The largest technology and communications trade show in the world is being held in Germany this week and offers insights into future product trends.
The CeBIT trade show going on this week in Hannover, Germany, must be an awesome event for those unfamiliar with exhibitions that spill out over multiple city blocks and attract literally hundreds of thousands of visitors.
Compared to our own upcoming IBM midrange educational conference and exhibition, COMMON, CeBIT is a great white shark swimming next to a minnow. CeBIT last year had better than 480,000 visitors viewing products and services from more than 6,000 exhibitors based in 70 countries. The number of journalists covering CeBIT exceeds the number of exhibitors by more than 1,000.
I remember the heyday of COMDEX (Computer Dealers' Exhibition) in Las Vegas, when 200,000 people would show up to get the scoop on the industry's latest hardware and software releases from some 2,300 exhibitors. One year that I was there, probably around 1996, it was so crowded it would take you a couple of hours to move from one end of an exhibit hall to another. If you stopped to talk to a vendor, it was so noisy the two of you would have to shout at each other to communicate. To get a hotel room, you had to know someone.
Following several ill-fated decisions that irritated first the press and then the large exhibitors, COMDEX was cancelled after 2003. At one time the second-largest show (after CeBIT), today COMDEX is no more, and Interop fills the gap.
With CeBIT being held in Germany, it makes going a bit more expensive than attending a domestic trade show. Someday, I hope to get to CeBIT for no other reason than to say I attended the largest computer trade show in the world. In the meantime, I have cobbled together a number of announcements from the show, though it is still going on through this Sunday. We'll look at more products from CeBIT in next week's TNT as well. For now, here are a few products that typify several emerging trends. While some of these products are from German and other European suppliers not frequently seen in the United States, I thought they were relevant for the sake of comparison to our own industries and economy. For an overview of the trends from a management perspective, look for this topic in a future issue of iTechnology Manager.
Below are a few product areas and sample solutions derived from CeBIT announcements and press releases that were compiled by the show's capable team of PR professionals and edited by yours truly.
Manufacturers are combining technical innovations of their products with highly attractive outer packaging. At Samsung, the focus is on black piano lacquer finish, surfaces as smooth as glass, and futuristic LED lighting. The company's new laser printer looks like a work of art and will grace any room. Packard-Bell is also concentrating on design. The company presented its new laptop colors: sunny orange, dark chocolate, and lime green.
Business Process Management
The Process Engine from Binner IMS helps take the strain off management teams by creating, controlling, and monitoring automated business processes. i-Rose provides both the software and hardware for monitoring tricky situations, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. Breweries wanting to keep an eye on what's going on in their company can use the end-to-end Draught Beer Management (DBM) solution from i-Rose. The new Staff Efficiency Suite 4.3 from Atoss takes on complete responsibility for staff planning.
Telephone manufacturers are developing models featuring convenient functions derived from ISDN telephony. Tiptel, for example, unveiled its latest innovation: Tiptel 83 VOIP. This product will enable users to receive and forward calls and use the call-waiting functionality, just as they would with a conventional, user-friendly telephone. The extensions signal when they are engaged, and calls can be answered from any phone by using the pick-up function. Three-way calls are also an option.
The Fritz! Mini from AVM provides user-friendly functions with voice quality equal to that of a landline thanks to a high-quality 16-kHz broadband codec. And Fritz! Mini can play back anything from a PC or the Internet.
Television Receiver USB Stick
Many companies at CeBIT showcased a new generation of nano USB sticks that enable users to watch TV on a PC or notebook virtually anytime, anywhere. Whether you're in a train, at the park, or in a cab, these tiny USB sticks let you watch TV shows on your computer screen. The new Pinnacle USB stick is no bigger than a cigarette lighter and fits into any bag or pocket, yet it has the power to bring digital TV direct to your PC. TechnoTrend celebrated the premiere of the first USB stick to deliver pay-TV. The software that comes with the stick can even be used as a digital video recorder.
Back in January of this year, the Financial Times Germany ran an in-depth report entitled "Radio messages from the chassis." The article focused on one of the very latest trends in technology: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). RFID is core technology for networking goods with the environment around them and works by transferring data between an RFID label and a reader. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics demonstrated what this technology is capable of with the help of a loader robot and a sensor network for safeguarding goods.
Thax Software GmbH offers Findentity, an RFID-based office organization and document management system. Not only can this system identify the exact location of a physical document, it is also able to call up its electronic counterpart on screen.
The wireless office is starting to become a reality with the "wireless USB" emerging as one of the most exciting technologies of the future. The innovation will put a dent in the usual messy tangles of cables. In the future, digital cameras, printers, scanners, and numerous other devices will be able to connect with PCs without any need for cables, all thanks to wireless USB (WUSB). The first products featuring this technology were shown by manufacturers such as D-Link and Dell. The market potential for these is considered huge.
In the realm of green computing, Fujitsu Siemens is using CeBIT to showcase its zero-watt display that consumes no power at all in standby mode. Intel is showing a powerful new processor with reduced energy consumption, and Taiwanese notebook manufacturer Asus presented subnotebooks that offer lower heat build-up. Asus is harnessing the potential of a natural and renewable bamboo in some of its products. Rittal created a complete green data center at the show.
IDC, the premier global provider of market intelligence and advisory services for the IT market, estimates that up to 90 percent of available computing power currently remains unused. The potential for optimizing data centers is high. IT Resource Management from SAS Institute GmbH provides corporate IT with a complete overview of data center infrastructures, thus delivering a range of solutions for improving efficiency. USU AG, Germany, makes it possible for ecology-aware IT managers to define the energy consumption of their data centers. The Valuemation module Monitoring Manager works so efficiently that it has been awarded environmental certificates, such as the German "Blaue Engel."
Under the slogan "green IT," CeBIT exhibitors showcased innovative solutions from all sectors that help protect the environment. On display were environment-friendly toners for color laser printers from TBS-Printware, ecological route planners employing the latest navigation systems from Blaupunkt, and UPS units from Cyber Power Systems that use GreenPower technology to ensure an uninterrupted yet economic power supply.
The new generation of business notebooks is high-powered in every sense, featuring generous screens, massive processors, and impressive graphics cards.
The Samsung R700 Aura boasts an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 17-inch display, 250 GB drive, 2 GB of memory, and a GeForce 8400 GS graphics card from Nvidia. The Schenker D901C has the first quad-core processor for portable PCs and a 17-inch screen. The models featured in the Acer business collection are only slightly smaller, with 14- or 15-inch displays, Core 2 Duo processors, and high-performance graphics cards. Acer has included a fingerprint sensor to keep the contents of your notebook safe from prying eyes.
Wireless Home Media
In the living room of the future, all your devices likely will communicate with one another wirelessly. Consumers will use the television to control them. The Fraunhofer Institute presented its latest cutting-edge technology in the form of the Wireless Media and Control at Home (WiMAC), which provides a wireless connection between electronic devices for broadcasting and entertainment in home networks such as DVD, MP3, and PC. In this system, the television acts as a multimedia provider, storing music, videos, and photos, and making them available to all devices together with current TV programs via a home network. The system can even control your heating, alarm system, and air conditioning all from the TV.
Financial Planning Software
Life Charts software, a financial planning system, was developed by scientists at Saarland University and can be used to calculate how an individual can achieve financial independence. The software takes all relevant parameters into account, including education and training costs, stock purchases, real estate, and pensions. In the initial stage, a finance assessment is completed to create a snapshot of the individual's current financial situation and assess the person's willingness to assume risk. This information is then used to draw up a financial strategy for the future and monitor how closely it is followed.
Internet and Notebook Security
To defend against cyber crime, SecurStar demonstrated how Internet users can remain anonymous, letting users surf the Internet without leaving a single trace and ensuring they are invisible to hackers. GDATA Software introduced an exclusive NotebookSecurity package that includes automatic backup, an antivirus program, a firewall, data encryption software, and even a physical steel cable and lock.
MAINNAV International introduced several GPS tracking devices, including a wristwatch that can be worn hiking or in the car. The company also displayed a low-power Bluetooth and FM GPS device that can transmit a clear signal to a car radio or MP3 player. A unit from Compass Systems Corp. incorporates a music player, video player, and photo viewer for entertainment.
Industry-specific ERP software can help users employ personnel, capital, and operating resources efficiently across all areas of a business. Alpha Business Solutions showcased industry solutions tailored to automotive engineering, electrical engineering, and the plastics injection-molding sectors. Depending on the design, the standard functions of an ERP system are complemented by additional special applications, such as vehicle parts lists with replacement assemblies, batch management with use-by dates, and guidelines for ensuring compliance with regulations on hazardous goods.
Software company Nissen & Velten brought ERP programs for the steel trade.
Inubit is applying itself to the needs of insurance agents and presented a comprehensive solution for optimizing and automating business processes.
It appears that the Blu-ray Disc has won the technology arm-wrestling match for the title of successor to DVD. It seems that Toshiba will be backing away from its support of HD DVD and making way for Blu-ray, led by Sony and Panasonic. Manufacturers of Blu-ray products, including Phillips and Samsung, provided attendees to the show with a vision of the future.
If you want to meet with colleagues and customers from across the world, you no longer have to leave your desk. Slovenian firm XLAB exhibited ISL Groop, a straightforward program for online meetings. Provided all participants have the necessary equipment, everyone present at the meeting can both hear and see one another. They can even note the key points of the meeting on a shared virtual whiteboard.
Arcor is expanding its telephone conference service with free online conferencing. Like ISL Groop, this enables participants in a telephone meeting to work on documents together in a secure environment.
Tip of the Iceberg
With more than 6,000 exhibitors at CeBIT, this is just a sampling of the types of products on display at the show. In next week's TNT, we'll have another batch of products covering text and speech recognition, disaster and risk management, and customer relationship management, among a dozen others.