Companies in the connected objects space need to focus hard on the service they provide to the customer. In the health sector, the plus-value will come from the various players working together to make available the data collected so as to further medical research.

Interview with Eric Carreel, Vice-President of France Digitale, a non-profit organisation that brings together entrepreneurs and investors to promote the digital economy, and co-founder of Withings, Sculpteo and Invoxia, three startups specialising in digital innovation, during the France Digitale Day 2014, held on 11 June in Paris.

L’Atelier: The growing popularity of connected objects is driving some traditional brands to rush into this market. Will this be a necessary stage for all young brands to go through in the coming years?

Eric Carreel: Most of the objects that we’ll be using tomorrow will be able to provide us with more services when they’re Internet-connected. As soon as we realise that the mere fact of connecting up everyday objects improves our day-to-day lives, yes, without doubt they’ll be connected. I believe that very soon we’ll stop talking about a ‘connected object’ in the same way we’ve stopped talking about a ‘computer with a WiFi or Internet connection’.

So all this implies quite a major transformation for established firms. They shouldn’t just be taking care with the object they’re making but also with the service rendered by that object throughout its life. In terms of company culture, this means getting organised to be able to support the customer, to process the data fed back by connected objects, and in return provide the customer with a necessary service. That will be a fairly big change in culture for all those companies that supply products and services.

Does value creation come from developers who design applications linked to connected objects or from brands which produce their objects?

Value creation basically stems from customer care. It’s a multitude of little details which are linked to the object, linked to the application and linked to the platform which is the vehicle for dialogue between the two. I don’t think there are any hard and fast rules and the division between these three areas depends on the type of object and the type of service. So what is important is to focus on the customer experience and say to yourself: “What can I do, in my field, to ensure that my customer has a better experience?” When an object becomes connected and can interact with an app, this simply increases our ability to provide good customer service.

How do you see the connected objects sector evolving in the health field?

It’s still difficult to see where exactly the sector is going, but what’s important is to work on going deeper into the solution you’re providing. It’s vital to give the client a real ‘plus’. This ‘plus’ for the customer won’t be provided by just one player, but by several – players involved in metrics, people from the medical sector who track the health of a sick patient using the metrics, coaches who help people who are not yet fully well to take better care of themselves, companies that will be more motivated to take care of their staff because of the general motivation, and so on. At the end of the day, this large number of players will have to get organised and learn to work together. All of this still has to be built.

Would the ideal be Open Data for health?

Well, it’s important to take two things into account. On the one hand, there’s the private aspect of personal data, and there everyone agrees that “my data is private, I’ll keep it to myself and only let my doctor see it.” This is a deliberate act. On the other hand, there’s anonymised data, which when aggregated can help to further medical research. And it’s very probable that we’ll go more in that direction, because this will in fact save hundreds of thousands of lives.

By Eliane HONG