Digital for all now

French Startups at #MWC2015: “There was a tiny Google booth behind a big Sigfox one“

Econocom 13 Mar 2015

The Mobile Word Congress in Barcelona (MWC), which took place on 2-5 March, is more than just an opportunity for manufacturers to unveil their latest innovations. MWC2015 attracted a number of CIOs and Marketing Directors, for mobility today is no longer just an issue for operators and manufacturers; it’s a key digital transformation driver that can boost organisations’ performances.


IoT, indoor location and contactless payment: a number of French digital makers went to Barcelona earlier this month to showcase their innovations in all industries, from retail to manufacturing. 




A total of 184 French companies attended this year’s Mobile World Congress, ranging from giants like Orange, Altos and Criteo to startups. The strong presence of the “French Tech” contingent led French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Axelle Lemaire, who attended the event, to quip in an article in Les Echos:

“There was a tiny Google booth behind a big Sigfox one.”

The Toulouse-headquartered company, which specialises in slow networks for the Internet of Things (#IoT) has been generating quite a buzz of late: of the billions of objects that could be connected (water meters, fire alarms, environmental sensors, etc.), the vast majority require very little in terms of bandwidth, and Sigfox was one of the first to get in on the market.


As CEO Ludovic Le Moan explained in an interview during the MCW:

“When everyone else was offering broadband for multimedia, we did the opposite: we send just a few bytes of data but in a way that wouldn’t be possible with other technologies.”

Le Moan went on:

“Sigfox is kind of the Twitter of the telecom world.”

As Anne Lauvergeon, former boss of Areva and chair of the Board of Sigfox, explained to La Tribune:

“With our network you can send short messages at low speed – short, but full of meaning! The followers might be the devices themselves: we’re entering an age when humans can connect to objects and objects can connect to each other. We have come up with a low-cost solution that will help the market take off much more quickly. It’s quite a revolutionary approach.”



Sigfox wasn’t the only notable French startup in Barcelona: Madeeli, a new agency for economic development, exports and innovation in the Midi-Pyrénées region, sent its ambassadors to the exhibition. Chairman Martin Malvy, a former minister and president of the Midi-Pyrénées regional council, said:

“If we want to develop our businesses, we need to innovate and break into new markets.”

To that end, Madeeli runs Rezopep, a network of business incubators which supports start-ups. One of these, Gaiddon Software, was in Barcelona to present an application that brings digital technology into the real estate sector through an interactive, 3D digital model that can be viewed on tablets. CEO and founder Fabien Gaiddon explains:

“Our solution is four to five times cheaper than what the competition is offering. The whole process was industrialised internally, which allowed us to offer an affordable, turnkey application. The property developers don’t have to configure anything, it’s all ready to use, so their sales people can have a modern tool for their customer meetings.

With this solution, Gaiddon, already well-established in image analysis and processing, has taken BIM (Building Information Modeling) innovation even further.

Another startup from Toulouse, Pole Star, was omnipresent at MWC: the event organisers asked this indoor location specialist to install sensors to help visitors find their way around the 94,000m² exhibition space. Back in 2013 Pole Star’s CEO Christian Carle talked about the potential of indoor location solutions in the retail sector in an interview with Forbes:

“Indoor location services bring real convenience for shoppers, helping them navigate inside buildings, while giving retailers the opportunity to increase sales and improve customer loyalty.”

With Pole Star, retailers can target customers when they’re approaching their store, for example by sending them special offers to their smartphone. Thus #Digitalforallnow is coming into shopping centres but also railways stations and airports (interactive maps, route planning, multilingual signs, etc.) or even museums and amusement parks (multimedia guides, access control, etc.):

“Unlike all the other indoor location startups that are still at the piloting phase, Pole Star has real paying customers with more than 53 million square feet covered by our technology, in 16 countries and with a 3D accuracy of 2 meters!”

CopSonic AND contactLESS PAYMENT

Another startup from South-West France that made quite a splash in Barcelona is Secom-Pixeliris and its innovative contactless payment technology, CopSonic. The only French startup to attend last year’s G20 summit in Perth, Australia, CopSonic provides secure data exchanges between mobile devices using sound waves. The solution is revolutionising mobile payment: as information is transferred through microphones and speakers on smartphones or tablets, there is no need to install a specific application, and thus avoids any compatibility issues.


According to Emmanuel Ruiz, Managing Director of CopSonic, the potential uses are endless as it turns a smartphone into a digital wallet for the user or a payment terminal for the retailer:

“The person sending payment just calls a service, keys in the amount on their phone and then enters the recipient’s number. The recipient then receives a call, and they just need to bring the two devices together to complete the transaction. A unique sound is generated at each transaction and guarantees that the payer and payee are together.”

Whilst contactless payment is still struggling to take off in France, it’s booming in emerging countries, particularly in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the majority of the population don’t have bank accounts. Ruiz explains:

“At the moment we’re focusing on two areas: mobile payment in emerging countries and cyber-security, to resolve everyday issues such as doing away with logins and passwords.”

Thanks to CopSonic’s ultrasonic authentication system, online banks and services requiring secure access can simplify their authentication process and avoid hacking or phishing attempts – a major innovation in sectors where data security is paramount.



At MWC2015, it wasn’t just telecoms operators but players from all industry sectors who got together to find out about the latest trends, look for new partners or present their solutions. This is further proof that companies are beginning to adopt #Digitalforallnow and seeing mobile technology as not just a  communication channel but an essential driver for digital transformation that is revolutionising  customer relationships and organisation structures.


Photo credit: BTV Barcelona Televisió – Mobile World Capital Barcelona stand (, licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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