Only have 1 minute? Read our 3 takeaways:
- On July 4th, Orange Romania organized an event showcasing three local startups – AgriCloud, Iris Robotics, and ZevoTech, with live demos.
- The event welcomed Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
- The presentations emphasized Romania’s efforts towards the green transition and digital transformation of the country, and the need for Europe to work collaboratively to become an innovation leader.
Romania has plenty of innovations to showcase, as we’ve seen at the latest Orange Innovation Event, which was organized by the French telecommunications company at the group’s Tandem office in Bucharest. From IoT technology and drones for precision agriculture to robotics software-as-a-service and speech recognition AI and ML, Romania’s innovation ecosystem is synchronizing with Europe. The goal? A green and digital transformation for a more resilient and competitive economy.
Present at the event, Olivier Becht, the French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, highlighted the country’s strong IT ecosystem and its status as one of the biggest markets in Europe and particularly Eastern Europe. He restated the solid relationship that France and Romania have built over the years, and the opportunities that will continue to strengthen this relationship amid the unfolding energy and digital transformation.
While Europe, overall, has missed the earlier opportunity of building an equivalent vanguard for the US tech giants, partly due to the bloc’s strong competition law, now is the time to move more funding from the EU to the innovation ecosystem.
“We are in a race with the US and China, and if we don’t have the capacity to be an innovator in the next decade, we will lose the race,” the French Minister Delegate concluded.
Via corporate programs such as Orange 5G Lab and Orange Fab, opportunities to accelerate innovation in the country are captured from the university benches, when they are rough ideas or MVPs in need of a testing ground and access to supporting technology, partners, and ultimately clients.
Orange Fab is one of the important innovation initiatives in the Orange Group, currently running in 16 countries. In Romania, it has been present since 2017, during which 2.5 million euros and other resources were deployed to assist 44 startups with the necessary technological layers and customer bases to improve their products. As part of the process, Orange adopts solutions from the program in their internal processes and operations, and includes them alongside the company’s own products into packages for customers.
Two startups in the Orange Fab program and one startup that is partnering with Orange 5G Lab have introduced their business solutions and displayed interactive demos during the event.
From feeding the world to offering personalized robot experiences
In the next 50 years, we must produce food in equivalent amounts to the past 200 years. The math may be easy, but the required underlying effort is tremendous, especially as we’re now confronting a global-scale climate crisis that is affecting soil quality and water availability. Technology, while not a panacea, can help farmers detect problems early on to protect crops, plan irrigation, and optimize fertilizers and plant treatments.
“The most important job on the planet is farming because everybody needs food. It’s important to help farmers understand how technology can help them,” said Marcel Ionescu, CEO of AgriCloud, a veteran in the Orange Fab program, during the event.
Using drones and on-the ground sensors, as well as satellite data and ML, the company helps farmers monitor crops, vineyards, orchards and animal farms, plan irrigations, and apply treatments in case of plant disease. Everything is integrated into one platform that allows for an X-Ray of the farm.
Less than 10% of Romania’s agriculture is precision agriculture, a small, but increasing number, Marcel Ionescu told The Recursive. The company is currently working with more than 250 farms. He further shared the challenges they had been facing trying to get farmers on board with using precision technology to stay resilient against long-term sustainability challenges. And this challenge persists across the other markets where AgriCloud is present, including Bulgaria, France, and the US. This is why AgriCloud is focusing on educating farmers about the benefits of precision agriculture, onboarding them on the use of technology in their farms via a dedicated program.
Aside from the drones, the other robot stealing the show at the innovation event was Pepper, a social, humanoid robot. Iris Robotics is an official partner of Pepper’s parent company, Softbank Robotics, and further develops software that customize Pepper for different use cases and scenarios.
A partner of Orange 5G Lab, Iris Robotics was founded in Iasi in 2017, and has a strong background in national and international competitions for robotics. Part of their portfolio which also includes 3-D printers, Pepper the robot is suited to both B2C and B2B environments, as in-house or educational roles, especially around children. Depending on the configuration, the robot can perform numerous roles, from educational assistant, to sales consultant, event host, and receptionist.
During the demo, founder and CEO Andrei Iulian Marin used the Quest Pro headset to connect to the robot over the internet. Pepper’s available features include a live video stream displayed on the robot, an audio stream from the headset, facial expressions, head and hands control, and voice modulation, all of which allow users to create their digital twins.
Otherwise put, the company offers robotics software-as-a-service, adapting robots to the specific needs of the customer. In their journey with Orange Romania, the company is currently looking to advance the complexity of the configurations they create for robots.
Finally, the newer addition to the Orange Fab program, Zevo Tech, showcased their technology right from the start, introducing the co-founder and CEO Horia Cucu using a voice they created.
Zevo Tech is a team of professors and PhD researchers in AI that spun out of the Speech and Dialogue Research Laboratory at the Politehnica University of Bucharest, bringing with them the experience of more than 100 scientific articles and more than 10 research grants coordinated successfully.
Working in AI and ML for speech, text, image, and semiconductors allowed the team to get in contact with a technologies that eventually led to the company’s current portfolio: a speech transcription solution for Romanian and English with 95% accuracy; a text-to-speech synthesis solution for Romanian, English, German, and Portuguese; a speaker identification solution, and and emotion recognition from speech solution. They currently have around 10 clients, in verticals such as call centers, healthcare, banking and utilities. In healthcare, for instance, doctors use the product to dictate notes, reports, or automatically fill the report after a telemedicine call.
Zevo Tech is currently working with Orange on a more tailored product for call centers, which would allow them to automatically estimate KPIs such as NPS and client satisfaction or estimate the risk of client complaints.