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IFA Preview Highlights Focus on Innovation and Component Suppliers

Billed as the world's leading trade show in the consumer-electronics and home-appliances sector, this year's IFA event promises to turn the spotlight on industry innovators as well as electrical-component manufacturers and designers.

Photo: The smartphone: The key driver of the consumer electronics sector.
The smartphone: The key driver of the consumer electronics sector.
Photo: The smartphone: The key driver of the consumer electronics sector.
The smartphone: The key driver of the consumer electronics sector.

A recent preview of the IFA 2017 event, one of the world's leading trade shows in the consumer-electronics and home-appliances sector, gave an insight as to what exhibitors and attendees can expect when the expo returns to Berlin in September. According to Messe Berlin, the show's organiser, this year's event will feature an extended brand showcase, a new platform for innovators and the introduction of IFA Global Markets, a space dedicated to component manufacturers.

Commenting on the changes, Dr Christian Göke, the Chief Executive of Messe Berlin said: "We believe it's time to define consumer electronics in a new way. There is now a blurring of the boundaries between consumer electronics and home appliances, as well as between the digital and the physical worlds.

"Whether in the kitchen, the living room or the office, the consumerisation of devices has become exponential. This extends across a huge number of markets, including entertainment, healthcare, wellness, automotive, mobile devices, gaming and computing. It has also made an impact on a number of emerging sectors, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes, drones, and augmented and virtual reality.

"Consumer electronics now connect and shape everything. In light of this, visitors to this year's IFA will get a glimpse of how we will live and work in the future.

"In line with this, the event will have a distinct focus on brands and innovations, while the addition of IFA Global Markets will provide a new platform for companies that design, manufacture and sell components. We see these as very much the building blocks for the future development of consumer electronics and home appliances."

Billed as focussing the on the full end-to-end supply chain, from component manufacturers to OEMs and ODMs, IFA Global Markets will run for just four days of the six-day IFA event. It is scheduled to take place from Sunday 3 September to Wednesday 6 and will be held at Station Berlin, some 10km away from the primary show site. A free shuttle service will operate between the two venues.

Another new addition this year is IFA NEXT, a space focussing on innovation in all of its guises, including start-ups, research labs, universities and companies both large and small. It will also play host to a series of presentations and demonstrations, as well as the IFA keynotes, the IFA+Summit and the IFA Hosted Conferences.

Explaining the thinking behind this new addition to the event, Jens Heithecker, Executive Director of the IFA, said: "IFA NEXT puts innovation right at the heart of the show. For visitors and the media alike, it will be a unique opportunity to see many of the latest innovations under one roof."

As well as offering an insight into changes to the 2017 event, a number of presentations at the preview also provided a window on the consumer-electronics trends likely to dominate over the next 12 months. Overall, five particular innovations were identified as likely to define 2017 – ultra-slim TVs that blend with the wall, high-quality hi-fi music components offering optimised sound, 360° video cameras and voice control for both media systems and smart homes.

Expanding upon these trends, Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Gfu Consumer & Home Electronics, the trade body for Germany's consumer-electronics sector, said: "There is always room to improve the quality of TV images and, this year, there has been significant progress with regard to brightness, contrast, colour depth and viewing angles.

"Also on offer are easier-to-use interfaces, higher-performance processors and a wider range of online content. On top of that, enhanced smart functions will also offer greater automated control for the home user."

Photo: Online-led: Major Domestic Appliances.
Online-led: Major Domestic Appliances.
Photo: Online-led: Major Domestic Appliances.
Online-led: Major Domestic Appliances.
Photo: Smart homes: A core trend for 2017.
Smart homes: A core trend for 2017.
Photo: Smart homes: A core trend for 2017.
Smart homes: A core trend for 2017.

In another milestone, 2017 will mark the 10th year that manufacturers of major and small domestic appliances have exhibited at the IFA. In these sectors, the coming trends include smart, connected appliances with a variety of functions, such as resource saving, energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as a number of easy-to-use, programmable time-saving features.

Considering the market trends in more general terms, Jürgen Boyny, Global Director for Consumer Electronics at GfK Retail and Technology, the Nuremberg-headquartered market-research group, said: "In the digital sector, turnover remains high with nearly US$950 billion in total annual sales expected in both 2017 and 2018. Essentially, though, whether at home or on the road, it is the smartphone that is driving the market forward.

"It is now connecting every area of daily life – from the TV in the living room to the washing machine, coffee machine and the bathroom scales. The IoT has now truly been embraced by the consumer.

"In other areas, while the TV is still an important consumer product, the challenge is to attract younger viewers by demonstrating that they can watch YouTube and the like on a big screen. Overall, TV's growth potential lies in bigger screen sizes – 60 inches and more – as well as UHD and Smart TV.

"In terms of audio, this is also a sector that is continuing to evolve. This is being driven by the launch of a number of intelligent personal assistants, including Alexa and Google Assistant. As a result, voice activation will soon be a feature of the majority of audio products."

In the case of Major Domestic Appliances (MDAs), Natalia Andrievskaya, GfK's Global Director for the sector, was predicting only moderate growth for 2017, following a bumper year in 2016. Expanding on her analysis, she said: "At present, there are a number of significant global growth drivers in the sector, most notably built-in appliances.

"The freestanding market is now so mature that it's barely expanding in global terms, with growth primarily coming from built-in. This is particularly true in Europe, where the share of built-in is the highest in the world, although Asia is starting to catch up. Latin America and Africa, however, remain resolutely freestanding markets at present.

"Another global driver is the online channel and, in some regions and product groups, it is the only part of the market that is growing. Almost one-fifth of all MDA revenue now comes from online sales and within the more premium-product sectors, such as side-by-side fridges, it's an even greater proportion."

In terms of Small Domestic Appliances (SDAs), Udo Jansen, GfK's Global Director for the sector, said 2016 sales had been about US$60.5 billion, a 5% increase on 2015. Overall, the two biggest territories for growth were Africa (10%) and Asia (8%).

Among the product categories to enjoy the most product growth were robot vacuum cleaners and electric kettles. In both categories, China was the lead territory, accounting for some 22.7% of all electric kettle sales, representing a market value of $341 million.

Photo: The IFA: Europe’s unassailable showcase for all things electronic.
The IFA: Europe's unassailable showcase for all things electronic.
Photo: The IFA: Europe’s unassailable showcase for all things electronic.
The IFA: Europe's unassailable showcase for all things electronic.

IFA 2017 will run from September 1-6 at the Berlin Exhibition Ground. The HKTDC is organising a Pavilion for Hong Kong companies that wish to attend.

Simon King, Special Correspondent, Berlin

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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