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IFA 2019 attracts 245,000 big international contingent

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IFA Berlin has achieved a new all-time high for international attendance, with more than 50 percent of trade visitors coming from abroad. The event attracted nearly 2,000 exhibitors and 245,000 visitors, solidifying its reputation as the biggest consumer technology event in the world by number of visitors. CES in Las Vegas remains bigger in terms of floor space and exhibitors.

Three big technology trends dominated IFA across both consumer electronics and home appliances: voice, artificial intelligence and connectivity, especially given the rapid roll-out of high-speed, high bandwidth 5G mobile networks.

Two IFA Keynotes – by Huawei CEO Richard Yu and Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon – focused on how 5G-connectivity can push the power of artificial intelligence to the very edge of computing – in the devices, into vehicles and into industrial applications.

Anthony Wood, the CEO of Roku – which powers one third of all set-top boxes in the United States – used his keynote to outline his vision of how online streaming will dominate the TV experience, and announced his company’s expansion to the UK, with plans to move to other European countries as well. Hakan Bulgurlu, the CEO of Arçelik, dedicated his keynote to demanding industry action against climate change and plastic waste.

IFA’s innovation hub – IFA NEXT – also set new records with more start-ups and innovation leaders than ever spread across two halls, alongside research institutes from countries like Germany, Japan and Korea. This year, IFA NEXT hosted Japan as its first Global Innovation Partner country; the Japan pavilion was showcasing the newest ideas and innovations for how machines and humans can interact.

Keita Nishiyama, Director General of Commerce and Information Policy – Bureau, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says “We hope that Japan’s Interface with Consideration and Sensibility has inspired IFA visitors to embrace the future and continue on the path of innovation. As the first partner country of IFA NEXT – we look forward to staying in touch with you. Please follow us as Ninja does!”

Once again, IFA Berlin lived up to its reputation as the world’s most important trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances.

“As an important driving force for trade and industry and the world’s most important platform for consumer electronics and home appliances, IFA 2019 met the high expectations. With its large number of innovations, it has a positive influence on the mood in the international markets. With an unexpectedly stable high order volume in regard to the current market situation, the foundation was laid for a successful year-end business,” explains Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of IFA organizer gfu Consumer & Home Electronics.

“We are satisfied with the results of IFA 2019. Accordingly, the household appliance industry is optimistic about the future. This year too, IFA has strengthened its position as the world’s significant trade show for home appliances and made a positive contribution to the market development,” states Dr. Reinhard Zinkann, Chairman of the ZVEI.

The CEO of Messe Berlin, Dr. Christian Göke says IFA had once again shown the “power of co-innovation, where inventors in different sectors and industries inspire each other.” He warned that trade wars, trade barriers and political barriers would harm consumers not just by making products more expensive, but by slowing down innovation itself. Picking up a theme developed in one of IFA’s most famous keynotes, by Albert Einstein in 1930, Dr. Göke said that in today’s day and age Einstein would probably “call on the best and the brightest minds in the world, whoever they are, and wherever they live, whichever country they call their home, to pool their knowledge and co-innovate to create a better world.”

IFA Executive Director Jens Heithecker was hugely impressed by the level of innovation: “As the number of exhibitors has grown, so did the quality and quantity of innovations as well as the number of product premieres that were shown here in Berlin for the first time.”

Global media attendance has gone up yet again; the journalists coming to Berlin work for media organisations covering 160 countries around the world. This shows how important IFA is in the calendar for technology and lifestyle journalists. This year, IFA attracted some 2.800 international journalists from around the world.

Among the broadcasters reporting from IFA Berlin were Al Jazeera from the Arab Emirates, NDTV from India, Nine Network from Australia, the BBC from the United Kingdom, IBA International from Israel, TEKNAVI from Finland, CNBC from the USA, CGTN / CCTV, Global Times as well as the Phoenix Group from China. From France teams from Eurosport, 01net TV, LCI, BFM TV, OUATCH.tv, France 24 and ES 1 reported on the latest IFA news. News agencies such as AP and Reuters were represented, alongside public broadcasters working through the EBU and private broadcasters cooperating through ENEX.

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Building Africa’s Century

The 4th industrial revolution will be on the agenda of this week’s Gartner IT Symposium in Cape Town. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa, ponders its meaning for Africa

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Is this Africa’s Century, as President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the recent WEF on Africa gathering? I believe so. The event made solid headway in charting a course forward for African-centric solutions to our challenges. 

Technology featured often in discussions and the 4th Industrial Revolution was a central theme. Many of the outcomes also tied to a more connected digital world. But those are the broad strokes. What happens next?

An important avenue can be found in all the individual investments made inside societies, such as broadband. The spread of connectivity is in part due to telecommunications firms being mandated by the Government to reach rural and under-serviced communities. But the major momentum behind broadband stems from demand. From individuals to enterprises, a hungry broadband market has helped South Africa become much more connected.

This paradigm applies to other technology investments as well. All of them add up to support the ideas and advancements that were discussed at WEF on Africa. The need for better services and performance through technology stokes the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s engine. Every network, every datacentre, every smartphone is a piece of the puzzle that will create Africa’s Century.

We are further along the curve than most people realise. If I can judge a country’s potential based on how digitally mature its organisations are, then South Africa is not in bad shape. Earlier this year, the annual Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index ranked South Africa in the top ten, ahead of most developed nations. The investments made by the Public and Private sectors are taking root. 

It may not make headlines, but all these individual ambitions pointing in the same direction are building the change we all want to see.

This brings me to the Gartner IT Symposium Xpo, the business-technology event taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 to 18 September. If WEF on Africa challenged for solutions at a high level, then the Gartner Symposium is where those individual investments come into play.

The nitty-gritty of the 4IR era will be on the Symposium agenda. Research by World Wide Worx on the uptake of 4IR technologies among South African enterprises will be presented tomorrow (Tuesday) by one of the company’s data analysts, Bryan Turner.

I also anticipate discussions about multi-cloud. Cloud has grown tremendously as African organisations saw the progress that came with investing in it, connectivity and data – the core ingredients of the 4IR era. Now they are looking ahead to what can be done next: that multi-cloud is on the agenda shows how Africa’s technology capability is growing.

Unified workspaces will be another good conversation topic. What happens in the office doesn’t stay in the office. Our technology habits follow us home and, more often, our home habits follow us to the office. This makes perfect sense, because 4IR is primarily about people being empowered by technology. Our workplace technology habits are microcosms of our overall use of technology.

Multi-cloud is the ‘infrastructure’ of the 4IR conversation and the workplace is where these technologies deliver some of their value. Considerable buzz is growing around unified workspaces, which make office environments more manageable and secure while reshaping them to fit the needs of modern employees.

Stop by the Dell Technologies stand and see how we’re helping create that momentum with multi-cloud, unified workspaces and through many other channels, including skills development and supporting SMMEs to grow.

How do we create Africa’s Century? Through those individual investments that collectively stoke the engines of our country and continent. It’s not just for the big players: 4IR can provide for every organisation regardless of size. Those investments are investments in the future of Africa.

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PayPal pictures how the future will be won – or lost

By AAYUSH SINGHANIA, director of Commercial Operations for PayPal Cross-Border Trade Markets

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There’s no doubt that technology has already re-shaped the way the world thinks about buying and selling. Who would have thought twenty years ago that people would be shopping on their phones?

Despite the huge changes to the shopping experience in recent years, it’s important to understand that we are only part-way through this journey. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and as technologies continue to advance, and we as a society adapt our behaviours, new opportunities and risks will present themselves to merchants of all sizes.

Here is where I see the future of commerce being won and lost, as we continue on this technology journey:

Meeting ever-increasing demand for personalised experiences

We’ve already witnessed the transition of commerce from brick and mortar to the web, and then from the web to mobile. The next phase of internet-connected devices will make commerce even more contextual whereby anything you can interact with can be a platform for commerce. Imagine being able to point your phone at your best friend’s shoes, and almost instantly they are in your shopping cart, ready to be delivered to your home?

Mobile has already made shopping an “all the time” activity and has given us a taste of what it’s like to have hyper-personalised experiences. While a consumer walking into a retail store is limited by physical space, the online world offers an unlimited shelf for merchants to deliver tailored customer experiences. Looking ahead, innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning hold great promise to further deliver on this hyper-personalisation, by being able to learn about who a consumer really is as a person and their individual preferences.

As a result of this evolution, customers have moved from being surprised and delighted by personalised experiences to expect them in every context. Many customers, for example, now get frustrated when they receive advertisements for products that they’ve already bought, or have no interest in. This shift has made it critical for merchants to avoid delivering homogenous experiences to shoppers who demand personalised interactions across all contexts. In doing so, it’s important that merchants find a balance between personalising their offerings and ensuring consumers don’t feel their privacy is being invaded. Shoppers want to feel like a brand understands them, but isn’t stalking them, particularly in the wake of several high-profile data breaches.

Closing the consumer fulfilment gap to deliver seamless experiences

With new advancements in technology comes the ability to create seamless customer experiences that narrow the gap between customer desire and fulfilment. Gone are the days where shoppers decided to purchase an item and they were happy to wait a week to receive it – for many, two-day shipping still isn’t quick enough. The invention of the internet meant people could shop from home, and recently we’ve seen this evolve further where consumers prefer to shop on-the-go via mobile.

The big question is, what’s next? We’re already seeing the growth of commerce through technologies like AI-enabled voice assistants and virtual reality, so it’s critical that merchants keep pace with innovations that enable them to close the gap between desire and purchase in a delightful way.

At the end of the day, businesses need to remember that the act of filling up a cart and the process of checking out is not the fun part of making a purchase – these are points of friction – and technology is the answer to removing these frustrations for customers.

Managing customer reactions to technology disruption

Every tech disruption in its early days delivers excitement, fear, anxiety and doubt – not necessarily in that order. We all go through a phase of tech humanisation, because technology grows as we do – and we help shape the development of new solutions.

Technology has been used for good and bad, and technology that causes eye-raising experiences at the start will generally normalise in time. Remember the first video cameras on phones? As people learned how to use the technology, content got posted that shouldn’t have. Everything from the telephone, to radio and the television all caused concern and were initially criticised when first introduced to the public, but with time they’ve become part of our everyday lives.  As technology evolves, companies learn from it, and the acceptance and humanisation of technology will take place for both consumers and merchants as new innovations are applied to the world of commerce.

Merchants need to have a mindset that’s focused on being a customer champion, while recognising that customers need to adapt to new technologies in their own time. To do this, businesses must leverage technology to build the right features that aren’t intrusive, but geared towards helping people, and respect the customer’s choice to turn technology on or off.

Technology innovation will continue to re-shape commerce in the years ahead, with the potential to deliver new growth opportunities for merchants, and offering customers more choice, convenience, value and instant gratification. In a broader sense, these innovations can also help promote employment by breaking down traditional barriers to buying and selling. For merchants, the opportunities will arise, they just have to know how to take advantage of them in the right way.

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