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IFA 2014 set for expansion, digital focus and possible move into Asia

The IFA, Europe's leading consumer electronics showcase, is 90-years-old this September. According to the show's 2014 pre-launch preview, it is hoping for a bumper year while its organisers mull over possibly introducing the event to Asia.

Photo: The IFA: nonagenarian but not resting on its laurels.
The IFA: nonagenarian but not resting on its laurels.

Organisers of this year's annual electronics showcase in Berlin – the Internationale Funkausstellung (or "IFA" as is it is more commonly known) – are confident that this September's event is set to break records. Not only that, but an IFA-style show in Asia is also on the cards.

With the IFA celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, the event's organisers are understandably keen to emphasise the expo's continuing relevance. This is, after all, arguably Europe's leading consumer electronics trade show.

Speaking at the pre-launch preview for the 2014 IFA, Dr. Christian Göke, Chief Executive of Messe Berlin, the show's organiser, said this year's event will occupy around 2% more space than last year. In 2013, the show already straddled a massive 145,000 sqm.

Providing a detailed breakdown of the 2013 visitors, Göke said 241,000 visitors attended last year's show, of which 47% were international delegates. The event also saw a significant increase in attendees from Asia, with visitors from China and Hong Kong up by 52% and visitors from Japan, by 38%.

The interest from the Asia markets has, unsurprisingly, prompted the organisers to look at a possible future expansion in the East. Highlighting the possibility, Göke said: "We are scanning the Asian market and, obviously, we are looking about entering it sooner rather than later.

"Which country we go to depends on the exact concept we pursue. If we went for a solely national market, then we would obviously aim at one of Asia's major countries. If, however, we opted for a more international event, then we would only consider Hong Kong or Singapore.

"We run the largest travel show in Berlin and, six years ago, we decided to take it to Asia. We found if you want to find somewhere in Asia where trade visitors from India, China, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan are all happy to go, then you have to be in Hong Kong, Singapore or Macau.

"We are in the process of evaluating our entry into the Asian market with the IFA. I would expect us to enter the region within the next couple of years – we have not yet decided which way to go, but we will be making a decision later this year."

In terms of exhibitors at this year's IFA, Göke promised that, once again, virtually all of the major consumer electronics players will be in evidence in Berlin this year – with one notable exception. Apple will – not for the first time – be notable by its absence.

In terms of the domestic appliances, the 2014 event will be the first time all four of the major international white goods brands have been in attendance. This year, Whirlpool-owned Bauknecht has agreed to join the triumvirate of IFA regulars in the sector – BSH Home Appliances, Electrolux and Miele.

In terms of new developments, 2014 will see the introduction of CityCube Berlin, a new 12,000 sqm space within the grounds of Messe Berlin. The 6,000 sqm upper level of CityCube Berlin will play host to Samsung, with the Korean brand moving to this new location in preference to its traditional homes in Halls six and 20.

CityCube Berlin will also host the first IFA+ summit that, according to Göke, will bring together the leading thinkers and executives from the worlds of technology and content.

Photo: Göke: “scanning Asia”.
Göke: "scanning Asia".
Photo: Kamp: “digital forefront”.
Kamp: "digital forefront".

Göke said: "Just as we have pursued the development of IFA, we also want to continuously expand the IFA+ Summit, making it a leading worldwide forum. In line with this, we believe the IFA International Keynotes have already won global recognition as a platform for leading executives, as well as proving a major highlight for many professionals attending the IFA. This year, Boo-Keun Yoon, Samsung's President and Chief Executive, will give the IFA Opening Keynote."

In a clear dig at the Consumer Electronics Association, organiser of the International CES in Las Vegas, the IFA's North American rival, Göke said: "The concept of IFA is quite clear, we want to include all of our exhibitors on our exhibition site and not scattered through every hotel in the city."

Also in attendance at the pre-launch event was Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chairman of the Gesellschaft für Unterhaltungs und Kommunikationselektronik (GFU), the industry supervisory board that works in tandem with the event's organisers.

Addressing the shakedown the industry is undergoing and its impact on the IFA, Kamp said: "As well as changes in technology, we have also seen changes to the industry. A number of well-established brands, for instance, have been clearly unable to keep up with the sometimes-radical new developments in the market.

"As a result, new brands – many of them from China – have strengthened their position in the global markets. Sometimes this has happened directly, sometimes it's taken place in co-operation with established western brands.

"The IFA has reflected all of this. Since its very early days, the IFA has always been the place for experts to meet. It is the place where new standards, new technologies, new business solutions and new trends in society and in the market have been discussed.

"This year digital technologies will be at the forefront of the event. Many of these new technologies have been developed by our industry and they are now influencing virtually every aspect of contemporary society. While they offer countless new opportunities, they also pose certain risks.

"Firstly, the increasing uptake in digital media requires new approaches with regard to the building of public opinion, establishing the monetary value of online content and reaching an agreement on the cross-border sales of media rights. Secondly, the use of smartphones and tablets in everyday life clearly provides immense new opportunities within a consumer's home environment – notably telemedicine, healthy living applications, as well as comfort and energy saving installations. On the other hand, though, it does raise a number of issues related to data security and data safety.

"Thirdly, there is the issue of reaching a consensus with regard to the smart technologies that will have a direct impact on infrastructure. Most obviously, these include the expansion of broadband networks, intelligent traffic routing, smart metering, as well as the requirements for next generation standards. All of these will be discussed during the congress. We will also have on hand national and international experts from the industry, the media, politics and a variety of stakeholder sectors.

"This year's IFA will not only display what will be in the shops in the following months. It will also help define the parameters that will influence our industry in the years to come."

As a final part of his presentation, Kamp also identified the trends and products that he saw as likely to drive consumer spending in Q4 of 2014, reminding attendees that "40% of the annual business worldwide is conducted in Q4".

Among his key prediction for the top selling products among European consumers this year were:

  • Ever-larger TV screens, capable of rendering ultra-sharp UHD image quality.
  • Impressive curve-shaped displays on smartphones.
  • TV screens with true cinematic aspect ratios of 21 by 9.
  • OLED displays that will set new standards in terms of brightness and rich colours.
  • A wide range of wearable products, introducing a universe of innovative "functionality".
  • Connected audio components capable of delivering "perfect" sound.
  • A wide variety of new smartphones and tablets.
Photo: The IFA 2014: bigger, bolder and more digitally-focussed.
The IFA 2014: bigger, bolder and more digitally-focussed.

IFA 2014 will run from 5-10 September at the Berlin Exhibition Ground, Berlin, Germany. The HKTDC is organising a Hong Kong Pavilion for companies that wish to attend the event.

Simon King, Special Correspondent, Berlin


Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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