#Techconf — Highlights from VivaTech 2019

Home Blends & Trends 8 July 2019

The global conference celebrating innovation and technology for start-ups and industry leaders was held in Paris from May 16th to 18th, for the fourth year running. The Viva Technology conference has been successful since the beginning, and this year saw some 124,000 participants from 125 countries, 13,000 start-ups and 2,500 journalists. Check out the must-not-miss moments from VivaTech 2019!

Tech for Good: a new key initiative for companies

Tech for Good, one of this year’s main themes at VivaTech, is a quickly-growing trend among businesses – and it’s one that the public can get behind, too. According to a 2018 CSA/Havas study, 80% of French consumers consider that ethical companies will be more successful in the future.

On the eve of the conference’s opening day, 80 players from around the world met at the Elysee presidential palace for the second annual Tech for Good summit. Reps from big names including L’Oreal, Orange, and IBM discussed how technological innovation can serve the common good.

Concrete commitments on various subjects were signed and then announced at the conference opening the next day: access to education with the P-tech initiative from IBM, BNP Paribas and Orange, a commitment to diversity and gender parity (45 high-tech groups promised to have 30% female management by 2022), as well as measures about the future of work. This includes creating a common reference point which could identify employee’s soft skills to foster professional mobility.

Online harassment prevention and social media regulation was also an important topic. Look no further than the signing of the “Christchurch call to action” by 26 countries, to fight against hateful online content. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the conference’s guest of honor, emphasized the importance of international support from governments and corporations in this initiative:

Terrorist and extremist content online continues to spill out into the real world with deadly consequences. Today, we are stepping up to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. Together, we can create a world where all people – no matter their faith, where they live, or where they are from – are safe and secure both on and offline.” – Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

Greentech: a hub of social and environmental innovations

Tech for Good also includes promising green initiatives, grouped together in a new hall: The Better Life Avenue. Various players presented their Greentech innovations, like Bin-e, a tool that automates recycling using artificial intelligence, or the all-in-one connected E-tree, a solar-panel “tree” that offers Wi-Fi, drinking water, and a charging station. It’s a 2.0 one-stop-shop!


The E-tree (photo credit: Viva Technology)

AI remains central to development strategies

The artificial intelligence revolution is transforming all industries

In a 2018 study, Gartner revealed that the global value of AI-powered activities should reach $3.9 trillion by 2022, compared to $1.2 trillion in 2018.

At the booth of French TV channel TF1, panelists agreed that AI cannot replace humans. Au contraire, technology can rid employees of repetitive tasks so they have more time for work with greater added value. Isabelle Toublant from TF1 explained that thanks to AI, the leading French TV channel has automatically pre-indexed 40 years’ worth of archives and tagged 4,000 hours of video for each archived year. This means that her teams can leverage this data, make it more broadly available, and finally explore the full potential of archives.

A recent study classified content indexation as the second-largest source of AI revenue to be generated between 2016 and 2025:


Hyper-personalization is another growing trend born from artificial intelligence. Brands use it to engage with ever-more-demanding audiences.

The L’Oréal group, the world’s beauty leader, showcased its highly targeted and hyper-personalized experiences offers to its customers. For example, the new generation of hair styling consultation is completely virtual and features personalized voice assistance. Another interactive example: “My Little Factory,” a miniature and fully-automatic “factory of the future” that creates custom foundation shades before customers’ eyes!


Another AI innovation is already on the market, thanks to French luxury brand Lancôme. Its “Shade Finder” recommends foundation pigmentation based on customers’ unique skin tones – right at the point of sale.


Hand-in-hand with quality data, AI is also transforming the adtech industry. In China, the brand Kiehl’s has managed to create ultra personalized advertising. Tailored promotions and original content are just some of what’s possible! Using precise segmentation criteria including age, location, hobbies, or purchase history, L’Oreal’s CDO in China, Hagen Wülferth showed that dynamic display advertising, when paired with AI, optimizes marketing campaigns with click rates that are 50% to 100% above average!

Between the European parliamentary elections, the new European commission, and Brexit, European challenges play on the tech ecosystem. This was another hot talking point at VivaTech, under the title “United Tech of Europe.”

The advent of GDPR last year has given way to a question for today: how can European tech companies compete with data-driven counterparts in the US and China? Today, only 30 unicorn companies are European (11%), out of 265 total across the world. (source: CB Insight)

Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition and an outspoken critic of Silicon Valley’s tech giants, explained that Europe must fight against monopolies in all their forms, and be unafraid to regulate and sanction illegal behavior which stifles innovation.

Alongside five well-known French startups, (Vinted, Frichti, TransferWise, Open Classrooms and UiPath), French president Emmanuel Macron also spoke about the necessity of fair competition. He underlined the importance of political support to encourage an environment where start-ups can succeed, pointing in particular to the French government’s GAFA tax.

Technology of the future: 5G, mobility, robotics

Unlike its Chinese or American counterpart, the European catalog of telecoms operators is fragmented, comprised of over 200 different players. So standardization across European countries takes time, and requires licensing agreements for operators.

Börje Ekholm, CEO of Ericsson (one of the largest 5G suppliers) identified some challenges that Europe must overcome to implement 5G access on the continent, and mentioned that a delayed roll-out could impact a country’s economy. He reminded VivaTech attendees that Europe was a slow adaptor of 4G, not realizing that an entire economy would spring up around smartphones as an e-commerce platform. Ekholm pointed to China, where the quick succession of 4G and 5G networks directly correlates to the growth of m-Commerce and, in turn, the rise of Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba. Europe, by contrast, seems to be falling behind on mobile innovations which could have serious consequences.

France, in particular, seems to fall behind its European neighbors overall, as many rural areas still don’t get 4G coverage and investments made in the technology have still not fully paid off. The 5th generation of the technology, however, is considered to be the driver of the fourth industrial revolution: an environment that favors innovation.

Mobility – and its challenges – was another major theme at this innovation conference. To celebrate its centennial, Citroen premiered a never-before-seen exclusive automobile at VivaTech: the “19_19”, or the brand new all electric, fully autonomous, and ultra connected vehicle! Start-ups were also creating buzz. Hovertaxi, for example, is taking off for the future with an eco-friendly solution to over-crowded roads in cities. Its flying electric taxis should be on the market by 2022.


Photo credit: Lucas Barioulet for Les Echos

Well used to the conference spotlight, robots were present at many stands, such as Hoobox Robotic which uses facial recognition to control wheelchairs using expressions. Drones, for their part, seem ready for anything, as Diodon showcased its all-terrain and waterproof (and even inflatable!) models, ready to go where other drones cannot. Lastly, Mentalista wowed attendees by showing them how to use their voices to control objects with a simple thought, thanks to a hefty dose of machine learning.

This year’s edition of VivaTech had no shortage of showstoppers. Let’s meet back next year to find out what innovations the future has in store! Meanwhile, you can watch the best of VivaTech 2019 here

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