Tag Archives: Berlin

Smart at the home heart

Gekko’s managing director, Daniel Todaro reports from IFA 2020 in Berlin on the latest in smart tech home appliances and the evolutionary trends in IoT

IFA 2020 is a much smaller, intimate socially distanced affair in Berlin. The event organisers have done a superb job at keeping the CE industries key event open all be it, not to the general public.

The Corona effect has impacted the industry at a global level and as we come out of having spent quite possibly the longest continued time than normal in our own homes, consumer’s desire for new technology to enhance their space has grown. The industry knows this and my business has seen this since retail reopened with an average conversion to sale of over +60% and ABV increase by +10%.

Drivers to purchase range from replacement to upgrade, desiring the latest in smart CE to complement the extra time we are now spending at home but also just in case we are forced to spend another lengthy lockdown in our cribs.

One of the long-term effects of lockdown has been that people are now spending more time at home, by choice, centred around the kitchen meaning that more of what we consume needs to be made or prepared using technology. This extends to how we wash, not only those pots, pans, crockery etc. but also how we clean our clothes and our homes, in addition to working from home and socialising. Brands within the category have jumped to the call of more innovation, more integration, and more space. The design of the home is evolving faster due to Coronavirus making consumers keen to enhance their quality of life at home through smart technology whilst not compromising on aesthetics.

Designing f or the new normal
A brand that seems to have designed to meet this challenge post lockdown is BSH, which has added not only smart technology to its range but also a third shelf in its dishwashing range. It’s also increased the size of its freezers with an extra 26cm of cubic space. Its neat invention, Connected Cookit, is a multifunction food processor with cooking functions that cooks up to 200 degrees. It’s a slow cooker, but not as you know it – it makes it, cooks it and connects to your voice assistants and your smart devices so you can control it remotely. This connectivity extends to BSH ovens, dishwashers etc. from your Fitbit whilst you venture out for a run meaning that you can still be in the kitchen, when you’re not.

Innovations include changing hues of ambient lights on hoods, dishwashers etc. to match your mood or interior and also programming your coffee machine to make the perfect cup of coffee just as you, your family and your guests like it, bringing the barista out in you.

Investment in R&D is the key shout out across all brands showcasing at IFA this year. Amongst the largest was $100bn from Huawei who are committing to developing technologies encapsulated in an initiative called ‘1+8+N seamless connected living’ on which Huawei is in the first chapter and that enable a connected future for all. In reaction to the US sanctions imposed on Huawei and those who worked with the brand, Huawei have risen to the challenge admirably engaging directly with almost 460m monthly active users, 33m in the EU alone. The App Gallery is the third largest app store globally, increasing 76% YOY naturally due to the loss of Google services meaning Huawei users have limited choice but to do so. Petal search, the new search engine from Huawei, now has over 100m users with 81,000 apps integrated. Relevant apps are on the platform meaning that whatever the USA government tried to do to dampen Huawei has backfired and served to make the brand stronger in the market.

The investment extends into retail, where others fear to tread, Huawei are leading the charge and opening eight flagship stores across major cities such as London, Paris, Milan which will be complemented by 42 experience zones that offer a user experience unrivalled so they claim.

Another Chinese brand making significant noise is Haier, which also owns Hoover, Candy and GE Appliances wants to be 100% connected throughout its portfolio of products. Currently they have 18 families of products that they are developing through app and voice connectivity, “democratic connectivity” according to its CEO, Zhang Ruimin. With a three-brand strategy of Candy delivering Value, Hoover as the core and Haier as premium. Candy, positioned in the market by its parent company as ‘affordable, smart, Italian’ claims to have 1.2 million paired products and 30% active users which in 2019 it recorded that 21% of Candy users were launching a washing cycle using its smart home facility, a multiple of 3 YOY and still growing.

Nova by Candy is a fully connected washing machine powered by your smartphone. The first of its type with one single button to control the MDA but also learning about your usage and making recommendations to enable consumers to wash smarter and ecologically

Impressively it is claimed by Hoover that they sell globally a stick vacuum every minute. The new range will also be connected. H-Wash will scan your label via your smartphone and your connected Hoover H-Wash 500 will select the best program for your laundry. Now that means anyone can do the laundry.

A breath of fresh air
H-Habitat air purifier, connected of course, will assess the quality of air in your home, the weather forecast, pollution stats, pollen count and adapt your purifier to react according to the need within your home. Gathering internal and external air data through the H-Scanner, which activates the robotic vacuum to clear dust and the air purifier to adapt the air quality in your home.

Positioning Haier as a premium brand and claimed to be the fastest growing premium brand (in this category) through creating innovations such as antibacterial laundry and five door cooling each with adjustable temperature zones. Did you know that Haier makes wine storage solutions? They are linking with the Vivino app to help you with how you should store any bottle of wine. By scanning the label, the app will automatically update the temperature of the storage to suit your choice of wine!

The trend at IFA 2020, it would seem, is that every brand is seeking to be the first choice for consumers to integrate with your smart home. It’s fair to say that the big news came predominantly from the MDA sector amongst others.

To read the full article please visit PCR.

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Show review: impressive tech from IFA 2019

PCR IFA blog

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.

To read the full article please visit PCR.
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