“Tomorrow, thanks to the Internet of Things, information from all types of devices will come to us”

“Tomorrow, thanks to the Internet of Things, information from all types of devices will come to us”

The entrepreneur launched an audio application based on connected objects to inform users about what they are doing.

Rafi Khalajian, co-founder of Juice. © Copyright: Benjamin Boccas

JDN. Your new Juice app was launched last July. How does it fit into the IoT sector?

Rafi Khalajyan. Juice is an audio application designed to provide the user with personalized content, including news, music, and podcasts. This is the first step into the world of the post-Internet of things, which I named postweb. Idea: Information reaches us by overlapping with what we do. Because until now, when you need information, you usually have to look at the screen. With postweb, we will no longer need to stop our activity in order to use the interface. We tend to limit this to augmented reality, but this is a simplistic vision of a concept that is actually much broader. Today, connected speakers fill that role, allowing us to gather information with our voice while doing something else. Tomorrow, thanks to the Internet of things, information will be transmitted to us from all kinds of devices.

Why did you decide to start with audio and connected headphones?

Connected headphones have changed habits: instead of removing the wire and having a transparent mode that does not isolate us from ambient noise, users forget that they are wearing headphones and keep them in their ears all day. Headphones are tied to use and it is possible to naturally convey messages to the users ear. That’s why we’ve developed a free ad-supported audio app available on the App Store and Play Store. (premium subscriptions without ads will be offered, approx.). We would like to talk to plug-in headphone manufacturers because Juice is designed for these products. We’ve had just under 10,000 downloads since the pre-launch last July and are aiming for 35,000 users by the end of the year. However, I think it would be a mistake to limit the post-network to one device. So this is just the first step.

How specifically to achieve post-web?

We must change the way we are used to receiving information. The technologies are there — connected speakers, the Facebook metaverse, augmented reality — that make this concept possible. But you have to develop artificial intelligence to create relevance, that is, to give the right information at the right time, in a format that is neither intrusive nor annoying that the user can live with. Delivering contextual information is the hardest thing to do, but it can be learned. There will be no defining event that will initiate the future. Again, do not think that augmented reality glasses will be the only successor to the iPhone.

The Internet of Things will support this approach. You created the first bonded object with the Nabaztag rabbit and witnessed the evolution of technology. How is the market developing?

The market continues to develop, but not at the speed we imagined. There was the first period of proselytism, in the early 2000s, when I created the Nabaztag rabbit. Then there was the second phase in the 2010s, when we saw an explosion of projects. Connected objects were then considered special objects and were present on all shelves. There were specialized chain stores. This was nonsense because connectivity is not a feature in and of itself. After all, it was an artificial period, but most of these related objects, even if they were good Christmas gifts, were useless. This is why I abandoned the Internet of Things in 2017, feeling that our 2003 vision of a globally connected world had not materialized. We are currently in the third moment, which is the period of trivialization. Connectivity is no longer singled out as such, but is inherently added to products that retain their price and core function, but can still provide a layer of value-added services.

What are the barriers in the industry?

This is the same hurdle I faced with Sen.se. We created Peanuts with the goal of making the Internet of Things mainstream. These were inexpensive things – less than 15 euros – which were sold where the need arose. For example, in a pharmacy with the role of notifying the user so that he does not forget to take his medicine. The problem is that participants in specialized distribution networks are used to making mark-ups, which an inexpensive connected facility does not allow. Therefore, they are not interested in the spread of IoT. This is the problem with the Internet of Things. It’s not about technology that works really well, it’s about diffusion. In order for the technology to penetrate the market, to consumers, it must be inexpensive, which is not of interest to electronics wholesalers. Until we reinvent the product distribution model, this problem will persist.

A multidisciplinary entrepreneur and pioneer in minitel, audiotel, the internet, mobile internet, and the internet of things, Rafi Khalajian is the president and co-founder of Juice. Most notably, he founded the very first French internet company and co-created Nabaztag, the talking rabbit, the forerunner of voice assistants and connected speakers.