By Ben Armstrong | UK
Images: Connects2 Team
This year, we flew to Berlin to visit Europe’s biggest technology show and to take a look at the rapidly changing future of the industry…
“The only constant in the technology industry is change” – Marc Benioff
The technology industry is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors for development, with millions of ideas now becoming reality each year. This September, all eyes were on Berlin and its annual IFA trade show, billed as Europe’s biggest technology showcase and for good reason. The IFA took place inside the labyrinthine Messe complex, a maze of twenty-six halls, where state of the art computers and devices butted heads with kitchen appliances, robots, drones and more. Hundreds of thousands of people flocked in their droves for their unique glimpse into the future, and we were there with them. Here’s what we saw at IFA 2017…
A Focus on Lifestyle
The rise of connected living can be most accurately summed up by Bill Gates, when he said that “the advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life”. This was a huge focus at IFA this year, with most big players focusing on tying together and hybridising technology and lifestyle, rejecting gimmicks in favour of useful and meaningful innovation. In Hall 22, Philips took a host everyday products, from toothbrushes, to air conditioning units, to lighting, and demonstrated how connecting them with devices can #MakeLifeBetter. Highlights included a guitarist equipped with a Gibson Les Paul who was only audible through a pair of Phillips over-ear headphones, a new range of smart connected lightbulbs, and a flagship 65” 4K TV.
The popular ‘Smart Home’ area from last year’s show fared even better this year, with many manufacturers looking to make an impact on how we all live day-to-day. Bosch’s ‘Smart Refrigerator’ featured a built in camera so shoppers can check on what food they have whilst they’re out at the supermarket, Yamaha exhibited a mechanical, self-playing piano to add ambience to homes, and the HiMirror Plus+ is set to change the way we look at ourselves forever, analysing our faces for wrinkles and blemishes.
An Attack on the Senses
The key to any trade show is to engage the audience and IFA did this expertly. Every hall was designed to overwhelm the spectator with its sheer scale, matched only by the ambition of the exhibitors, and the event was truly a sensory experience from start to finish. Walking from one side of the Messe to the other, we were hit with the smell of freshly cooked food, the sights of 100” monitors and the sounds of revolutionary home cinema systems. T-Mobile went gung-ho with a bright colour scheme centred around the brand’s signature magenta, providing a relaxing change of pace when entering their Hall. With fountains and spacious areas to relax in, T-Mobile took a different approach to marketing their products with #jetztmagenta and it paid dividends, allowing visitors to take a break from the bustle of the other exhibits.
Elsewhere, things were busy but the layout of IFA contributed to a fluid experience when walking between stands. Halls 17 to 12 were arranged in a slalom pattern, encouraging people to browse all the stands as they moved through, in contrast to the more hectic, scattershot approach in the traditional open plan areas. It’s difficult to organise an event of this size, but IFA 2017 was a success in how it dealt with the sheer number of products, exhibitors and guests present.
Alexa Speaks Up
Amazon has always been a company which has tried to ‘know’ us, perhaps better than any other. They’ve always been at the forefront of data mining, constantly learning our preferences and buying habits to create a seamless, real-time experience. Amazon’s Alexa assistant received the greatest push of the show and was advertised everywhere, vying for the top spot in voice control. Its own Bluetooth speaker, the Allure, developed by Harman Kardon made its debut at the show, featuring 360 degree sound and pulsing ambient lighting. Alexa, like Siri, Cortana and the Google Assistant, aims to be the main source for connectivity across all platforms and will surely be instrumental in the next decade in how we communicate with our technology. There’s clearly a race going on, and based on IFA this year, Alexa is currently winning it.
Do your products work with Amazon Alexa? Find the complete list via CNet here
The Natural Touch
Going back to nature is fast becoming a marketing trend in the world of technology, and Sony took that concept to the masses at the IFA with a stunning Hall full of innovative tech, brought back down to earth. Stunningly finished in polished wood, glass and brushed aluminium, the architecture of Sony’s Hall was the perfect foundation for the simple, yet ground-breaking products within.
Headphones were displayed on stands in sprouting gardens, or on wooden pedestals in glass domes; the VR Playstation 4 took pride of place amongst a host of new virtual reality technology; and people queued up to be filmed in slow motion. Sony even detailed their ‘Seed Acceleration Program’, likening the way in way they help new businesses in Japan and Europe grow, to that of nurturing nature itself.
A Show for Everyone
No expense was spared at making IFA 2017 the most accessible event for everyone, from children, to casual show-goers, to fully fledged technology enthusiasts. The centre of the Messe contained the Sommergarten, a large grassy area with a stage, seating and loads of food stalls which was easily accessible from every hall. Especially important for families with young children, the garden allowed the masses to take a break and surely saved many weary legs throughout the week (including ours). In the show proper, we were treated to impressive technology from all sectors, including a sit-down Dolby Surround experience, a high-power bass room, freshly cooked food and demonstrations, live music performances, virtual reality experiences and lots more. There was everything from simple activities tailored for kids, to fully-fledged and immersive technology to give enthusiasts a glimpse into the future.
With all signs pointing to companies looking to exhibit at less conventional shows, IFA’s inclusivity, size and location are sure to guarantee its success as it moves toward its 100th anniversary. As one of the oldest, the biggest and certainly one of the best technology shows in the world, the future is bright for Berlin’s landmark event. Next year, we’re sure, will be even better.
Plan for IFA 2018 at b2b.ifa-berlin.com
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