Wow, what another great IFA. In its 59th year, the show exceed last year’s 1,800+ exhibitors and 244,000+ attendees and continued to be cemented in the calendar as the leading showcase of the technology industry for trade and consumers.
The consumer goods market in Europe is significant and for the first half of 2019 was worth €450bn, down 2% and forecasted to remain flat in the second half at €1.011tn. However, the stats still define Europe as the second largest technology market with a 25% share, behind China at 27% with North America third with a 19% share.
The speed of change in product innovation, and the increase in channels to sell these products in line with customer needs, is not losing pace. While there was no great fanfare of a new technology announcement, what was evident was how innovation and invention are evolving into the mainstream. This included the next generation of Web Operating Systems, 5G devices and AI developments, all designed to achieve a more proactive ecosystem which enables all devices and appliances in the home to be connected more efficiently.
One of the key focuses this year more than ever was the prevalence of voice control / AI controlled products. Almost every brand and category has either one or both of the two leading voice assistants becoming inbuilt and connected, increasing the smart home ecosystem across almost every device, MDA and wearable.
The adoption of AI amongst all age groups is on the increase with 31% of millennials owning three or more connected devices and rapidly increasing across all generations as ‘our’ trust increases in the technology and privacy fears are addressed through tougher regulatory measures. Apparently it would take you on average 73 days to read all the Ts & Cs you’ve signed up for online and even then we don’t have a clue what we’ve agreed to. Tougher regulation is essential to protect our data and how brands use the data we willingly offer up.
The smart home market is growing, but for many, the smartphone is still key when controlling smart home elements. However, when looking at energy and lighting controls, 32% use a smart speaker. Whilst 15% of UK consumers say it is “essential” for new smart home devices to connect with a smart speaker/ home hub, 32% say “I would be open to trying shopping via voice and a smart speaker”, whereas only 20% say “shopping by voice with a smart speaker would be much more convenient than the ways I shop currently”.
JBL who have shipped over 100 million speakers globally and launched the #100mSmiles campaign made clear their intentions to dominate by understanding the market better than many, having identified that 70% of consumers would like an audio device with the possibility to control their environment to create the right ambience while listening to music. They also had a nod with ‘green’ credentials in the smart device category, which may be a first, launching the Flip 5 Ocean & Forest, a connected speaker made from 90% recycled plastic.
LG were really rather forward thinking at this year’s IFA Future Talk and identified the ‘silver generation’ as a potential growth area for technology, however it accepts that trust within this generation is a barrier. It also focused on the need for simplicity, which is self-evident from products that were once considered cutting edge and are now defunct. Thinking about how difficult it was to program a VCR. It was a challenge and now this challenge is eradicated because we just talk to the devices to fulfil the same function.
The connected market is on the increase, no question and this extends to white goods with 11.4% of all MDA’s sold in Western Europe being connected, up from 4.8% in the same period back in 2016. When you consider that in Q4 2018 connected MDAs in Asia Pacific accounted for 26.5% of all MDAs sold, there is still growth opportunities for brands and retailers in the European market.
There’s been a lot of hype around 5G and this was also evident at IFA 2019, and while autonomous vehicles will rely on the technology in the future, more immediately 5G is a transformative technology for the home. As it’s spearheading a multi-dimensional world connecting appliances, brands and people in real time with its fast bandwidth and reduced latency. Take a look around your home. There’s already numerous appliances that rely on a strong wireless connection to work, from virtual assistants to laptops – and without it everything comes to a halt. 5G will provide an alternative to fixed wireless internet making things connect quickly, nicely and simply. From rural areas where broadband speeds are poor to urban areas where speeds can suffer from congestion; 5G will enhance the possibilities for a smarter home, streets, towns and cities.
Autonomous vehicles were more evident this year and as we draw closer to the reality that we may get driven rather than drive ourselves, acceptance is increasing. In essence cars will become more than a means to get from A to B, enabling the passenger to do more. An interesting take on this reality, again by LG, was asking what are we going to do with our time whilst being transported? Well LG want to entertain you by making that now redundant windscreen become a TV screen that you can cast to and watch, work, play or shop. Imagine being driven autonomously and be surrounded by the convenience of technology that enables you to carry on as you would do at home or in the office. The safety concerns are evident as highlighted by Tyron Louw, Research Fellow at the Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds: “Nobody knows for sure how the world will look in five years, yet we are all under pressure to prepare for that future. Driverless cars merge two imperfect systems – humans and automation – to anticipate new types of road accidents.”
However, with the advent of 5G, autonomous vehicles on our streets, not just in major cities, is certainly not fantasy and definitely reality within the next decade.
The consensus at SHIFT, the two-day convention at IFA Berlin exploring the Future of Mobility was clear: “Electric vehicles will be a key part of the future of mobility, but they are not the only solution. Instead, smart cities and autonomous vehicles will be key components of our “mobility-as-a-service” future, where cars are just one component of a broad mix of transport modes that we are using.
“While there was no doubt among participants that autonomous vehicles would soon become reality, they were split on how this would affect the world’s car culture.”
Other trends away from true innovation saw many brands tapping into the increasing esports market. Acer launched Planet9, an open gaming community platform and others have negotiated tenuous link ups such as Beko with League of Legends and Samsung with Fortnite. All no doubt designed with a view to ride the increasing esports wave and appeal to Millennials and Generations Z and Alpha. The global market for gaming hardware is on the rise as a result of its appeal and new ease of access assisting in a forecasted 14% increase in 2019 with an estimated value of €12.4bn.
Whilst IFA is all about innovation and showcasing the future, I must admit I do enjoy a bit of nostalgia and my favourite throwback product came from Sony with the Walkman 40th Anniversary edition. A welcome reminder from Sony on how they as the innovators once changed how we listened on the move and created a category in the process that everybody copied and developed to be better or worse depending on your opinion.
IFA is not just about showcasing technology, it’s also about defining how we as human beings could or will live better lives through the adoption and acceptance of innovation. Long may IFA continue to enable and encourage the creativity of brands to define the technology of the future.