In-depth: IFA 2018 Global Press Conference predicts AI smart home boom and 8K revolution

posted on Wednesday, 16th May 2018 by Steve May

4K  Trade show  AI  IFA 2018  IFA GPC 2018 

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This year’s IFA Global Press Conference, held recently in Rome, was the largest yet. The event, which sets the scene for Europe's largest technology showcase, attracted over 360 media attendees from around the world, all eager for a sneak peek at the kind of consumer electronics and smart devices which will be wowing trade visitors when the show opens August 31. Naturally, Inside CI was there to learn more.

This year’s IFA has quite an act to follow. Last year’s show brought in 252,000 visitors, of which 145,000 were trade. “IFA is indisputably the world number one electronics show,” declared Hans-Joachim Kamp, Chairman of the supervisory board of the IFA organizer. Deals worth 4.7 billion euro took place across the show last year, he says.

“The greatest social media on earth is face to face meetings. That's where you experience serendipity. That's what happens at IFA” said Dr. Christian Göke, CEO of Messe Berlin “It’s not just one sector innovating, but seven, eight or nine different industries all trying to solve the same problems and push the edge of innovation. Each industry brings its own knowledge, insights and skills to the table. All these industries learn from each other, they inspire each other. That’s co-innovation at its best.”

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The introduction of IFA Next, a dedicated area for technology start-ups, and IFA Global Markets, a component sourcing event, were both cited as reasons for continued growth.

Deemed an unqualified success in its inaugural year, IFA Next will be even larger this time around, with more dedicated space in Hall 26. Of particular interest to CI professionals, amd reflecting the growing importance of voice control across multiple sectors, IFA Next will feature a reference installation of fully networked home, to demonstrate futuristic living environments.

One of the biggest tech trends at this year’s IFA is expected to be 8K. At the GPC, Sharp introduced a 70-inch 8K monitor, the LV-70X500E (pictured above). It is, for all intents and purposes, a B2B display, but Sharp is presenting it a potential consumer device (knowing full well few will actually be sold). What it does give us though is glance at what lies ahead in terms of display technology.

The hardware industry will be eager to push 8K as a new premium option over the next few years, as 4K becomes ubiquitous. Of course there isn’t any content to view on these new panels...yet. The signs of adopting are there though. The Netflix show Lost in Space has been shot on 8K camera equipment and broadcasters are keen to dabble. Bernard Fontaine, Head of Technical Innovations at France TV, confirmed 8K acquisition trials at Roland Garros.

Given that the Sharp screen is available before the availability of HDMI 2.1 hardware, it requires four dedicated HDMI inputs to deliver a native 8K signal. The screens we can expect at IFA will launch after any such hurdle.

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The overall TV market is looking strong, according to data released by gfk at the conference. Global TV sales are expected to be up six per cent in 2018. Of the 100 million TV sets that will be sold this year, more than 40 percent will be UHD. Technology advances will continue to drive sales, including a move to bigger screen sizes, a wide rollout for HDR and eventually even High Frame Rate and 8K resolution.

There’s currently a high level of replacement going on. All the evidence indicates that consumers are prepared to spend more on TVs that promise a better performance. “Consumers are prepared to pay for Innovation,” says Christian Goeke, CEO Messe Berlin

However consumers will increasingly be looking for advanced HDR technologies and greater ease of use through AI. Intuitive UIs which allow programmes to be selected intuitively, regardless of their delivery (OTT and VoD, terrestrial and cable) are also expected to become commonplace.

In his market overview, Jürgen Boyny, Global Director of CE for GFK (pictured above), predicted that the smart speaker boom will spread to over devices, as voice control proliferates. However, while voice control is a trend, Boyny admitted that sales figures are difficult to quantify, given that Amazon plays shipments notoriously close to its chest.

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The smartphone market will continue to grow, driven primarily by advanced in camera features. Two or even three lenses will fast become a standard feature. The biggest smartphone market in the world is currently China. It’s also turning into a hotbed for smart home products, sales of which soared 75 per cent in 2017.

In news that may surprise some, GfK said there was also life in the wearables market, but conceded that the two main territories for growth are China and North America.

Smart appliance development is one such beneficiary. IFA expects both voice and AI to feature heavily in major and small domestic appliances, with a promise of greater versatility and user-friendliness. These connected appliances can exchange information and record personal preferences, while voice control takes on an added expediency in the kitchen, where users often have their hands full. Positive experiences breed good word of mouth.

Visitors to IFA 2018 can also expect to see continued improvements in home appliance eco technology. Next generation appliances are being optimised to consume less electricity, water and detergents.

IFA runs August 31 to September 5, 2018.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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