The Internationaler Funkaustellung series of trade shows held in Berlin are considered in the industry to be the biggest consumer-electronics trade show. This is even though the show used to be a two-yearly event. In my opinion, the shows are mainly used for launching equipment destined for the European and Asian markets such as PAL-system video equipment or equipment that works on 240V 50Hz AC current; whereas the Consumer Electronics Show held in Las Vegas in January is typically for launching equipment destined for North America.
Second year with appliances as part of the show
This year has been the second year that the Internationaler Funkaustellung has exhibited kitchen and laundry appliances. There is more show space dedicated to these products and an increasing amount of space has been allocated to companies selling “smallgoods” – benchtop appliances, floor care, personal care and the like. One of the main focal representative classes of device have been the so-called lifestyle appliances led by the espresso machines.
The main trend has been for the market to be driven by people replacing worn-out inefficient appliances with better, more energy-efficient appliances that suit their needs. It is mainly working on the industry’s premise of users gaining approximately 10 years of service out of the typical home appliance.
This issue also includes interest in the built-in appliances as an alternative to freestanding appliances. This may be a personal comment but It might be worth noting that the European market aren’t in to “pushing down” older appliances to secondary service such as “beer fridges”. This may be due to such things as proactive take-back and recycle programs existing in those countries as well as higher energy costs. Other interesting facts to know about this class of goods is that more appliance makers are relying on electronic circuitry rather than electromechanical means like bimetallic-strip thermostats / timers or motor-driven timers to control the appliances.
Building Automation (HVAC, security systems, “smart home”, “smart grid”)
The home-automation sector which encompasses HVAC (heating and air-conditioning) and building security hasn’t gained strength in the IFA even though there is the energy-efficient “smart-grid” impetus lurking around the corner. The main problem with this is that there ISN’T A COMMON PLATFORM for this application.
Dominance of large-screen HDTV sets
The key product of this year’s IFA was the flat-panel large-screen high-definition TV set. These have been made more cost-effective due to an oversupply of LCD screen modules because business doesn’t want to spend on LCD panels and notebooks because of the financial downturn.
More customers wore interested in large-screen lounge-room sets because of the increased activity towards digital HDTV in Europe. This was encompassing countries that were switching off analogue TV service and going “all-digital” and / or new high-definition channels “lighting up” as well as an increasing amount of HD content being produced. This has also led to a strong replacement-set market, but are older sets still being connected to set-top boxes and “pushed down” to secondary roles?
One main trend being observed was the design of LED-backlit LCD screens leading to energy efficiency and high contrast ratio compared to cold-cathode-fluorescent backlit LCD screens. There has been a fair bit of activity concerning 3D HDTV which was being promoted by the major Japanese firms, especially Sony and Panasonic. Most of the equipment was primarily prototypes showing “known-quantity” content.
As for online connectivity, the main driver for this was access to online-supplied information and entertainment in the lounge room. This has usually manifested in TVs having Ethernet sockets and software that is part of a “widget platform” and / or DLNA-compliant media playback ability. It is also being extended to BluRay players that work with BD-Live interactive content. In this case, Samsung integrated a YouTube front-end in to their BluRay player while Sony ran with two WiFi-enabled BluRay players that can be part of the DLNA Home Media Network. The fact that BD-Live compatible BluRay players are being equipped with DLNA or other network applications is to permit people who own flatscreen HDTVs that don’t have network connectivity to connect these sets to the home network and the Internet.
Mobile Internet Devices
There has been some activity on the Mobile Internet Device front even though the smartphone industry is competing with this class of device. Toshiba had released the JournE touchscreen MID while SMIT released the MID-560 Android-driven unit which works in a similar manner to Clarion’s ClarionMIND portable navigation device / MID. A Chinese outfit called Optima had introduced the Maemo MID which was driven by a Chinese-built Linux distribution. This one raised the stakes by providing integrated 3G WWAN abilities, which could appeal to carriers who want these as a way of reducing subscriber “churn”.
There may not be much in the way of home-network and IT hardware appearing at the Internationaler Funkaustellung this year but most of the endpoint devices are actually appearing in the consumer electronics devices like the flatscreen TVs.