IFA Was Fun – and More
For those of you who trekked to Berlin for the annual late-August/early-September technology extravaganza known as IFA, you’ll know what we mean when we say it’s a fun show.
Even without the numerous wurst and beer stands and those music concerts in the IFA fairgrounds’ Sommergarten with internationally renowned performers like James Blunt (featured this year), there is more than enough in the way of fun to interest the some 250,000 visitors, about 100,000 of whom are consumers and have nothing to do with selling or making electronics and appliances – but who flock to the show each year to catch a drift of what’s soon to come to their local retailers.
For CE media veterans of electronics exhibitions like us, who have seen many shows morph into all-business affairs in recent years, IFA is a refreshing experience – a nice amalgam of a trade show with a family-friendly twist at the tail end that tends to humanize all the tech introduced there.
That said, from the standpoint of covering IFA this go-round, we delighted in finding a certain vibrancy in the appliances and electronics introductions that happened there. All of them are cutting edge, and many may not make their way here for a while – or ever, but they provide a view of exciting possibilities.
For example, Miele and Bosch, two dominant European appliances brands who also sell products in the U.S., trotted out innovation after innovation. And Vestel, which licenses the both the Sharp Home Appliances and Toshiba TV brands in Europe, held separate press events for the brands. Toshiba TVs featured a unique tube-shaped built-in sound system designed in collaboration with Onkyo called Bazooka, while among Sharp’s introductions was a clever feature called Vac Pac Pro – a vacuum sealer built into the front of one of the company’s French door refrigerators that removes the air around the food in a plastic sleeve and seals the sleeve to preserve the food – making the sealed bags ready for the water immersion required for sous vide-style cooking.
There is, of course, another side to all this innovation besides the fun side. As IFA’s executive director, Jens Heithecker, pointed out in his introductory remarks for the show’s LG Electronics keynote on Artificial Intelligence (AI), there is the fundamental and unavoidable disruption that accompanies any and all leaps forward in consumer technology. “Connectivity, 5G, voice, smart speakers – and screens and displays are also changing. And now, the biggest disruptor of all: AI. AI, however, doesn’t mean that machines are taking over. It is about making our lives easier, and giving over the boring tasks no one wants to do…. Technology disruption is good, and [ultimately] makes us healthier - and allows us to have more fun.”
Corroborating his observations are our own. And based on what we witnessed, IFA seems to have gotten the blend of technology, disruption, and fun exactly right.