate with our customers and design their solutions. We have a totally open strategy and an independent structure that allows us to adapt to our customers’ needs.
In two years, we have won over one hundred customers: Carrefour, SNCF, Sanef, Somfy, Colas, Bouygues Construction, Bouygues Telecom, Storengy—a subsidiary of Engie, Arteria—a subsidiary of RTE, Renault and Airbus.
Can you give us some examples of applications implemented by your customers?
For each example, we use the same procedure: the customer tells us about their issues and we then find solutions using our technology and connected things. For Carrefour, their issue was losing “rolls” in shops.
“Rolls” are the trolleys that are used when deliveries are made to different shops. We transformed them into connected things and developed a map to geolocate which shop they are in. For the Carrefour project, Objenious offered the following assistance:
• Designing and choosing the sensor
• Connectivity using the LoRa network
• Collecting, hosting and giving access to a platform for processing and visualising the data
With Sanef, we worked on eight different uses. For example, sensors on motorway barriers can detect when a car leaves the road because of the impacts. Another application was created for rest areas with sensors detecting how full water tanks are, or even sensors on the road to detect ice. We are working with SNCF to detect escalators that have broken down and to carry out predictive maintenance.
We have two significant examples for Bouygues Construction:
• Connected cabinets on construction sites to prevent cut-outs
• Tracing waste from the Grand Paris project, see the UBYSOL video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YX3sI9xnZG8
What is the outlook for the future?
After deploying the LoRa® network, we are working on making it even more robust and smart, whilst preparing for multi-connectivity (managing data from things using different connection technology). Currently, the cost of our solution varies between €1/month and €1/year per thing, we make profit on volume.
On the other hand, we need to show our customers how agile we are and demonstrate our capacity to innovate. We need to be able to quickly adapt our offers to meet their needs with for example “on demand coverage” that allows our customers to install antenna where they like, even abroad. Or even with TDOA that can be used for geolocation without using GPS. All of these solutions will make our customers loyal and increase the value of the services.
For the moment, we do not want to change the size of our structure, to remain agile, particularly as our network is sold indirectly by our partners. As innovation facilitators, we want to go out and win new markets, with the particularity of concentrating on our customers’ uses and business lines. ‘Open innovation’ and ‘customer satisfaction’ are our watchwords. For example, ever since the company was created, we have indexed 10% of our employees’ pay on our NPS (Net Promoter Score) that measures our customers’ satisfaction level. Our main priority is to keep them happy!