Celebrating its 99th anniversary, IFA, traditionally located at the ExpoCenter City in Berlin, was this time organized by IFA Management GmbH, a newly formed joint venture between the German trade association of leading consumer electronics manufacturers gfu (Gesellschaft fűr Unterhaltungs- und Kommunikationselektronik), which owns the rights to the IFA brand, and Clarion Events Ltd, a British company responsible for its organization.
Almost from the beginning, they have played a key role in the technological transformation, bringing together industry pioneers and innovative consumer electronics and home appliance products.
– The pace of technological advances is exciting, and at IFA 2023 we will be looking at how best to use these innovations to benefit society. However, we also need to ensure that no part of it is left behind,” said Oliver Merlin, managing director of IFA Management GmbH, at the show’s inaugural press conference. He stressed that in addition to all the historic brands we know and love, 30% of the exhibitors are here for the first time, which means there is a lot to discover and acquire. – The halls are filled with news and exciting innovations, so plan a full day and put on your comfortable shoes! Philipp Maurer, chairman of the gfu, added that IFA has once again demonstrated its value “as an engine of innovation and economic growth.” And the mayor of Berlin, Kai Wegner, pointed out that they were equally part of Berlin, as was the famous “Funkturm” broadcast tower – the exhibition grounds.
The technology industry experienced a global slowdown in 2022, as the effects of Russia’s war with Ukraine – along with inflation and the energy crisis – affected consumer sentiment. Although global sales of consumer electronics and home appliances products reached more than $1.3 trillion, they were down 6.9% from the previous year. But overall, the market is 9.3% larger than in 2019, the last year before the pandemic broke out.
In the first of this year. The slowdown was still being felt, but the latest figures already record an increase in sales. gfu expects IFA to once again boost the industry in the run-up to the most important sales period of the year, ahead of Black Friday, Singles’ Day, Cyber Monday and Christmas. – We can see the beginnings of a revival, and we are confident that IFA will rise to the occasion and once again prove its worth as the world’s most important platform for consumer electronics and home appliances, according to Dr. Sara Warneke, CEO of gfu Consumer & Home Electronics GmbH
Poland in the Top 10
This year, exhibitors showed their products in 26 halls with a total area of 130,000 sqm. From 48 countries came 2059 of them, including 1296 from China! From Germany – 228 companies, Korea – 165, the US – 61, and Poland – 35. We gave way to France (53 companies), the Netherlands (52), the UK. Britain (46), but of the European countries, we were ahead of the Czech Republic (6), Hungary and Ukraine (3 each), Lithuania (2) and Slovakia (1). Only 5 companies came from Japan, while 44 came from Taiwan! SpaceX and Tesla showed off their offerings for the first time (you could book a test drive in their latest electric car).
From the Polish exhibitors, the expositions of Maxcom, Lamel, TelForce One and 3mk stood out. MPM and Adler traditionally came with their white goods offerings. – We are very pleased with the exposition where we present our products, and every year we introduce at least 100 novelties that customers have the opportunity to see here,” Jerzy Krzakowski, managing director of Adler Ltd. the distributor of Adler, Camry and Mesko brands, told me. – Among them are those with whom we cooperate, but it is very important to acquire new ones. We export to 63. countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and the market is developing all the time, customers are very open to novelties. New distribution channels are being created – mainly e-commerce. Among other things, he drew my attention to the CAMRY CR 4414 multi-capsule pressure espresso machine, which can prepare 8 different types of coffee.
Once again, AKPO showed its range of cooker hoods, and for the first time, Beautifuly – exclusive beauty solutions for women. There was a lot of interest in the solutions presented by Sunen (Glovii), which provide thermal comfort for outdoor athletes in more difficult weather conditions. 2N-Everpol, representing the Blaupunkt Competence Center, also promoted its own brand, Prime3, at the fair. For me, a peculiar curiosity was the exposition of the Warsaw company Sharp Consumer Electronics – in another hall was the Sharp Be Original booth.
Unfortunately, the figures provided by the organizers regarding the number of exhibitors must be approached with some distance. Why? Well, the attention was drawn to the large booth of Maxcom, which made its half available to N’oveen (it is its shareholder)! Esperanza had two booths in different halls: at one it presented, among other things. household appliances, medical and personal care devices, such as UV and LED lamps for… nails, and on the other – computer accessories, audio equipment and car video recorders.
Action, Batna24 and Comtex had booths in the Reseller Park, set up in Hall 25 the only place providing attendees with, as the organizers stressed, a vibrant atmosphere and efficient B2B networking platform, an annual meeting place for traders and technology companies for decades. At IFA 2022, the first after the pandemic, there were almost 100 companies there, this year about 150, who presented their offerings in booths of several square meters! And there were so many visitors that I had trouble passing through.
Large can be seen better
The fairgrounds are divided into several thematic sectors. New features were the Robotics Hub, where visitors saw how devices using artificial intelligence (AI) work – at one of the stands I spotted a “smaller brother” robot that brews and sells coffee at the Warsaw Downtown train station! and the Sustainability Village, which showcased the best green innovations and smart applications to introduce its practices. And then there’s the Smart Living House, giving visitors a sense of living in a sustainable future and a CO2-neutral home!
More than 350 start-ups (more than 3 times last year’s number) presented their innovative ideas and devices at the traditional IFA NEXT Innovation Center, including Poland’s INVIS, a manufacturer of smart straps for traditional watches that enhance the user’s capabilities in the growing digital ecosystem, such as implementing contactless payments.
– Start-ups are the lifeblood of any economy and are behind many technologies that we could not live without today. That’s why it’s so important for us to make IFA Next, a bigger and better trade show, so we can highlight more amazing insights and stories,” said Oliver Merlin, managing director of IFA Management GmbH.
Far more companies showed up at the IFA Global Markets, which lasted only three days and was established in 2016. IFA’s dedicated international sourcing platform, bringing together OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), ODMs (original design manufacturers) and component suppliers from around the world. But this multitude did not surprise me, because ok. 200 companies had Shenzhen (a city in southeastern China) in their name, and approx. 120 – Ningbo (a city in eastern China, one of the largest ports in the world)!!!
Part of the display on the main exhibition grounds was the IFA Gaming Area, where eager visitors could test their skills. The decision to bring games to IFA coincides with a predicted bright future for the industry, as total game revenues are expected to grow from $227 billion in 2023. To $312 billion in 2027. (New solutions using AR/VR and the cloud are in the pipeline, and 40% of Generation Z are interested in playing games in the virtual space).
Quite a few new developments have also appeared in the area of equipment that allows people to enjoy entertainment outdoors as well, such as mobile projectors.
Technological advances, resulting in new devices and the Internet appearing on the market every now and then, have meant that companies do not wait for the next edition of the fair with their launches – as they used to. And so Kiev-based SolarGaps isn’t waiting for the war to end, and has demonstrated the world’s first manufactured smart solar blinds that can generate electricity, saving on energy bills and also reducing CO2 emissions.
The organizers emphasized the important role of Hisense and Honor, which hosted the Keynotes. The former showed a basic range of products for the home, as well as innovative technologies such as the PureFlat series of refrigerators with smart large screens It will be the third consecutive official sponsor of UEFA EURO 2024, so it was not surprising to display the tournament’s trophy. Honor, on the other hand, presented, among other things. Honor V Purse foldable smartphone, whose design mimics a fashionable handbag.
A crowd of people walked along the stands. Some of them stopped to take a closer look at the products they were interested in. But, because of their size, televisions attracted the most attention. The big “screens” that caught the eye were the 115″ Mini LED display along with a powerful multi-channel audio system (4.2.2) from TCL, the 135″ MicroLED from Vestrel, and the Neo QLED 98″ 8K and 114″ MicroLED from Samsung, which for years has had a booth actually outside the fairgrounds – in the CityCube, on Jafféstrasse. This year’s had 4,500 sqm, and the business zone had 1,550 sqm.
Once again Sony did not show its novelties (there was AIWA, which I almost forgot!), and only a few visitors were able to see Panasonic’s products, as the entrance to the booth was blocked by a friendly receptionist, whom I finally managed to convince and look “behind the scenes”, where I saw nothing interesting! And yet it wasn’t so long ago that both Sony and Panasonic each occupied almost half of a huge hall!
Not only exhibits
Traditionally, monothematic panel discussions are held during the fair, often as a kind of supplement to the escrow. Sustainability was one of the main themes this year, and many of its solutions could be seen at the Sustainability Village.
The key issues shaping this new “industry” were presented during Saturday’s panel discussions at the first IFA Leaders Summit. Christine Wörlen of Arepo Consult said that clear communication is key. – Most consumers try to assess the real return on investment, and by buying more expensive, energy-efficient appliances they can save even more money in just a few years. Christoph Wendker, vice president of the sustainability at Miele, urged the use of modular design, making the devices easier to repair, even by their buyers. Connected Living, artificial intelligence and robotics were also important topics.
In turn, diversity, equality, inclusion and the role of women in the technology industry were the main topics of a session held on September 3 on the main stage of IFA Berlin 2023. Janet Adams, chief operating officer at Singularity Net, a Dutch AI development company, explained how AI can be used to remove biases, which is important because the future of humanity depends on diversity, and greater diversity would help our world solve some of the key challenges in an era of limited resources. Diversity helps drive innovation, studies show, but women make up only a quarter of the total workforce in IT-related professions. And pilot and engineer Dr. Sarah Qureshi, CEO and co-founder of Pakistani research and development company Aero Engine Craft Private Ltd, which developed the first generation of environmentally friendly, streak-free aircraft engines, said in a session on the advancement of women leaders in the professional hierarchy: – The professions must be gender-neutral. This is not about a “man vs. woman” fight, because it was. What should matter most is professionalism, and the world needs more role models to change the perception of what women can achieve.
Of course, for more than 182,000. people from 138 countries (visitors and professionals), the most important thing was the exhibits, many of which could be carefully viewed and even taken in hand. Did they satisfy them? Electronic and appliance stores will provide the answer. We have to wait a bit for them. But this year in Berlin no technological novelties were shown!
September 6-10, 2024. We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the IFA fair. I wonder, and I’m not the only one, in what form they will be organized: will they be open to everyone or only a select few, such as professionals and journalists? And above all: will the organizer find them worthwhile? We’ll see.