Orange unchained with Djingo smart home launch

Orange is seemingly making a move towards the smart home arena with the launch of Djingo, its artificial intelligence virtual assistant.

Speaking at Show Hello, Orange’s annual technology showcase, CEO Stephane Ricard introduced Djingo, as well as the hardware kit it will come in. Just by uttering the phrase ‘Okay Djingo’, you can instruct the machine to do a number of different things from selecting a track from your library, through to finding a movie to watch.

It is a fairly limited proposition for the moment, as the skills themselves are limited to services which are offered by Orange, however there are plans for third-parties in the future. Details on partners are light for the moment, though it would not be unfair to assume the likely lads of the eCommerce and content creation world will be brought it.

With Amazon and Google motoring ahead with their own smart home solutions, there is a very real threat the telcos will miss out of a potential gold mine, purely because of their own inability to innovate, sluggishness and the arrogant belief there will always be a place in the world for telcos.

The smart home is an opportunity to create a walled garden, with the gate keeper reaping profits through a service orientated business model to access consumers. If the telcos don’t act quickly, this golden opportunity to transform into a company ready for the digital age will be missed, and the role of utility will be rightly deserved.

The launch of Djingo has taken Orange one step closer towards an influential role in the development of the smart home, but it’s not doing it alone. At the same event, Ricard announced a new partnership with Deutsche Telekom to jointly develop the intelligence engine, as well as the software powering Djingo. Each will commercialize the technology in their own markets, but will develop common APIs.

It a smart move for both parties. If one brings on a partner in their own market, it wouldn’t be a complicated step to bring them on board for the second. For Orange and Deutsche Telekom to be successful in the smart home arena, both organizations have to make the proposition look as attractive and as simple as possible.

To make the offering attractive, they need a huge amount of content and usability to make it an enjoyable experience for the user if there is to be any opportunity to monetize the gateway to the walled living room. Advertisers and partners will only pay if there is a large and engaged audience, and it is unlikely Orange’s own content platform will be enough to create this proposition; partners will be needed and quickly.

What is very interesting about Djingo is the friendly element to the virtual assistant. Richard, quite bravely, gave a live demonstration of the technology and the responses from Djingo were surprisingly pleasant. It was much more conversational than the likes of Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home Device. There was almost a human element to the machine, the beginning of a personality perhaps.

Depending on who you are, this could either be a stroke of brilliance or the killer blow. Some may find the presence of a conversational virtual assistant, one almost pretending to be human, uncomfortable, while others might find it a pleasant means to manage the introduction of artificial intelligence into one’s life. You can’t please everyone, but it will be interesting to see how many people fall into each camp; how many will embrace the idea, and how many will Orange ostracise because of the intrusion?

Ricard and his cronies have done something which most other telcos around the world are in the process of doing currently. The have upset the status quo of the telco business model, and strived to create genuine diversification, as opposed to blindly lumbering towards the role of utility, as many operators in the UK appear resigned to do so.

We’re not necessarily saying Orange is going to be successful with all its new ventures, but with its smart cities business, a new bank, becoming an energy reseller in Eastern Europe and the chatty Djingo in the smart home space, it certainly isn’t leaving much room for unasked questions.

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