Internationale Funkaustellung (August – Berlin, Germany) Archive

Internationaler Funkaustellung 2011 – Part 1

IFA LogoI am writing a trade-show recap about the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2011 trade show which is held in Berlin, Germany.

As I have previously mentioned on this site, the Internationaler Funkaustellung is the European launch platform for most consumer-electronics technology. Since home appliances were incorporated in this trade fair, it has outgrown itself with all of the exhibition space increasingly being booked out. They have even had to create extra floor space by incorporating extra venues or having marquees set up outside the various venues.

Appliances

Again, the IFA is a showcase for home appliances. There is still the emphasis on energy-efficient “whitegoods”, including ovens being equipped with an “eco hot-air” cooking mode for energy-efficient baking. As well, LG have introduced a washing machine with a load capacity of 12 kilograms.

As far as small appliances are concerned. there has been a lot of coffee-machine activity from most of the manufacturers and an increasing number of floor-care-appliance manufacturers are running with vacuum-cleaner “robots”. We have also seen Groupe SEB bring the Moulinex “smallgoods” brand back to the German market.

Network connectivity for appliances

But there is increased activity with connecting “whitegoods” and small appliances to the home network. This has been proven by a survey that was done in Germany by VDE(Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik ) who represent the appliance industry in that country. Here, most Germans would like to

  • live in a networked home,
  • control appliances from different locations,
  • utilise opportunities provided by smart-home technologies

They were defining “Home 2.0” as being for the “apps generation” – “there is an app for that”. One major driver for this is the smart grid which allows communication amongst devices and electricity providers to save energy costs.

Examples of this include E.ON, EnBW, eQ-3 and Miele entering into a joint venture with Deutsche Telekom to interlinking home appliances (major goods) and backbone systems (HVAC, security, etc) to Internet to achieve energy efficiency. Beurer have also fielded a network appliance system which connects their video baby monitor, bathroom scales and blood pressure monitor to home network and the Internet.

Personal Wellness

This leads me to mention that Germany’s hearing-aid association have now become part of the IFA. This is due to the hearing aid or cochlear implant being more than just an amplifier for the ear. These devices have DSP technology and this association are working on interlinking them to communications and entertainment technology that is part of the connected lifestyle in a better way than the traditional induction loop.

Computing and Communications

This field of consumer computing and communications is growing very strongly especially with the arrival of tablet computers and smartphones.

Tablets

Samsung to present Galaxy Note which has a 5.3” screen. It is intended as a device that bridges between a smartphone and a small tablet computer. They were also going to use the IFA 2011 to launch the Galaxy Tab 7 which has a 7” AMOLED screen, Android Honeycomb, 2Mp front camera and a 3Mp rear camera. There was also the Galaxy Tab 8.9 which was intended to fill the gap between the coat-pocket 7” tablet and the larger 10” that you could cradle around.

This has been limited by legal action that Apple took against Samsung concerning certain “patents on style” that Apple were jealously guarding in relation to the iPad.

Acer were using this show to launch the Iconia Tab A500/A501 series tablets which I have reviewed in HomeNetworking01.info .  As well, Viewsonic had used IFA to field their ViewPad 10 Pro which is a 10” tablet that could dual-boot between Android or Windows 7.

Sony have launched two tablet computers in a way to present themselves as a force that Apple would have to reckon with. These Android tablets are the Tablet P which has a pair of 5.5” screens that work in a similar vein to the Nintendo DS games consoles; and the Tablet S which is a standard design with a 9.4” screen.

Intenso was a name associated with data-storage technology but have fielded a low-end 8” tablet that runs Android 2.3 rather than Android Honeycomb.

Smartphones

Microsoft is intending to use the IFA 2011 event as a platform to release Windows Phone 7 “Mango” operation.

HTC is using this event to launch the Evo 3D smartphone in Europe. Here, this Android 2.3 smartphone implements an ersatz 3D effect and is the first smartphone to implement a two-stage shutter-release button. This is similar to what we have been used to with film and  digital still cameras which use auto-exposure and / or auto-focus. This is where you hold the shutter-release halfway to cause the camera to adjust itself for the shot, then press fully to take the shot.

LG have advanced a few smartphones to the European market this year. One is the Prada K2 which is a 4.3” unit running Android 2.3, equipped with 8MP camera and 1.3Mp front camera. This luxury phone also has 16Gb on board. They have also launched the Optimus Sol smartphone which has “Ultra AMOLED” display technology as well as the Optimus 7 smartphone which is based on Windows 7 “Mango”.

Samsung are using the IFA 2011 to launch a range of smartphones. One of these is the Wave III which is a 4” smartphone driven by the Bada operating system; as well as another Bada-driven smartphone that has Near-Field Communications technology.

They are also releasing newer models in the Galaxy Android-powered range. The Galaxy Y which is a 3” LCD smartphone with a 2Mp camera and Swype / TouchWiz user interfaces. The Galaxy Y Pro has the same abilities as the Galaxy Y but is equipped with a QWERTY keyboard.The Galaxy M Pro runs Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” and has a 2.66” LCD screen and a 5Mp camera. The Galaxy W has a 3.7” LCD and 5Mp camera; but will come also as a white version.

As LTE 4G wireless-broadband technology is being rolled out around Europe, Samsung are rolling out LTE versions of their Galaxy S2 and 8.9” Galaxy Tab. It is also worth noting that the Galaxy SII smartphone was caught up in the lawsuit concerning Apple’s “patent on style” and was blocked from sale in Germany.

Of course, Samsung haven’t passed Windows 7 “Mango” by. This operating system is driving the Omnia W which is a 3.7” unit as well as the Omnia 7.

Acer have released a 5” Iconia Android smartphone with 1024×480 resolution as well as a Windows Phone 7 “Mango” phone with HDIM connectivity and DLNA-compliant media playback software. Medion have also come to the Android smartphone and tablet party and, in my opinion, these could show up in one or more Aldi stores.

It is also worth noting that Deutsche Telekom are fielding the SpeedPhone 700. This is another of those fixed-line cordless phones which are designed along the same line as a smartphone and like some of these phones, it is Android-driven.

Philips have also released a range of speaker docks that are designed to work with Android phones. Unlike the iPhone speaker dock which connects to the iPhone using the proprietary dock connector, these speakers interface to the phone via a Bluetooth A2DP wireless link but provide power to the phone via a microUSB flylead.

Laptops

There is still activity on the consumer / small-business laptop front at the IFA.

Acer have used this show to launch the Aspire S3 which is the first of the new “Ultrabooks”. These 13.3” ultraportable computers are designed to be very slim and light but have a very long battery runtime. These will typically be available with solid-state drives for secondary storage and have integrated Wi-Fi as the sole network connectivity. As we know already, they are intended to “snap at the heels” of the Apple MacBook Air series of ultraportable, but have commonly-used peripheral connections.

But Acer is not alone with Samsung using this show to promote their Series 9 “ultrabooks”. Sony is also exhibiting the VAIO Z Series which have solid-state drives for secondary storage and integrated wireless broadband. These units come with a module which has a Blu-Ray reader / DVD writer as well as dedicated graphics. The VAIO Z Series is claimed to run for 14 hours on its own battery before needing to be charged.

As far as regular “new computing environment” laptops go, there has been some activity.

Toshiba had used this show to launch the Qosmio F750 multimedia laptop which is equipped with 3D display technology. As well, Acer launched the Aspire Ethos 8951G multimedia laptop which is able to be set up for comfortable video-viewing use with an optional accessory.

It is also worth knowing that Samsung are using this show to try their hand with their own “Chromebook” which is a networked notebook that runs Google Chrome OS and works “in the cloud”.

Peripherals and Software

Acer have tried their hand at a 50-Lumen microprojector which uses a single USB connection for power and data. LG have also run with the LSM-100 mouse which doubles as a scanning wand. This reminds me of those handheld scanners that you had to drag across the artwork to the scanned and required a steady hand to operate.

Kaspersky Labs have answered the call to develop security software for the MacOS platform and are now offering this software. This is because the Apple Macintosh platform is acquiring a user base that is on a par with the Windows platform due to Intel-driven Macintosh computers and the popularity of Apple iOS-powered mobile-computing devices.

Network and Internet

One major trend for Europe that is occurring is the rollout of 4G LTE high-throughput mobile broadband by most of the mobile-phone carriers. This is happening alongside various next-generation broadband rollouts that are occurring across most European communities.

Hama, a German photo-video-computer accessories brand have released a 3-in-1 router. This unit can work as a “Mi-Fi” Mobile broadband router for a Wi-Fi wireless LAN, an  Ethernet-ended broadband router for a Wi-Fi network or simply as an auxiliary Wi-Fi access point with a wired backbone. Medion have provided a 2Tb NAS but I don’t know what kind of setup or facilities it has.

Devolo have restructured their HomePlusg product lineup with three different product packages. One is the MultiConnect Set which consists of a HomePlug AV-Ethernet bridge and a HomePlug AV / 802.11n wireless access point / 3-port Ethenret switch. Another is a typical “pair of homeplugs” described as the “Internet To TV” package. They are also running a wireless laptop-TV package which uses a proprietary point-to-point link.

They have also fielded the Home TV Sat 2400CI+ which is a satellite TV setup with a HomePlug AV backbone as a credible alternative to satellite cable run to the main living area. The set-top box in this kit will also work with the DLNA Home Media Network

AVM, known for their FritzBox range of home-network routers has now re, leased the FritzApp Media DLNA media control point for Android. This is after they previously released the FritzWLAN wireless network repeater which can work as a DLNA-controlled music player. They are also reinforcing their three-stream 450Mbps 802.11n-capable FritzBox lineup,

As well, Deutsche Telekom have utilised the LTE technology to boost the Internet abilities of their rural Internet customers. Here, those customers have had their “Call & Surf Comfort” plans augmented with higher network throughput for rural wireless links (download 3Mbps now 7.2Mbps, upload 1Mbps now 3Mbps). There is no cost penalty associated with these upgrades. Here, this is a step for German country dwellers having real proper Internet service.

Seagate have used this platform to launch their GoFlex Satellite wireless NAS for iDevices and I have touched on this device before on this site.

Stay tuned for more on the Internationaler Funkaustellung 2011 in the next part of this series.

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IFA Internationaler Funkaustellung 2010 Comments

IFA LogoI have previously published a separate article about the Internationaler Funkaustellung, celebrating the 50th edition of this show and “positioning” it as a pillar when it comes to consumer-electronics technology in Europe. In that article, I have also positioned it alongside the Consumer Electronics Show hosted in Las Vegas every January as a key consumer-technology event, especially whenever new technologies are being launched or commercialised. 

From the various press reports that I have read, it appears that the industry sees the European consumer-electronics and domestic appliance market as being very stable even through the Financial Crisis. 

Appliances

Since 2008, the IFA have been exhibiting domestic appliances and there is still the desire for energy efficient appliances that are easy to use and make less noise during use. 

Again, there hasn’t been any innovations concerning home-automation or security equipment shown at this exhibition. Nor has there been any activity concerning “backbone” heating or domestic-hot-water equipment. This may also be due to such equipment being provided by building owners rather than by householders. 

White-goods

There have been a few innovations concerning large appliances. This is mainly in the form of an automatic “as-needed” detergent dispensing mechanism for washing machines. 

But the main technology that this site is looking forward to is for Miele and Liebherr to release appliances that work tightly with the “smart grid”. The “smart grid” uses automatic meter reading and “time-of-use” pricing to encourage optimum use of electricity. It also integrates “demand-side load management” so that certain loads can be run with less power drain during peak power-usage times as well as support for “reverse metering” for client-managed power-generation installations like solar panels. 

In Miele’s case, their washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers can be set to commence their cycle during the time that the electricity rates are lowest. In Liebherr’s case, their refrigerator can run the freezer at a colder temperature during the time that the electricity rates are lowest so that the freezer becomes an “ice-block” thus avoiding the need to run as much during the day. 

Small-goods

This class of appliance has been mainly focused on lifestyle but there haven’t been any major innovations here. Still, the coffee machine is considered integral to most people’s lifestyle and there is still two different platforms (Nespresso and Senseo) existing for capsule-based espresso machines. 

Now this is where the real activity starts. 

Real competition to the Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and iTunes

This year, IFA 2010 has taken the shine off Apple’s face with the arrival of effective competition to the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and iTunes. This has mainly come in the form of Android-powered smartphones and tablet-style computers being supplied by different manufacturers. 

The event organisers even created a special show area for companies involved in the tablet-computing market to show their wares, whether through hardware, software or accessories. 

Samsung used this year’s IFA to launch the Galaxy Tab device which has an AMOLED display, Wi-Fi networking capability, 3G wireless broadband and has integrated memory capacity of 16Gb. They are also putting more effort behind the Android platform even though they have their hands in other smartphone platforms like Bada and Windows Phone 7. This is while other manufacturers like Lenovo and Toshiba presented devices for launch at a later time. Hanspree also fielded an LED-backlit LCD tablet computer which, like most of iPad’s competitors, is Android-powered. As well, ViewSonic had offered the ViewPad 100 which the first dual-boot tablet computer to run Android or Windows 7. 

As far as smartphones go, there is an increase in the number of Android-powered touchscreen smartphones even though Microsoft took Windows Phone 7 to the final “gold” stage where manufacturers can roll with phones based on that platform. But on September 5, LG had exhibited the Optimus 7 smartphone prototype which was powered by Windows Phone 7 and was demoing it working as a DLNA media control point application that was used to differentiate the phone from other handsets running the same platform. 

At the same time, the Apple iPod Touch has found a legitimate competitor in the form of the Philips GoGear Connect. This is a touchscreen-operated multifunction Internet device that runs on the Android platform. Similarly, Samsung have provided an iPod Touch competitor with their Galaxy Player 50. This device is styled similarly to their Galaxy-series Android smartphones in a similar vein to how the iPod Touch and the iPhone were styled. 

Sony has also answered iTunes as a content store by offering Qriocity as an online-content-retail platform. 

Apple tried to answer this competitive environment by staging their own product-launch event that was ran concurrent with the IFA. This is where they launched iTunes 10 which was a major revision featuring their own social network and extending the AirTunes concept which worked with AirPort Express to select AV-device manufacturers like Denon and rebranding it AirPlay. They also launched a revised iPod Touch which has many of the traits of the iPhone 4 and rolled out a major refresh of iOS 4. 

There has been a fair bit of activity in the “dedicated” e-reader market mainly from Acer, who were fielding their Lumiread e-reader and Sony who were fielding three readers. 

3D and network action in the TV market

2010 is the year of TV innovations 

2010 ist Jahr der Fernsehinnovationen 

 

Der Standard (Austria) described this year’s IFA 2010 as “2010 is the year of TV innovations” (“2010 ist Jahr der Fernsehinnovationen” – original German language). 

This year is also a major technological-improvement year for the main-lounge-area TV. Here, there has been a major effort in commercialising 3D TV and Internet-enabled TV. Most manufacturers are running at least one 3DTV range and running two or three TV ranges with network and Internet functionality. This is because the market is demanding 3D playback and / or online video functionality out of main-lounge-area TV sets or video peripherals. 

There is even the possibility of MSI introducing a 3D-capable laptop computer. As well,Viewsonic is to use the show to launch a 3D photo frame, camera, camcorder and portable TV as part of cashing in on the 3D craze. As well, Sony had launched a 3D home-cinema projector but would this unit need a special screen and Panasonic has also fielded a high-end camcorders capable of 3D when used with an optional attachment lens. 

At the moment, most 3D TVs and active-shutter glasses only work together if they are from the same manufacturer, but what needs to happen is for a standard communications protocol to be established so that it becomes feasible for 3D screens from one manufacturer to work with active-shutter glasses from another manufacturer. This can allow for concepts like glasses that “look the part” for the wearer or the ability to make active-shutter glasses to an optical prescription so you don’t have to wear them over your prescription glasses. 

The Internet-TV function is based upon the TVs having an Ethernet socket and, dependent on the set, 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless network functionality whether integrated or as a plug-in dongle. They will work on a manufacturer-driven platform to provide streamed or on-demand local content via the Internet infrastructure, although some manufacturers, namely Sony, are implementing Google as an Internet-TV platform. Of course, most of these sets will support DLNA media streaming from the home network if you use your home network’s NAS device to store TV shows. 

This has been augmented by the HbbTV “broadcast-broadband” hybrid TV standard being set in stone by the European standards bodies. This will also lead to Internet content and broadcast TV content being delivered to the same screen at the same time and can cater for highly-interactive viewing setups. It has also been encouraged by most of the European ISPs and telecoms carriers offering IPTV services as part of their triple-play Internet services. 

Philips have released a DLNA-capable 3D-Blu-Ray “home-theatre-in-box” system that has 5 satellite speakers and 1 subwoofer but is able reproduce a sound-field of 9.1 channels. This has been achieved through the satellite speakers being equipped with diffuse drivers to make the sound envelope the listeners.  They hava also made sure that this year’s range of 3D Blu-Ray players are DLNA capable with the BDP9600 being equipped with integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi. 

Other AV technology

Acer have achieved the slimmest desktop monitors around with their 13mm thick LED-backlit LCD units. As well, South Korea’s LG had shown the EL9500 which is a 31” OLED TV and are releasing a DLNA-ready 3DTV which uses nano-LED backlighting. 

Samsung have also continued to push out another compact digital camera which can submit photos to DLNA home networks. 

For Denon, this show marks their 100th anniversary and they were using it to launch a set of limited-edition hi-fi components. 

Telefunken have come back to the hi-fi scene with a handful of component-style systems. One of these systems, designed like the legendary Telefunken units of the 1970s, is designed to be part of the home network and also picks up Internet radio. They are also offering an Android-powered set-top box for the German market. 

Fraunhofer IIS had previewed their TA2 (Together Anywhere Together Anytime) technology. This technology allows for  HD-grade pictures and CD-grade sound for videoconferencing with H.264 video codec and AAC-ELD (Enhanced Low Delay AAC) audio codec. It could be supportive of large-screen TVs with integrated camera and microphone for videoconferencing like the recent Skype-enabled TVs that Panasonic, LG and Samsung had released. 

Conclusion

At least this year has become one of those big years that has concerned consumer technology and yielded many innovations. It has encouraged real competition against Apple when it comes to handheld computing devices and has provided a standard level playing field when it comes to Internet-assisted interactive TV.

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Special Report – A Celebration of the 50th Internationaler Funkaustellung

This year is a very special year as far as one of the two annual “pillar” trade shows for consumer electronics is concerned. It is going to mark the 50th time the Internationaler Funkaustellung, the premier trade show for consumer-electronics in Europe, has been hosted. Miss IFA 2010 with 50th IFA logo

What is the Internationaler Funkaustellung?

The Internationaler Funkaustellung, also known as the IFA, is a German trade show which was primarily centred on consumer entertainment electronics but is now also focusing on major and small appliances intended for personal or domestic use. It was initially a way for Germany to show its radio technology prowess when the medium was just to become a commercial reality.

This used to be an event held between August and September of every second year but is now held annually between the same months. It had existed since 1924 but was suspended through World War II as Germany focused its efforts on the war. It was initially hosted in Berlin but was hosted in different larger cities around Germany including West Berlin even when the nation and that city was divided.

Initially, this was used by German consumer-electronics manufacturers to promote their wares and Loewe, one of the German names associated with luxurious TV sets, has been with this show ever since it started.  As the consumer-electronics scene became more international, this trade fair became more international and also became larger.

An important step in the presentation of new technology

I have seen this show in the same league as the Consumer Electronics Show in the USA as being one to watch when it came to consumer electronics. Typically, this show would be where consumer-entertainment technologies that were relevant to Europe, Australia or New Zealand were premiered or commercialised.

Micro Hi-Fi component systems at IFA 1981

Micro Hi-Fi component systems

Radio – TV – Tape Recording – Hi-Fi – Stereo Sound – FM stereo – Microgroove (LP / 45) records – Cassettes – Colour TV – Dolby NR – Teletext – Enhanced Radio Technologies (ARI traffic information priority, RDS with textual display of station metadata) Home Video – Compact Discs –Stereo TV, Hi-Fi Video and Home Theatre –  MiniDisc –  DVD – Digital Radio – Digital TV – Satellite Navigation – HDTV – 3DTV

You name it, it was either premiered or had its European commercial launch here

Teletext display at IFA 1979

Teletext - a predecessor to interactive TV

Of course, this show gave other countries like the USA a look-see in to the consumer-electronics and broadcasting technologies that were in “full swing” in Germany but weren’t being launched or given a commercial chance in the home country. One example was Teletext which allowed TV stations to transmit textual information alongside their video signal, with the end-user being able to call up the information on to the screen of a suitably-equipped TV set using its remote control. Another example was the ARI traffic-information-priority technology where a suitably-equipped car radio could be set to play traffic announcements at a louder volume than the rest of the programme material or tune for only those stations that run the announcements regularly.

Now including domestic appliances and personal care

Since 2008, the organisers had decided to make the IFA show encompass domestic appliances as well as consumer electronics. It was initially a small area of the show but this class of goods increased in its share of the show’s floor space. This even led towards the effective amalgamation of a European home-appliance trade fair with this one in 2009 with this fair become the European universe of all consumer electronic and electrical devices. This trend hasn’t been reflected in the Consumer Electronics Show in the USA, mainly because of a trade-specific fair that covers this class of goods sold in that market or other market-specific reasons.

This was symbolic of a new trend with such appliances being not just a functional element in one’s life but a stronger part of one’s lifestyle. It also included the desire for consumers to buy the major appliances that are more resource efficient, especially as governments are using tax breaks, “scrappage” / “cash-for-clunkers” schemes and similar programs like to assist in this goal.

As well, the last financial crisis has encouraged an increase in “at-home” time and the industry is taking advantage of the fact by integrating small appliances like espresso machines as a way of mimicking the environment of being “out-and-about”.

Relevance to the home and small-business IT world

Over the last ten years, the home network has become an integral part of the consumer lifestyle, especially as “always-on” broadband Internet has become commonplace and the number of multiple-computer households increases. The IFA show has then become a showground for manufacturers to exhibit devices like broadband routers and network-infrastructure equipment as well as desktop and laptop home computers.

Infact, the Wi-Fi-equipped laptop computer and the Wi-Fi wireless home network has become more important over these years thanks in part to the Intel Centrino campaign which emphasised the laptop computer being part of one’s lifestyle. Similarly, mobile phones have become Internet-enabled multi-function devices that can work either with the cellular telephony infrastructure or with a Wi-Fi network. This concept has been spurred on by the recent crop of Nokia phones and the Apple iPhone.

As well, the arrival of file-based media playback, spurred on my MP3 digital audio players, has integrated the computer and the home network as an integral part of the home entertainment system. This functionality was initially in the form of separate devices but has ended up becoming another function of regular audio and video playback hardware and has been enhanced by the use of standards-based technologies like DLNA. Therefore most consumer-electronics firms are using this show to launch or exhibit product models or ranges that feature this ability. Similarly most computer companies are exhibiting network-attached-storage devices that can hold multimedia files and share them around the house.

This concept has extended in to the realm of Internet-based broadcasting where radio or TV content can be obtained live or on-demand from a content-provider’s Website. This has made consumer electronics companies and others work out ways to bring this content forward to TV sets and hi-fi systems without an intimidating and unwieldy device or user interface.

An interesting comparison

  Exhibitors Floor Space (square metres) Visitors
1924 242 3,300 180,000
2010 1.423 134,400 230,000

 

Conclusion

IFA Logo

This is a way of celebrating how this show has become a “pillar” trade fair as far as consumer electronics and technology in the European market is concerned.

All press photos and logos are copyright of Messe Berlin GmBH.

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IFA Internationaler Funkaustellung 2009 Comments

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”.

Conclusion

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.

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