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Economy

French tech startups hoping to shine at Consumer Electronics Show

media I.P. Park, president and chief technical officer for LG Electronics, speaks on artificial intelligence during a keynote address at the 2019 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 7, 2019 REUTERS/Steve Marcus

The Consumer Electronics Show has opened in Las Vegas. The annual trade event highlights innovative new products and services designed to make people's lives easier, fun and more productive. France's dynamic tech scene is represented by fifty-seven start-ups in this year’s edition.

CES features 4,500 exhibitors in 11 different venues showcasing cutting-edge devices in a range of sectors including health, transport, entertainment, sport and agriculture. Some 182,000 visitors are expected over the course of the next few days, until 11 January.

Among the hot topics this year, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 5G networks, self-driving cars, smart homes and smart cities.

Of course, television and smartphone technology garner the lion's share of attention.

On Monday, ahead of the official opening, South Korean giant LG unveiled its ultra-high definition television that rolls in and out of its base stand.

Chinese startup Royole showed off what it claimed is the first foldable smartphone, which can fit into a pocket but unfold into a full-sized tablet computer.

Royole showed how the same flexible displays could be used for automotive dashboards, wearables, and for various other commercial and industrial uses.

The French competitive edge

When it comes to technology, France has a thriving startup culture, with 420 created in 2018 alone.

Muriel Touaty is the Director of Technion France, the French branch of Israel’s Institute of Technology.

She is excited to be a part of the French and Israeli delegations represented at the show, where many companies from both countries will be showing their wares.

“Human resources will be a key theme as well as artificial intelligence,” she tells RFI.

“The digital revolution is all about erasing the boundaries between physical and virtual space.”

Muriel Touaty Technion France 08/01/2019 Listen

The Technion institute, founded in 1924 by Albert Einstein has strong partnerships with various French universities and global players such as Total, Sanofi, Dassault Systems or L’Oréal.

They have already produced several Nobel laureates, in 2004 and 2011, and 70 percent of their alumni are leaders in high tech industries across the world, according to Touaty.

When it comes artificial intelligence, she says “it definitely will transform human values and we will have to be ready to understand them.”

Among the many innovations on offer, Touaty says there are two that particularly stand out for her. FingerTips, a French startup has designed a smart pillow which allows the elderly to be better connected with their families when it comes to monitoring their health.

Then there’s an “artificial nose” designed by Israeli startup Nanoscent, which can diagnose early signs of disease such as cancer through the sense of smell.

Trade tensions threaten growth

The Consumer Technology Association, which operates the show, predicts the US consumer technology industry will reach a record-breaking $398 billion in retail revenues this year, 3.9 percent up from 2018.

But it acknowledges that the sector has been effected by the trade war between the two largest economic players, the United States and China.

Tariffs on tech products jumped to $1.3 billion in October, according to CTA, raising fears about growth.

The other concern is the management of personal data, inherent in today’s new technology.

Recent scandals and leaks involving Facebook, Google and other platforms have shaken consumer confidence over the past year.

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