French Telecom Firm Orange Debuts New Djingo Smart Speaker
Orange, the French telecommunications giant, has launched a new smart speaker powered by its Djingo voice assistant. The Djingo Speaker was developed Orange and Deutsche Telekom in tandem with a new voice-controlled television remote for those with Orange set-top boxes.
The Djingo Speaker offers features similar to other smart speakers, including getting news and weather information, making phone calls and controlling smart devices in the home. What makes it different is that it’s what Orange refers to as a “privileged interface” for its services, including controlling Orange TVs by voice. Controlling the TVs is also what the new remote is for. The voice assistant understands commands to control the settings of the TV, change the channels, and ask about what is on the schedule for different channels. There are approximately 1.5 million households with an Orange set-top box currently.
Orange made a point of highlighting its safety and privacy efforts in its announcement about the smart speaker, likely in part as a result of the furor this summer in Europe over how audio is recorded and used by the companies behind the devices. The Djingo Speaker includes a physical button to turn on the microphone and the connected app shows what data has been collected by the speaker and allows users to delete what they wish. Privacy has been an important part of the voice assistant since it came out, as it was originally limited to being used for Orange Bank customers.
The Djingo Speaker has been in development for quite some time. Originally conceived as a competitor for American voice assistants, Amazon and Google’s spread to France ahead of Djingo’s debut led Orange to decide to partner with Amazon, announcing last December that the Djingo Speaker would include both Djingo and Alexa access. The Djingo Speaker was scheduled to arrive in the spring of 2019 at that point, but was delayed until November. The interface with Alexa gives the Djingo speaker access to that voice assistant’s abilities as well, including answering questions, playing games, and using the skills in the Alexa store. The Djingo speaker costs around $110, about twice what the company suggested it would cost a year ago, although the reason for the change was not given by Orange.
As Voicebot pointed out at the time, partnering with Amazon ensures Djingo can offer the best of both worlds. The smart speaker can tailor its features to French users and keep data in France, while still acting as an Alexa device with lots of third-party skills that customers may want. That limits developer incentive to make apps for the Djingo platform, however and could lead Orange to be just an independent Alexa device maker.