Published on April 26th, 2016 | by Bhavishya Kanjhan0
Setting the stage for IFA 2016
IFA, the global premier electronics conference, is held in Berlin each year. The conference sees attendance from major electronics and technology brands and features major launches including that of the Samsung Galaxy Note series. Every year IFA also hosts a press conference in April to set the stage for the upcoming show. We were in attendance at the conference this year and bring you highlights of what you can expect at the show.
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Growth of small appliances
The market for small appliances is on a growth trajectory. India and China are leading the trend. Numbers by the global research firm GFK tell a story of 50 small appliances being sold every second of which 44 are smartphones. These appliances include smart cookers and even shavers which are becoming smart. It is on track to become a global market valued at $70B.
The key driver of this growth is innovation. There are new categories and types of products coming into the market. The unfortunate hoverboard is one such example but there are examples of many other products that fall into this category.
This fuels the second key driver : Connectivity. As the smartphone becomes the hub of all activity, consumers are expecting all of their appliances to become smart: to connect to their smartphones, to share meaningful data, and to be able to interact with appliances.
The other key driver is energy efficiency. As consumers become environment conscious, they’re demanding products that are energy efficiency and thus safe for the environment. Agencies in Europe are releasing grading labels for electronic products that will be required on products.
Smart to become standard
TVs have pretty much led the way when it comes to making large devices smart. The way we use our TV today has changed dramatically and they’re increasingly becoming a superior screen connected to a powerful computer. This has moved over to other appliances too. Washing Machines, Cooking Ranges, and Refrigerators are just a few examples of large appliances becoming smart-enabled.
There still remain a few concerns around the adoption of smart-enabled large appliances. Price is one concern; in many categories, however, the price of smart products is rapidly coming down to that of ‘standard’ products. In most cases, the price has come down very low and customers are willing to spend more, especially since unlike a smartphone which people upgrade every year or two, the larger appliances are purchased infrequently and so customers prefer to be future-proof.
Security remains a deep concern among consumers. As many if not all smart devices rely on internet connectivity, there exists a risk of attackers taking control of these devices. Consumers cite these as a factor that holds them back from making these purchases.
As far as home automation is concerned, there are still many competing standards. Zigbee, Z-Wave, WiFi, and Bluetooth all provide home automation capabilities and there are hubs and devices for each of them. While WiFi is the dominant one for internet connected large devices so far, the smaller ones have been using Zigbee and Z-Wave with a few moving over to the new energy efficient WiFi and BT protocols. However standardisation is not coming anytime soon, not for a few years at least, and it’s likely that we’ll see devices that support multiple standards instead.
Startups continue to bring innovation to technology
It’s not just social networks or killer apps that come out of startups; there’s hardware too. The IFA Global press conference featured a panel of startups that are putting out quality hardware products.
Panono – a 360-degree high-resolution still photo startup. The Panono camera features a 36 camera of 3MP each that collectively capture an image that is 108 MP in resolution. The pictures are hosted on the Panono cloud platform and can either be embedded or shared via the link
The camera retails at $1,499 and is primarily targeted towards business users.
Embrace Audio Labs – This hardware startup features a $99 device that connects to any existing audio setup and turns stereo audio into true surround sound. The CEO said the device – called Pump – identifies and isolates different channels embedded in stereo sound and splits it into a true surround sound setup.
Black Eye Lenses – This clip-on lens is built for universal devices and gives smartphone cameras wide, telephoto, and macro capabilities. They’re being built to be universally compatible, so unlike other manufacturers that only sell iPhone-lenses, the Black Eye will make products that work on all phones. Their prices point is cheaper too.
Categories of focus
IFA is likely to see a lot of focus on the categories listed below :
We may still not have a killer use-case for smartwatches yet but that won’t stop manufacturers diving deep into building them. The proliferation of Android and its fork of Android Wear will mean a lot of manufacturers will release smartwatches this year and there is likely to be a whole ecosystem of accessories and support devices.
The excitement around drones continues. At the CE China display – the Asian Electronics event put together by IFA – there were a lot of manufacturers showcasing their drones. We’ve seen them from tiny ones that fit into the palm of your hand to much larger ones. It seems drones are definitely here to stay and their capabilities will improve in the coming years.
First, it was Oculus and since then it seems every major technology brands, except for Apple perhaps, has made plays into the VR space. Samsung, LG, HTC have released headsets this year and Microsoft looks poised to release HoloLens soon as well. At IFA, we saw firms such as dlodlo demo their own headsets which promise the same experience at a fraction of the weight. Expect more manufacturers to release their own versions of these headsets at IFA this year as the excitement around the category heats up.
4. Action Cameras
GoPro may have been first to the market but other manufacturers are making quick strides. Kodak has released multiple versions of its camera and Xiaomi’s Yi offers similar performance at a fraction of the price. Many brands are getting into the game now and GFK representatives believe this is part of the ‘expression’ generation.
5. Smart TVs
Smart TVs are only expected to get smarter. Streaming on-demand video has revolutionised the way we consume content and users habits are changing dramatically. Manufacturers will build in more capabilities into their TV. Parallel improvements in display technology will work toward improving the viewing experience for users as well.
The pace at which technology is changing has increased. We’re seeing new categories of products and major changes in the existing ones. IFA 2016 will be hosting many of these new products and categories and it promises to be an exciting event.