5 Things I Learnt About Life & The Future of Tech from IFA 2019
IFA (short for Internationale Funkausstellung) is a key time in the calendar of any tech geek.
Bringing the excitement of CES to Europe, it’s another important “check-in” throughout the year, to see where things are going. Because while for many big gadget companies, it’s fair to say their product runway rolls out years beyond what we as consumers see, things are subject to change.
Like an unknown wrestler finding a surprising break, everybody has to act quick to flip the script and change the story to fit a new trend. Luckily, we’re at a time of transition between certain standards - 4G to 5G, HD to 4K - so a lot of stuff is happening as predicted.
That’s not to say we don’t see surprises, and that is why IFA is a fun place to be.
I was invited to attend this year’s show - another big show to check off my bucket list alongside CES. News which I know will cause many of you to shrug your shoulders in a “so what” kind of fashion, but a significant moment in this nerd’s life.
It was a whirlwind trip - heading over to Berlin in the night, spending the next day at the show and heading back to the airport that same afternoon…more like evening after the 3+ hour delay!
But I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. It was awesome.
After learning from previous stories that it's not proper to name the people who helped me get to where I am, I'll keep it vague and say "thank you" to the agency who worked hard around my awkward schedule to get me out there, and a huge "cheers" to all of you, my readers who put up with me. None of this would be happening if it wasn't for you lovely bunch!
But I digress - I'm here to talk about tech. Specifically the future trends of tech we'll see on the show floor. For this, there are two questions in my mind:
What are the trends you can expect to see (and expect to see me write all about when I'm back)?
How have they changed over the year from what the team behind CES laid out at the end of last year in their predictions?
They've usually been on the money with what they expect will happen over the year in consumer tech, but there have been one or two times when something unexpected has happened. Let's take a look at the 5 key trends and see what the future looks like.
Here are five things I learnt.
1. IFA is a strange place.
Usually when you get your early press access to an event, you pop along just after the show floor has been built and before the public is allowed in. Instead, IFA is just a building site - quite literally a building site. Every hall is a sea of MDF wood and training sessions for promo staff.
I went with all of my video equipment, with big dreams that I could achieve the same as I did at CES. That quickly changed, as it was obvious there wouldn’t be much available to actually film! But nonetheless, I saw/photographed a lot to talk about to you both here and via Stuff Magazine.
2. 5G by 2020 is a real thing.
Well, you’ve already been seeing it - available from mobile networks across the country. This is very much a Europe thing rather than just a UK thing, as 5G is going to be all over the shop by 2020…not much else to say on this one.
3. The living room is about to get a whole lot better.
Alongside the slew of phones, headphones, smartwatches and home appliances, IFA’s attending brands have a pretty big dedication to the living room. From home audio setups to the biggest TVs you’ve ever seen (did anybody see Sony’s 98” 8K TV? Guess I’ve got to go get a loan out).
This was a big part of the show and you can’t help but see the future of this - the most social (or anti-social, whichever way you look at it) space in anyone’s home. Super Audio CD players for the audiophiles out there. TV manufacturers announcing 4K partnerships, like Samsung’s with Amazon to show super crisp Premier League games.
And those same manufacturers looking ahead even further to the beautiful panels that may grace our walls in the future - from transparent TVs from Panasonic, to the picture purists’ of 8K, coming along in about 5-7 years or so.
4. Okay, so smart home appliances are pretty cool.
Turning to the reason I went there - AEG. At first, the idea of going to a hotbed of the future of consumer tech, only to check out a few washing machines did not really get me excited. But whether its a sign of my transition into adulthood or a pivot in my gadget interests, the next generation of home appliances is an extremely interesting prospect.
Particular highlights for me came from kitchen tech, vacuum cleaners and the humble washing machine. The AEG Design Line fridge comes packed with a camera, so you can see what is in your fridge anytime, anywhere - minimising food waste and answering the question you ask overtime at the supermarket: “do I already have milk?”
Looking more to the actual cooking of food, the AEG 9000 CookView oven with patented Steamify technology, adds moisture to your cooking via a steam oven atmosphere. Plus, it has a built-in camera too, so you can watch it cook from a different room. Moving into washing those clothes you probably stained while eating the food you cooked, the AEG 9000 washer and dryer pair offer synchronised programs - tell one machine what to do and the other will provide the paired function for optimised function, which prolongs the life of your clothes.
And the app will give you a real-time progress check of your laundry. Finally, the AEG QX9 stick vacuum cleaner brings a near-silent operation and seamless fit into any modern home with a sleek design. Simply put, the company behind most of those basic white goods you see in rented accommodation is going all out with the new generation, in a big to help improve efficiency and lessen environmental impact. Home tech is awesome.
Oh, and this crazy little thing? It’s an ultrasonic cleaning pen that can clear up the worst of stains - a dream for me and my pizza eating addiction.
5. Sony is weird again, and I love it.
I will always remember the shock-proof and waterproof CD Walkman I had when I was a kid. The design reminded me of a high-riding thong, but the technology behind it was mind-blowing and the sound quality was all-encompassing.
A real joy to listen to my NOW compilation albums on long car trips. I bought it over the sea of generic portable CD players for two reasons - the tech and the fact it looked pretty weird. And believe me when I say Sony knew about this reputation. Need I mention the Mini Disc? The XEL-1 - otherwise known as the first production OLED TV (an over-engineered work of art)? Or probably the most well-known of their oddities - the AIBO robot dog?
All of this was peak mid-2000s, and it captured the imagination of everyone. Then they lost their spark... I don't know what caused it - maybe the move-around of the big wigs led to a calming down of the zaniness, but they went a little quiet there in the early 2010s. But now, upon the release of an over-the-top 40th anniversary Walkman, a freakishly-yet-user friendly tall Xperia phone and some insanely high end tech (the aforementioned beasty TV, weird Sony is starting to creep back and I’m rather excited by this.