Giant consumer electronics trade fair IFA 2022 will return as a fully physical consumer technology show with a virtual option this September 2-6 at the Messe Berlin fair grounds in Berlin Germany, the event organizers announced Wednesday.

Jens Heithecker, executive VP of the Messe Berlin Group and executive director of IFA 2022 used a virtual video broadcast to declare, “IFA 2022 is going on as a full-size, real live hands-on event.”

In Berlin, all restrictions and lockdowns now have been lifted, and the Messe Berlin grounds have already hosted the first of several trade fairs scheduled for this year.

“Now that most of the world has emerged from the pandemic, finally, it is time to reconnect, interact, cooperate and most importantly, co-innovate,” he said. “It is time for a return to normal, but let’s be clear, this will not be the normal of 2019, our world has changed too much for that.”

Heithecker acknowledged that the pandemic is not fully over yet and not everyone will be able to come to Berlin, necessitating an extensive virtual program to complement the in-person event.

But he said the virtual component will not feature every product from every booth, just “the real-time stuff that brought you to Berlin.”

The virtual showcase will also offer all of the important press conferences and all the important keynotes, Heithecker promised.

“But for the real life experience you have to be here in real life,” he said.

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Concerning planned exhibitors, he said 15 of the traditional top 20 exhibitors have already confirmed their participation,”and nearly all of them at the same scale as 2019, the last year before the pandemic.”

Irrespective of the in-person CES 2022 technology show in Las Vegas last January, Heithecker stressed that “IFA 2022 will be the first chance since the start of the pandemic at a real and global technology show.”

The event will present “the full breadth of experiences across consumer electronics and appliances in one place,” he said. Unlike the trade-only CES, IFA is presented as both an industry consumer technology show and a trade fair that is open to consumers.

The event organizers are pushing the showcase as a release for the pent-up demand among tech-hungry enthusiasts set to learn about all of the latest and greatest technology innovations in consumer entertainment, connected home/office experiences, health care and monitoring and electronic automotive innovation.

Further, the event will again provide an opportunity to see and learn about the latest trends in consumer lifestyles and market demand.

Stressing the urgency to bring retailers, manufacturers and the media together to overcome mounting obstacles to growth, Heithecker pointed to key challenges including one-fifth of all global shipping capacity currently stacked in shipping congestion from one port to another.

“Global supply chains are still twisted, and for many manufacturers they are twisted even further as a result of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the resulting global sanctions,” he said. “Retailers and manufacturers urgently need to meet face to face to negotiate and disentangle the disruptions.”

“Let me be crystal clear, this year’s IFA is happening at a crucial time for our industry, and it could not happen at a better time. The past two years have seen an extraordinary boom for technology. Now is the time to ensure that it is not a one-off and that the boom does not fade away.”

To help make his case, Heithecker introduced a pair consumer technology market analysts from major firms, Omdia and Gfk.

Paul Gray, Research Director Omdia Electronics, said this year’s IFA 2022 will be held as the consumer electronics industry trends shift towards providing better support for gaming.

In particular, this will benefit more variety of gaming headsets and TV sets, “where gaming support has become a really major feature category, from support for higher frame rates like 144 Hz or 120 Hz but also Variable Frame Rates that allow consumers to get the very best experience — it squeezes out the best from graphics cards, from consoles or from PCs,” Gray said.

He pointed to “a really big shift in the gaming business from being based on consoles and packaged media to being moved online and streamed. Cloud gaming is becoming a really important category and it is a really good use of the smart TV capability and with a very small amount of extra hardware consumers can then go and play games without an extra console, and in particular multiplayer games.”

Gray said Omdia expects the cloud gaming business dollar volume to more than double from this year’s $5 billion to more than $12 billion in 2026.

Similarly, streaming is a huge growth success in other entertainment services. Over the course of the pandemic consumers now watch more TV, both linear live TV from broadcasters but also their streaming services, Gray said.

“We expect the home cinema market is going to grow as more consumers take advantage of
Hollywood also now simultaneously releasing movies on the streaming platforms as well as conventionally through cinemas. That’s going to be a big change and we expect it will add value to the home cinema market.”

As for television technologies, Gray said emissive display technologies offer huge growth potential in 2022.

“OLED’s been a great success over the past three or four years and has been a great success, especially in Europe, and now Samsung this year will launch it’s QD-OLED products, which are based on a new emissive technology, and it will be interesting to see how LCD products fight back,” said Gray. “So, Mini-LED started off fairly slowly last year because of component shortages and it becomes more mature this year. We will watch with interest how Mini-LED manages to respond to the challenges from OLED.”

Gray added that Omdia is watching carefully new players entering the TV business. By this he referred to service providers that are starting to offer TV hardware bundled with video services.

“We saw Sky launch last year with Sky Glass [in Europe], its new TV range, and also we saw Amazon launch their own TVs called Omni in the United States. It really brings a shift to the way people buy hardware. It becomes much more like the way you buy mobile phones where you have a TV that becomes part of the service package and part of your subscription. Consumers are very familiar with doing that in mobile phones.”

Meanwhile, Norbert Herzon, handling global strategic insights for market analysis firm Gfk, observed that 2021 marked a year of growth at 12%.

“But with raw material costs rising, logistics costs soaring, and the Omicron wave hitting hard on Chinese harbors and production sites and the Russian/Ukrainian conflict continuing, it means deceleration.”

Herzon said that the industry registered growth of $150 billion in 2021, but that is now forecast at $35 billion in 2022.

“That is roughly 75% less U.S. dollar growth compared to last year, but in percentage that is still a growth of less than 2%. However, the year 2022 started out slower,” Herzon said. “January-February started with a -3% in U.S. dollars, but let’s not forget the impact of the strong U.S. dollar versus the Euro. If you look at the same number in Euros, it’s actually a +4% and just looking at the European region it is even a +7%.”

As for the opportunities that lie ahead, he said consumers are staying home much more, and 63% say they would now prefer to work from home at least three days per week.

The trend is driving up-grading behavior and greater demand for premium products.

“In hard facts, premium sales grew by 32% in 2021, and so, much more than the total market. Hence it grabbed more and more market share and now every fourth dollar is already spent on such aspirational products,” said the Gfk analyst. “COVID told us to be much more digital, and online sales rose to unseen levels, for a growth of more than 50% versus 2019. That is incredible performance and incredible opportunity.”

To capitalize, Herzon suggested business leaders learn to understand the transformed demand of consumers and how the products support them in a specific use case.

“They need to ask if the products address the correct layer of professionalism or if it bundles in all levels of convenience,” he said. “Second, consumers want to upgrade. So, a focus on innovation is mandatory. But it doesn’t just mean adding functionalities. It can also be a sustainable product that is triggering a premium sale. So, yes, sustainability can command a higher price.”

Further, he said consumers around the world are more eco-conscious than ever, and by 2030 eco-active consumers could capture roughly 50% of the market.

As for keynote speakers, IFA’s Heithecker said a full slate will be announced soon, but this year’s opening keynoter will be Cristiano Amon, the president and CEO of Qualcomm, who will be addressing the opportunities that await devices delivering new 5G and AI experiences.

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By Greg Tarr

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