Interview with Alain EISENSTEIN-BLACHON - Ophrys Systèmes
CEO, Ophrys Systèmes
Alain EISENSTEIN-BLACHON, Tell us about Ophrys Systèmes
AEB : "It was August of 1992. The summer was a particularly hot one. That’s when the company was founded. But the idea came to me while I was at a museum in Mexico. When you don’t speak the country’s language, it is hard to get a grasp on the culture. Even reading signs is a challenge. I thought it would be great to have some kind of facilitator to make things easier for museum visitors. Our first audio guide—which used RFID, even back then—was a CD ROM drive that weighed in at 1.5 kg. So it was pretty impressive, at least in terms of weight! Our first and only customer was the St. Etienne Mining Museum.
Today, the audio and multimedia guides we design and manufacture at our facility at the foot of the Vercors mountains near Grenoble are used around the globe. Nearly 200,000 of our products are in service at some of the world’s best-known museums and historical sites, including the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the White House, the Kremlin, the Roman Forum, the Sydney Opera House, the Acropolis Museum, and, closer to home, the Musée de Grenoble.
Our market—arts, culture, and tourism—is a niche market. In terms of strategy, we maintain a sharp focus on two things: innovation, which is a challenge given that our customers are often museums, and international development.
We have around ten subsidiaries, which makes us a multinational corporation. However, we are small. What makes us unique is that we have kept the entire value chain in house. We design and manufacture the units; produce the content, whether it is audio, video, or multimedia; and we can also operate the entire service at our customers’ premises.
The future will be shaped by smartphone apps and connected multimedia installations. However, we intend to remain focused on our core business, which is to provide comprehensive innovative solutions delivered via new products."
What made you decide to join Minalogic?
AEB : "The main reason we joined Minalogic was that the team convinced us how crucial belonging to a network could be to us. That led to us coming up with an idea for a joint R&D project that is currently still in the works.
We also felt that the training sessions and workshops would be beneficial to us, as well as the opportunities to attend trade shows to expand our horizons.
We are always on the lookout for technology and other innovations that we can tailor to the needs of our niche market."
What collaborative R&D projects are you involved in ?
AEB : "We are a partner on the GUIMUTEIC project to develop a new guiding system for museums that leverages image analysis capabilities.
We are the lead on the project. Our goal is to develop a new product—a video-camera-equipped headset—that will offer an innovative new way for visitors to experience museums and historical sites.
We are contributing our experience designing “digital companions” and we are working with a team of researchers from Grenoble-Alpes University on the image-recognition aspects."
What services have you used since joining Minalogic?
AEB : "We have attended brainstorming sessions as well as several workshops in the “A Taste for Business” series. We also went to a trade show to reach out to corporate customers. And we received support from Minalogic for a submission to an EU project.
Minalogic has also provided us with some targeted introductions to other members likely to bring technology development synergies to our company."
What kinds of partnerships are you looking for as a Minalogic member? Business? Innovation?
AEB : "Given our line of business, we won’t necessarily find new customers in the Minalogic ecosystem. First and foremost, we are seeking innovation partners."