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A look inside Orange's Paris labs

A behind-the-scenes tour of the robotics and machine-to-machine technology Orange is working on at its Paris-based Innovation Gardens
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1 of 5 David Meyer/ZDNet

On Thursday, Orange invited ZDNet UK into its Paris laboratories.

Orange Innovation Gardens, as the company calls its labs, houses work being carried out on machinery and applications in the fields of robotics, machine-to-machine technology and cloud computing.

In a demonstration, this robot, named iRobi, was verbally instructed by an Orange representative acting as a nursery worker to keep an eye on a man who was representing a child.

It took several attempts to get the instruction recognised, but then iRobi went to the 'child' and asked if it could read him a story. The 'child' held up the cover of Alice In Wonderland, iRobi recognised the book and began to read it.

The 'nursery worker' then returned and took over from iRobi, which subsequently navigated itself back into its mains-connected charger and went to sleep.

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2 of 5 David Meyer/ZDNet

A lot of Orange's work addresses the needs of multinational companies and the management of supply chains.

This picture shows a sticker that combines an embedded RFID tag — for tracking the passage of an item through the warehouse and retail outlet — with a data matrix code that can be read by a customer with a cameraphone.

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3 of 5 David Meyer/ZDNet

In this picture, an Orange executive demonstrates how a package labelled with an RFID-enabled sticker, shown in the previous shot, can be tracked through the intercontinental supply chain.

Another demonstrator noted that the issue of RFID tracking is very much on the European Commission's agenda, with privacy advocates arguing that tags should be deactivated at the point of sale, to avoid products being tracked once they are personal property.

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4 of 5 David Meyer/ZDNet

Orange is also making a big push into the machine-to-machine communications market.

This picture shows the various components of a SIM card and slot. While most people are familiar with the standard SIM card, the version that gets embedded in a machine does not necessarily have to include the plastic parts that make it manoeuvrable by hand. In many applications, the basic components are preferable for their small size.

One application detailed by the demonstrator was a vending machine that sends text messages to the operator when stocks are low, and that can receive text messages from the operator telling it to display discounted prices for stock close to its expiry date.

Unfortunately for the purposes of the demonstration, the actual vending machine was stuck in transit due to a French rail strike.

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5 of 5 David Meyer/ZDNet

Embedded SIMs can also be used by devices such as this security robot.

The robot, which automatically patrols premises, identifies unexpected intruders, photographs them and sends the photo via picture message to the security company that operates it.

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