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Orange and Microsoft partner to bring LoRa to industry

Steve Rogerson
October 5, 2017
 
Orange Business Services and Microsoft are collaborating to deliver large-scale, end-to-end IoT services that boost the digital processes of companies in the manufacturing sector. Enterprises can use the Orange’s Datavenue IoT modules combined with the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite to transition to Industry 4.0 and optimise the entire manufacturing value chain.
 
Through this collaboration, companies can take advantage of the combined expertise of Orange and Microsoft regarding data protection, as well as device and data management. This includes the opportunity to leverage Orange Business Services’ IoT connectivity options, in particular LoRa. Use cases range from supply chain and smart inventory management to digital operations, such as predictive maintenance, employee safety, and facility and equipment management.
 
For its long-term customer ELM Leblanc, Orange delivered a customised IoT platform on Microsoft Azure, which provides a tailored service for remote monitoring, along with curative and predictive maintenance. A subsidiary of the Bosch Group, ELM Leblanc has manufactured gas boilers and water-heaters since 1932. The company is a major player in the French housing and industrial markets for heating and cooling systems and hot water for sanitary use.
 
“Innovation is part of ELM Leblanc’s DNA, continuously providing our customers with new services and more comfort,” said Philippe Laforge, chief executive of ELM Leblanc. “We have a vision of a connected world where every heating system optimises its energy performance to protect the environment. This ambition is illustrated in the Optibox for our connected boilers. ELM Leblanc has fully relied on Orange Business Services’ expertise to develop this. Using the Azure Cloud allows for high-level scalability and efficient machine learning with reasonable costs.”
 
The remote monitoring system collects the boiler’s data and alerts technicians of any malfunction. This allows for more efficient maintenance intervention, with fine-tuned predictions on the probable causes of failure based on real-time data analytics. Pre-emptive alerts can also be raised by the platform through predictive maintenance algorithms. Benefits include optimisation of intervention processes and increased end-customer satisfaction.
 
Orange demonstrated ELM Leblanc’s predictive maintenance platform at this week’s Microsoft Experience in Paris and at IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona.
 
With Datavenue, Orange Business Services offers a set of services to manage IoT projects and their integration with information systems securely, providing certified connected devices best suited to the project’s use cases, and connectivity through cellular 3G and 4G, LoRa, and LTE M. It also provides a device and data management platform and expertise to manage the project from conception to implementation, including consulting, development, data protection, integration, data analysis and maintenance.
 
Datavenue has more than 700 experts working on data and IoT projects, 14 million connected devices managed by Orange, and the capacity to handle over 160 million items of technical data per minute.
 
“This partnership between Orange and Microsoft is an important step in our growth strategy targeting the IoT and data analytics B2B market,” said Beatrice Felder, executive vice president at Orange Business Services. “By adding Azure IoT to our Datavenue portfolio, we provide our customers with powerful software with the assurance that it will seamlessly integrate with Microsoft’s business applications, an industry standard. This partnership is a remarkable opportunity for us not just to expand our business, but also to contribute more actively to the development of the IoT market around the world.”
 
With its Azure IoT Suite, Microsoft offers a consistent software environment to facilitate setting up and scaling large device and data management projects. To accelerate the roll out of industrial projects, the Azure IoT Suite provides pre-packaged services and allows companies to get familiar with the set-up and explore the most common IoT project scenarios, such as remote monitoring, predictive maintenance and connected factories.
 
The software environment provided by Microsoft will allow for the use of the Cortana Intelligence Suite for analytics and AI, Power BI for data visualisation, and Xamarin mobile apps to ensure a flawless mobile user experience.
 
“Orange Business Services and Microsoft have been partners for several years,” said Maziar Zolghadr, Microsoft EMEA director of strategic partnerships. “We are excited to engage in this new collaboration tackling the growing market of the internet of things. With a partner such as Orange Business Services, we can offer a full end-to-end solution, relying on Orange expertise in IoT connectivity and particularly LoRa, and its proven know-how in integrating IT projects surrounding connected sensors and devices.”

Orange Business Services has accelerated its LTE-M strategy to support the development of the IoT for the enterprise market. This follows the announcement by Orange in February 2017 that the group would be prioritising LTE-M across its footprint in Europe.

Orange has launched several LTE-M field trials:

  • In Spain, Orange has started several tests with customers and device manufacturers in an open ecosystem of participation. The trials cover different sectors and applications, including smart utility, smart cities and facility management.
  • In Belgium, Orange is preparing the opening of an LTE IoT city in Antwerp, open for customer pilots before the end of this year.
  • In France, Orange is planning internal trials on both technical and usage aspects starting this quarter.
All these trials are being carried out ahead of the LTE-M network launch in 2018.
 
The availability of LTE-M is part of the group’s programme to support connected object and module makers. Orange welcomes object makers in its Open IoT Lab – compliant with GSMA – located at Orange Gardens. At this site, the group provides technical resources and expert support.
 
The availability of three LTE-M devices marks a milestone in Orange’s continuous commitment to boost the IoT ecosystem. The first equipment Orange has tested on its LTE-M network include:
  • rugged products from Ercoogencer, including a U-Blox module, designed to be used in asset tracking and Industry 4.0 use cases;
  • a GPS personal tracker, designed by Meitrack based on a Quectel module, with a waterproof casing that is targeted at lone worker applications; and
  • a small GPS tracker developed by Sercomm, with a Sequans module, for tracking valuable items.
The first samples of these products are available for testing in pilots.
 
The LTE-M network will be integrated into the Orange IoT strategy through the Datavenue IoT and data analytics offer.
 
“The development of the LTE-M network is part of our strategy to provide a full range of IoT connectivity options for our customers through Datavenue,” said Olivier Ondet, vice president of IoT and analytics at Orange Business Services. “The availability of the LTE-M devices enables our customers to start developing their LTE-M applications before the full networks are launched in 2018. We believe that LTE-M is a perfect match for a wide range of IoT use cases in Industry 4.0, fleet management and asset tracking.”
 
Demonstrations of the Orange LTE-M network running live on the Orange Spain network, equipment and use cases were on display this week at the IoT Solutions World Congress in Barcelona. An industry first, the live LTE-M demo leveraged the Orange Live Objects data management platform.