Over 200 French companies will be exhibiting at CES when it opens next week in Las Vegas. Trade officials are billing France as the place for startup and 2016 is shaping up to be the year of la technologie française, judging from the volume and variety of e-mail I have received over the past four weeks.
It's hard to quantify any one single shining category coming out of the French wave. Wearables, Internet of Things (IoT) and smart home are getting a lot of play among exhibiting companies, but so is Big Data analysis, enhanced photography, and improved audio solutions. There's a Google Glass partner among the mix.
Let me start with some of the French wearables offerings. Digitsole, the "connected footwear specialist," was a top 10 innovator out of CES last year with its Warm Series, a Bluetooth connected heating insole keeping your feet warm and providing a precise step count; no misleading data as you can sometimes get from a wrist-mounted Fitbit. The next generation Smartshoe will debut at the CES Unveiled event on January 4 - the "first connected shoe" -- whatever that might mean, other than probably needing a USB cable to recharge your footwear.
Newcomer Canhegat goes a step beyond last year's crop of Connected Pets gizmos designed to keep track of where Fido and Kitty go and providing a collar-mounted microphone and camera solution for larger animals. Canhe-Fit is the Fitbit for pets, a collar frob monitoring pet activity and providing short-range (30 to 40 meters) geolocation. Activity data goes into an app (of course) providing recommendations on how much food you should be providing. It would almost be funny if it weren't for the problem of overfed pets, but also illustrates the meta trend out of France to leverage Big Data analysis from wearables.
My favorite out of the newcomers this year is Enlaps and its TIKEE plug-and-play time-laps photography solution. TIKEE is expected to start around 600 euros and is a self-contained device that bundles a pair of time-lapse cameras into a weatherproofed enclosure with a solar panel to provide charging and power plus wireless connectivity in the form of Wi-Fi and (extra cost) 3G GSM connectivity. Configuration is done via app while photos are sent to the cloud for storage or can be stored onboard with a (not provided) Micro SD card.
If you are concerned about global warming or just want to lower your electrical bill, Comwatt is offering a plug-and-play home energy monitoring solution that could save you up to 20 percent of your power costs. The box "learns" energy consumption patterns and provides real time monitoring of how much electricity is being used. There's an upsell to add solar panels for increase power saving up to 70 percent, making me think this company might have a future being acquired by Solar City as a value-add above and beyond simply throwing solar panels and a battery pack at a house.
Get the picture? If you hear a lot of talk about France next week, you now know why. It will be interesting to see if the French tech invasion expands beyond CES to other shows and if the number of companies continues to grow in the years to come.
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere