Why France may lead in the Internet of Things

France has become a force to be reckoned with in the Internet of Things sector. What's driving this rapid growth?

“Every asset should be connected: doors, shoes, chairs, everything!” Ludovic Le Moan, CEO of Sigfox, is an ambitious man. His previous company, Anywhere Technology, used GPRS to connect early IoT sensors in networks. Sigfox takes that further, using low-power radio devices to add sensors to everything from burglar alarms to shipping containers.

With intelligently-networked sensor modules costing as little as 20c and consuming very little energy, it's easy to understand Le Moan's goal of connecting everything – literally everything. The company already has a presence in 39 countries, with full nationwide coverage in 17 of them.

Le Moan is not alone. Something has stirred in France. A blend of ambition and technological know-how has driven French IoT startups from humble beginnings to international success. Sigfox is perhaps the most well-known, along with drone company Parrot, but there are many more. La French Tech distributed as a PDF [pp6-17] describes 130 tech startups at Web Summit 2017 in November. Not all were pure IoT companies but the majority were IoT-related, ranging from FinTech to healthcare, big data to automation.

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Olivier Ezratty, a digital consultant, innovation expert and adviser to French tech firms, says: “Every year we see growth of 40 to 50%. This year we have more than 300 and most of these are in the IoT space.”

Why France and why now? Benjamin Carlu, head of Usine IO, an accelerator that has helped more than 450 startups in industry, attributes it to several factors. First, there's the realisation that startups in general are here to stay. “The corporate world was quite arrogant in the beginning, looking at startups in terms of acquisition or tech to smash down. But now more and more, with hardware especially, we're seeing more collaboration between large companies and our startups.”

Then there's the move away from pure B2C solutions to a B2B focus. “That's one of the major shifts,” says Carlu. “We see more people developing industrial appliances or products dedicated to more simple use, not only consumer use but more industrial use. It's changed a lot.”

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