IFA, one of the world’s chief assemblies of industry titans in the consumer electronics and home appliance space, will be kicking off shortly in Berlin. Like CES, IFA is a critical international technology event in which the biggest industry players show off their wares and share their respective visions of where the market is headed and how it will impact the lives of consumers. This year’s event opens to the media on August 29th and welcomes the public from August 31st through September 5th.Bigger than 2017… much bigger To wrap some numbers around just how large the IFA event is, consider this: the Smart Home section of this year’s event (focused on products that promote “comfortable living”) will feature 70 exhibitors from 15 countries, and consume over 9,000 square feet of the venue. Another key area of the IFA event is the 11,000 square foot iZone—essentially a colossal, international meeting place for developers, buyers, and sellers, from 90 companies and 25 countries. Finally, in response to the rising popularity of fitness and health wearables, IFA will feature 9,000 square foot “Fitness and Activity” section, showcasing products from 28 exhibitors across 12 countries. The company exhibitor attendee list is a virtual who’s who of the consumer electronics and technology space: LG, Samsung Electronics , Sony , Miele, Krups, Targus, Fitbit, Casio, Garmin, TomTom, Qardio, and more. What should we expect from this year’s IFA event? In a brief conversation I had with Jens Heithecker, IFA’s Executive Director, he predicted that IFA will unveil more connected products than ever before, with smart “digital assistant” functionalities that touch just about every aspect of consumer life. Interestingly, while the smart home/home automation categories are enjoying enviable sales growth in the United States and other parts of the world, Europe seems to be more aggressively embracing the connected home in the kitchen and laundry room. The glue that holds the connected home together are solutions that feature integration with popular digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. In this regard, Heithecker made the astute observation that while Amazon.com and Google are the clear leaders in this space, they each have unique advantages. Amazon is strong in e-commerce and retail, while Google excels in integrating its digital assistant technology with TVs. This could be advantageous, since the TV is generally the focal point in most homes’ living rooms. Heithecker also said that while there is growing suspicion among consumers about the negative attributes of social media, he does not believe that this skepticism is directly impacting the enthusiasm consumers have for connected home devices and solutions. Still, Heithecker emphasized that companies like Amazon and Google should be aware of this growing dynamic. Stay tuned If the IFA Berlin event is anything remotely like the IFA Rome event I attended in April, there will be plenty of surprise product announcements. As an analyst who covers the smart home and home automation space, I’m particularly interested in the technology themes and trends that arise at the show—I’m sure some of them will diverge from what we’re seeing in the United States. I look forward to seeing everything the event has to offer and enjoying some of those famous German beers. I will report back soon—stay tuned.
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