With all the sausages, pastries, and beer I consumed, I should have put on a few pounds at Electronica. But I walked several miles each day at the show, trying my best to cover 3500 exhibitors spread out over 14 halls, racing from meeting to meeting. Despite the calories burned, there was no chance of seeing it all.
Yet I still saw loads of new technology, much of it related to power management and energy efficiency in white goods, as well as Ultra-Wideband (UWB) and other wireless communications for infotainment, active automotive safety systems, and micro-electromechanical-systems (MEMS) technologies.
One cool exhibit featured wearable computing, demonstrating current and future applications such as sensors in clothing for health and fitness and on-the-go infotainment applications. You can watch the videos of these developments at www.electronicdesign/electronica.
For example, check out my interview with the developers at Nordic Semiconductor. Their chips are inside a wireless sleep-monitoring alarm-clock system that tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you up based on light, rather than deep-sleep stages something every hotel catering to jetlagged travelers should have at bedside!
Electronica also is the biggest meet and greet for the electronics marketplace, likely the most globalized industry. Of 78,000 attendees, 45% traveled internationally. The percentage of international exhibitors was even higher, with more than 60% from outside of Germany. Electronica provides an unparalleled opportunity for vendors to meet international customers and distributors and to forge new partnerships.
In keeping with that global theme, one of my personal highlights was sharing pork, potatoes, and dumplings with Yorbe Zhang and Paul Whytock, the editors in chief of Electronic Design China and Electronic Design Europe, respectively. Joined by some of our international business development staff, we had some great conversation.
And what better international discussion starter than passing the buck on global warming? That topic kicked off with one of the Brits in the group saying to the Chinese, They say you re the bad guys when it comes to global warming. It gave me a chance to hone my diplomatic skills, jumping in to say, Wait, I thought it was the Americans who were the bad guys
No joking matter, global warming remains a fiercely controversial topic, with Europeans particularly focused on it. Many of the Electronica press conferences included a green angle on energy savings. Still, my recent column on the topic has generated a firestorm of responses, underscoring that there is no uniform agreement within the engineering and scientific community (Are You Taking Global Warming Seriously? MIT Offers Perspective, Oct. 26, p. 17). For a sampling of the responses, or to add your own, go to ED Online 13829.
I've also gotten some interesting feedback from my column on vehicle-to-vehicle communications and automated braking (Thanks To Active Safety Systems, You Won't Buy It If You Don't Brake, Nov. 6, p. 17). One of the most thorough responses was from Bob Pease, who considered a number of different scenarios to challenge such a system. I've posted his comments with my original column at ED Online 13919.
Despite the questions as to just how automated our future driving experience will be, active safety systems were a hot trend at Electronica s automotive exhibits, as German car manufacturers are at the leading edge in implementing these technologies. Following the show, I had a chance to try out the German automotive experience first hand, as I rented an Opal and headed up the Autobahn to visit a friend for the weekend.
The quality of the roads themselves was certainly ideal for high-speed driving, but the heavy traffic on a Friday afternoon wasn't exactly the wide open Autobahn experience I had in mind. The lure of speed-limitless driving alternating with the tense reality of stop-and-go traffic jams gave me a good picture of why active driver assist is particularly popular among German car manufacturers and drivers!