Making The Most of Munich's Mega Techfest

Sept. 14, 2012
Paul Whytock's guide to everything Electronica, from what to see on the show floor and how to buy (and use) an S-bahn ticket, all the way to how to eat weisswurst and all the essentials in between. Don't leave home without reading it!

Every two years the international electronics community converges on the Bavarian city of Munich to either exhibit at or visit the world's largest electronics show. This year is no exception with an estimated 2,600 exhibitors and a predicted 75,000 visitors expected to be at Electronica 2012.

Visitors will see some of the latest innovations in semiconductor technology, displays, nano-systems, sensors, test and measurement, EDA, passive components, electro mechanics, power electronics, PCBs, and automotive and wireless related technologies.

But this event is about more than just the electronics on show, there are the Forums and Conferences that cover a multitude of technologies.

One example is automotive broadband data connectivity. This all started with 3G and now 4G (LTE/LTE Advanced) is a reality and available in America and partly in Europe. A presentation during the show examines LTE and LTE Advanced technology basics and specifics for automotive applications. It provides an actual status on 4G/LTE deployment worldwide and gives an outlook on the importance and application of broadband data connectivity for tomorrow's vehicles.

Energy Issues

Smart energy technology is put under the microscope and is one of the major themes of the exhibition. Manufacturers will present solutions and products for energy efficiency, energy storage, LEDs and smart grids. The future of power grids is expected to be a key subject.

Against the backdrop of the global transition to alternative energy sources and the expansion of power grids, Electronica 2012 will present technical solutions for the intelligent supply of power in the future. Leading international executives will also discuss this topic at the CEO Roundtable, the motto of which is "Semiconductor Solutions for Smart Grid Challenges".

We know that renewable energies play an increasingly important role in the supply of energy. Given the increased integration of solar and wind energy, energy production is becoming increasingly decentralised. To deal with this grids will have be expanded and controlled and monitored more intelligently. Electronica 2012 will present technical solutions that will secure the supply of energy in the future (Fig. 1).

1. Greenest, cleanest car at the Show

Embedding The Right Technology

Whether it's smart phones or industrial control systems, selecting the appropriate processors, operating system, drivers and networking technology is an imperative. However, unless all those elements within an embedded system interact correctly then the whole design will have a limited function within a narrow range of applications (Fig. 2). Nicole Schmitt, Electronica Exhibition Director, commenting on the Embedded Platforms Conference at the show said: “The conference is our way of addressing this challenge for embedded system engineers who can come here to gather specific information about selecting a platform that is right for them.”

2. "And here we based the software on David Beckham's left-foot."

Getting On-board

PCB technology can all too often be over shadowed by the more glamorous technical developments in the IC sector. In close cooperation with the ZVEI (Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers’ Association), the PCB Marketplace communications platform is being initiated at Electronica 2012 for the first time (Fig. 3).

3. "And one show visitor actually asked me what the battery life was like!"

It features a programme of lectures and the Marketplace will be located in Hall C1. The exhibition sector will be located in Halls B1 and C1.

In all there are more than 130 forum and conference events and these will encapsulate:

Power electronics
LEDs and innovative light concepts
Microsystems Technology
Micros & DSPs
Smart metering
ARM-based computers & processors
Industrial control & communication
Embedded computing
Energy management & efficiency
Small form factor boards: Tools & software
Electronic lighting software development
Medical electronics
Organic electronics

Learn more about Electronica 2012 at:

Getting To The Show

To see and learn about all this technology you've got to get to the show and with nearly 75,000 people in attendance that can be a challenge.

Nearly half of the people visiting Electronica 2012 come from abroad. So, if you’re flying into Munich airport, you’ve got a few choices on how to get to the exhibition grounds. Unless there’s a group of you, taxis work out very expensive and by far the best and most economical transport are the regular buses that run from just outside the airport terminal.  However, if your first port of call is central Munich, then use the S Bahn trains or the Lufthansa City Bus Service which runs into central Munich and terminates at the Hauptbahnhof (Munich's main railway station).

Without doubt the majority of people get to the Messestadt (show ground) by U Bahn. Let’s take a closer look at this U Bahn and S Bahn stuff.

Terror Of The Tickets

Munich has a fantastic train system that is a joy to use. It's clean, reliable and efficient. The S Bahn lines are the suburban trains that run within the city and also to outlying areas. The U bahn constitutes the central city lines. You need to get the U2 line to the show.

There is just one major problem though and that is the mind-numbingly complex ticket tariffs which not only baffle overseas visors but also confuses the citizens of Munich. 

Remember, the Munich rail system works on an honesty policy. There are no entrance or exit barriers so there is nothing stopping you from completing your journey without a ticket. Do not attempt this no matter how tempting and easy it looks.  Decipher the complex instructions on the ticket issuing machines and get your ticket. Before entering the platforms make certain you use one of the small machines nearby to date and time-stamp your ticket before boarding the train. Forget to do this at your peril. If you do you are considered to be riding without a ticket. Munich's trains have plain clothed officials riding on them and they spot-check passengers to see if they have a ticket. And don’t think that by acting the dumb non-German-speaking tourist you’ll get away without a ticket when questioned by the ticket inspectors that regularly patrol the trains. You won’t, they have heard it all before and the fines are steep.

Find essential transportation help at:

Grab a map of the Munich rail network here. Print it, you're gonna need it:

Show's Over. Let The Evening Fun Begin

A vast proportion of Electronica’s international visitors stay in Munich.    Whatever you do don’t be tempted to stay in a hotel near the show; it’s a very boring thing to do and you’ll miss out on a fantastic city.

Need convincing? Take a look at:

My advice is stay as near to Marienplatz—the central square of Munich—as you can (Fig. 4). From here it’s an easy train ride into the show in the morning but forget that for the moment; in the evenings, it’s beer and food time.

4. Marienplatz. The centre of Munich and a good place to start your evening exploration of the city.

Munich is world famous for its variety and quality of beer and a great pub guide can be found at:

Now I’m more of a wine man than a lager beer person, but when in Munich that changes… I drink both! The beer is great and so are some of the beer halls where you drink it. They’re invariably linked to the breweries that produce the stuff, so they’re a must visit.

To get a taste of which breweries are the major players look at:

The Hoff Brau House is the best known and, consequently, is a little too tourist trap for my taste. But it’s where Adolf Hitler made some of his speeches prior to World War II, so it does hold a certain fascination. By the way, for those of you who might like the idea of dining in what was Hitler’s favourite restaurant, go to the Osteria Italiana at Schellingstrasse 62. 

But back to the beer halls. One of my favourites is the Augustiner Großgaststätte. It’s huge, historic, authentic, brash, very Bavarian and both the beer and food are good. Do not expect microscopic portions of designer food. Here the beer comes in bucket-sized glasses and the food in Fred Flintstone portions. The suckling pig is particularly good. The Augustiner is centrally located and only a short stumble from Marienplatz. Take a look at:

But for some of you the preferable end to a grueling day at Electronica is to visit a nice restaurant that doesn’t necessarily want to serve you mountainous joints of pig accompanied by bucket loads of sauerkraut and dumplings you could play soccer with. Don’t worry Munich has plenty of fine dining experiences. Prime examples are the restaurant at the Königshof Hotel. Not cheap, but this place boasts one of the best wine cellars in the city.

Alternatively there is the well-rated Spatenhaus with its splendid views of the Munich Opera House. There are plenty of excellent restaurants in this city and a lot of them can be found at:

One final culinary point for first time visitors to Munich to remember involves weisswurst (Fig. 5).

5. The Münchner Weißwurst. Traditionally eaten before noon. An acquired taste. Try it Bavarian style with a glass of cold beer.

These white sausages are a traditional Bavarian specialty first created around 1850 and are made from veal and bacon flavoured with parsley onions, ginger and cardamom. As you can imagine they look anemic and for many people a little unattractive. Personally I like them, but be aware you should only eat them between breakfast time and 12.00 noon. The sausages are made daily and the Munich tradition of consuming them in the morning them from the fact that the meat is unsmoked and before modern refrigeration they would perish the same day. This custom still holds good today and you will see Munich’s citizens eating them for breakfast with a substantial dollop of sweet mustard and very often a cold glass of Pils. And don’t eat the skin, only the meat inside.

Guten Appetit, and have a great show.

Electronica 2012 Statistics

Primary Industry Sectors On Show
Industrial electronics    41 %
Automotive    22 %
Medical electronics    16 %
Electronics for other consumer goods    13 %
Power engineering    13 %
Wireless    13 %
Electronics for military & defense    12 %
Wired telecommunications    12 %
Electronics for railway technology    9 %
Electronics for aviation / aerospace technology    8 %
Consumer electronics    7 %
Electronics for office equipment, IT (OEM)  7 %
Specialty retail, retail, distribution    4 %
Services    4 %
Banking / insurance    <1 %

Visitors’ Responsibilities/Job Functions
Electronics development: Hardware    37 %
Electronics development: Software    21 %
Company / business / plant management    17 %
Purchasing / acquisition    16 %
Sales    15 %
Design    14 %
Basic research    12 %
Manufacturing / production / processing    11 %
College / high-school students    9 %
Engineering    8 %
Quality control, assurance, testing    7 %
Marketing / advertising / PR    6 %
Consulting    6 %
Planning / work preparation    6 %
Information technology / telecommunications / DP    4 %
Repair / maintenance    4 %
Administration / organization / HR and social affairs / education and training    2 %
Warehousing / materials management / logistics / transport    2 %
Finance / accounting / controlling    1 %

Technology Areas Visited
Semiconductors    50 %
Passive components    40 %
Test and measurement    35 %
Displays    34 %
Sensor technology    34 %
Embedded systems (Electronica embedded)    31 %
Power supplies    31 %
PCBs, other circuit carriers, EMS    29 %
Electronica automotive    28 %
Electro mechanics / system periphery     28 %
Electronica wireless    27 %
Electronics design (ED / EDA)    24 %
System components    19 %
Electronica micro nano-systems    10 %
Information and services    7 %

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