Interview with Frédéric Oblé
Frédéric Oblé is Director of R&D department. He joined us in October 2000 after a first experience in research following his PhD.
What is the difference between innovation and disruptive innovation?
Innovation, in the broad sense, generates changes with different levels of intensity. It is this level that distinguishes the two following types of innovation:
- Incremental innovation: This type of innovation does not deeply alter existing models when it is launched. As indicated by its name, it brings forth gradual improvements.
- Disruptive innovation: As indicated by its name, this type of innovation tends to overthrow the established order and to question established models, whether it is operational or economical, for example.
Our innovations receive awards on a regular basis. Concretely, how do we differentiate ourselves from other innovative companies?
Indeed, our R&D projects are often recognized by the industry. A lot of these innovations can seem incremental but we always include a dose of disruption in them. Let’s talk about our digital money innovations, for example. These could have been perceived as incremental by FinTech startups from Silicon Valley. However, our disruptive force, which makes us stand out and win awards, is our ability to deliver to our clients turnkey solutions that work and can be put in production very quickly. In addition, our innovations arrive at the right time, neither too early nor too late, and are aligned with the market, our customers’ and consumers’ expectations. The fact that our innovations are developed under operational industrial conditions with a commitment to results and that our business is sustainable due to the large size of our Group Worldline are key elements when facing what startups can offer. It is these strengths that really differentiate us in the market.
Continuing our talk on innovation, can you tell us more about connected objects and, more particularly, robotics services?
In my opinion, today’s robotics has reached a level of maturity that makes it a disruptive innovation. Hovewer, it is a rather logical and obvious follow-up to smartphones, which can be identified as incremental. Indeed, today’s mobile phones can be considered as tomorrow’s robots whether it is in the eyes of the scientific community or the end consumers. Their computing power is so advanced that they introduce significant changes in users’ experience. Thus, the transition from the use of smartphones in which we come to them with questions to one in which they advise us proactively, through a kind of embedded artificial intelligence, is more and more tangible.
The new developing service robotics, with embedded intelligence that allows it to interact with humans, is not the one that was used to automate industrial production lines. This inevitable change is closely linked to developments made around smartphones in recent years. Indeed, we have become accustomed to constantly manipulate them to get information and now we expect our smartphones to inform us proactively, at the right time. And this natural human behavior towards these latest generation terminals is the same for service robots.
What innovations/disruptive technologies do we offer in this area?
First of all, it is important to point out that we started our robotics research a few years ago. Indeed, at that time, we were already predicting the inevitable emergence of these proactive services, delivered via interfaces that would be the total opposite of today’s standard paradigms. Currently, these interfaces are still based on the HCI* model, in which we go to machines to get information. This paradigm shift, which comes with robotics and robotic objects, means that, in the near future, the interfaces will come to us. This revolution requires new technicalities, new user experiences and new services, which are topics we are currently working on. Moreover, we are already beginning to offer our first innovations through our robotics services and, in particular, those related to personal assistants.
Hyve was created through the development of these services. Indeed, we needed to develop our own understanding of the creation of services that could be delivered through a robot, from start to finish. Since we were not ourselves robot manufacturers, we initially went to suppliers, such as Awabot**, in order to learn and benefit from their expertise in this industry. Moreover, they helped us with the building of first robots. However, as they were not from our industry, these first drafts were not adapted to the complexities of our services. This is why we designed Hyve ourselves. We identified possible use cases, the first one being a new digital and robotics experience in the form of a personal assistant for recruiters at fairs, in close collaboration with our Human Resources department.
In addition to its personal assistant functions, in what situations Hyve could be used?
Hyve can be used in any situations involving interactions with digital platforms that also interact with our entire connected world. Today, this world is still, in my opinion, too cold and just operational. However, this type of interface enhances the warmth of our interactions with these connected objects.
How do you foresee the evolution of Hyve and its functionalities in the future?
At present, Hyve demonstrates our ability and our understanding related to robotics services. Therefore, its functions will evolve with our customers’ needs and the experiences they wish to make available to their end-users.
In terms of R&D, we continue to experiment with this platform by adding even more functions, intelligence and natural interactions.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today, Frédéric. One last question before we leave: If Hyve was to have an advanced artificial intelligence, what type of personality do you think he would have?
Ideally, in my opinion, Hyve would adapt its personality to its user.
Discover Hyve, our personal assistant concept
* Human–computer interaction
** Robot manufacturer and Worldline partner