Here in the states, the big electronic gadget exhibition is CES. But in Europe, its the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin, aka IFA (pronounced “eee-fah”). Each September, the show kicks off in Berlin, Germany, showcasing a wide variety of technology in consumer electronics, personal care and health technology, home appliances, and much more. Over 244,000 people and 1,800 exhibitors attended IFA in 2018, so it’s quite an impressive event.
Several months before IFA kicks off each year, they host media from around the globe at their Global Press Conference (GPC), teasing the things we can expect from the IFA show in a few months.
I’ve spent the past several days in Andalusia, Spain at the 2019 IFA GPC, getting to know several hundred of my fellow journalists from around the globe, a number of technology vendors, and learning about industry trends.
Among the vendors on hand were Haier, who showed off some slick new home appliances, such as a 3-in-1 washer/dryer with a touchscreen interface, and the ability to wash and dry in one unit, while drying a second load at the same time. Philips turned out to talk about their personal health initiatives and their goal of improving 3 billion lives by 2030. One of the more intriguing products they talked about was their Snore Relief Band, a gadget you can wear at night that sends out subtle vibrations to make you change positions should you start to snore, improving sleep quality for you and your partner in bed.
Chinese TV makers Hisense showed off the 74U9E, an insanely sharp 75” 8K display which offers a whopping 5,376 local dimming zones for excellent contrast, and quantum dot technology for brilliant colors, and German electronics maker Metz talked about their plans to go global with their new OLED Android TVs, which are a result of their new owners, Chinese display maker, Skyworth.
Another intriguing device on display comes from a startup. The Safera Sense is a small infrared gadget you can install above your stovetop to monitor temperature and air quality. It can be used not only to tell you when the water in your pot has boiled, but can alert you if you accidentally left your stove on – which is one of the leading causes of kitchen and house fires. It can even be used to automatically switch off your stove’s power with an optional power control unit.
Last, but certainly not least, was the Ambeo 360-degree surround soundbar from German audio specialists Sennheiser. You can check out much more detail about this impressive home theater device in my first listen review here.
Among the trends presented by insights company GfK were the increasing availability of 4K UHD content, which is growing steadily across the globe, and the increasing market penetration of 4K displays. By 2022, they expect nearly 60% of North American homes to have a 4K display – and this should continue to grow the volume of content, as well as increasing bandwidth needs. And if you’re worried that 8K will be the “next big thing,” not to worry. There’s little evidence that these high-end devices will see big market penetration for quite some time.
We also spent quite some time learning about smart home trends, and while many homes already have some connected gadgets, the biggest challenge is the lack of an easy-to-use, standard ecosystem for controlling all of these devices together in one place. Technologies like Amazon’s Alexa seem to have the best shot of being the unifier for these devices. Climate control, home audio, TVs, and security systems are leading the connected home charge, while smart appliances and personal care devices are still lagging behind.
Emerging technologies expert Margot Edelman also led off a discussion about consumer trust of technology, and it was particularly interesting to note that trust in health tech, IoT, and artificial intelligence technologies are quite high compared to things like blockchain tech and autonomous vehicles. Unsurprisingly, social media is one of the least trusted forms of technology and media.
We can expect these trends to drive the technology on display at IFA 2019 in September and beyond. Unlike other consumer electronics shows, IFA is open to the public – so you can check it out for yourself between September 6-11, 2019 in Berlin. Beyond the main tech exhibits, keynote speakers include Huawei CEO Richard Yu, and Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon. In addition, and the IFA+ Summit will be discussing “Dataism” – the importance of data to our world and society. The IFA Next exhibit showcases innovation from startups, and includes Shift Automotive – a 2-day event especially of interest to me – focused on the future of mobility, and automotive technology.
You can find more information about IFA’s various programs and the IFA Berlin show on the IFA website.