This is the future
Tech Sunday reports from the IFA 2012 Global Press Conference.
We’ve always dreamed of inventing time machines that would allow us to see, and live, the future. Especially when it comes to technology, we would love to use tomorrow’s gadget, anticipate next week’s smartphone, and download the apps of the future. Unfortunately, there’s only one solution – we just have to wait.
Unless of course, you visit IFA, the biggest trade fair for consumer electronics and home appliances in the world that is held every year in Berlin.
IFA has a long history – not only that, but together with Berlin, it has also written important chapters in the history of technology and home appliances. Just consider that the first valve radio receivers were shown at what was then called the German Radio Show in 1924. It didn’t stop there and in the following years other cutting-edge technology was premieredin Berlin, including VHF broadcasting, portable televisions, wireless remote control, the audio compact cassette and stereo radio broadcasting.
In 1973, the fair started being organised by the industry organisation Gesellschaft für Unterhaltungs und Kommunikationselektronik (GFU) – the trend for introducing new technology to the world continued and, in the following years, the CD, TV stereo sound, digital satellite radio, laser TV, digital radio, plasma screens, mobile phones with internet connectivity, flat TV and HDTV all made their European debut at the Berlin fair.
IFA 2006 was the first to be held as an annual event, and HDTV was again one of the main topics. Following its launch in 2005, one year later HDTV was presented as a ready-to-market media service. Moreover, with Blu-ray discs and HD-DVD, a new generation of optical media became available, bringing high-definition quality into the homes. Then in 2008, for the first time IFA combined consumer electronics and home appliances, making the fair the most attractive platform for international dealers, buyers and the industry.
IFA is preceded by a three-day exclusive global press conference to which members of the press and industry executives from around the world are invited. During this conference, members of the media are treated to first-hand product introductions and presentations, power briefings, press panels, market research and networking events.
In 2009, this press conference was held in Malta – high calibre participants and more than 300 journalists visited Malta to see where the world of technology is going. Since then, Malta has also enjoyed local representation of Messe Berlin, through MBL Ltd.
This year, the global press conference was held in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia. During three days of power briefings, panel discussions and the official press conference, the IFA 2012 Global Press Conference put the media in the privileged position of receiving first-hand information, insights into the international consumer electronics and home appliances industries and the latest news about IFA 2012.
The star of this year’s event was television, especially Smart TVs. In the first power briefing, Maarten de Vries, Chief Executive Officer, TP Vision, introduced TP Vision, a new company which, in collaboration with Philips, aims to improve the TV experience.
“The design element of our products is very important – one of the key elements in lifestyle entertainment is outstanding design and sound quality, and this is what our products represent,” said de Vries. “Our Fidelio range, for instance, aims to give consumersthe kind of sound quality that the artist intended.
“We also want to promote an open platform where consumers can interact with their television, smartphone, internet, social apps and gaming.”
Ivan Kuan, Head of Product Management, Sennheiser, also emphasised the importance of sound in entertainment.
“For more than 60 years, Sennheiser has pursued the perfect audio and in the process, we have been awarded Emmy and Grammy Awards for our professional products, which are not only smart but also meaningful,” said Kuan.
“Constant innovation is key to our success – we have now also built our own headphone amplifier and will showcase it at this year’sIFA in Berlin.”
Michael Zoeller, Marketing Director for TV/AV, Samsung Electronics Europe HQ, also focused on Smart TVs.
“With 60 per cent of the market share in Europe, Smart TVs are the future,” said Zoeller. “Samsung wants to take smart to the next level, with more content sharing, easy upgrades, smart apps, voice and gesture commands. Our latest models, for instance, can recognise up to five faces simultaneously. This year, we are also integrating cloud service to our AllShare service.”
Despite the development of Smart TVs – through which we can access online content and services, play games in the cloud, rent films, and keep in touch via e-mails and social media platforms – television is no longer the kingpin of the entertainment world. Convergence of functions means that the television is just another connected device which interacts with other smart devices. The key here is for developers and manufacturers to take television further, but at the same time maintain its status as a form of social entertainment that allowsyou to slouch on a sofa in front of a large screen.
For Dr Rainer Hecker, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, GFU, who opened the press conference, the key to the future of all smart appliances, including Smart TVs, is the Asian market.
“The European market is very healthy – in fact, according to market research, every second TV set currently sold in Germany is a Smart TV.
“There is a strong demand for smartphones – this market is worth $50 billion a year and has grown by 165 per cent over last year. Tablet sales are strong, fuelled by app development. It’s only digital cameras that have seen declining sales – however, manufacturers are now adding connectivity to digital cameras in a bid to fight smartphones for market share.
“Sales of televisions are also increasing – in Japan, this is fuelled by a switchover to full digital as well as government incentives to buy televisions. In Asia there is a huge adoption of social networking for TV.
“Overall, innovation cycles are getting shorter. Consumers are replacing their technology prior to the end of a product’s lifecycle. Whereas tube TV sets used to be replaced after 11 years, LCD sets are now being replaced after six years. Innovation is pushing replacement levels.
“IFA is at the centre of all this,” said Dr Hecker. “IFA is about today’s innovations and tomorrow’s challenges. And one of our main challenges is to work towards a value-oriented market. Consumers do not just want technology that sells at a good price, but also good value. Value orientation will create sustainability as well as balance between customers, shareholders, businesses and the environment.”
Dr Christian Göke, COO Messe Berlin, agreed that IFA can contribute to this value orientation.
“IFA is a globally relevant platform for market and product innovations. By forming strong relationships with industry leaders, IFA will continue to be an important marketplace for future technology.”