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To Munich And Back: The Electronica 2010 Survival Guide

Sept. 17, 2010
Paul Whytock checks out the latest at Electronic 2010 in Munich Germany.

Germany has a long history of hosting large and successful trade fairs. The Electronica exhibitions reflect this heritage with nearly 3000 of the world’s electronics companies gathering to display their latest innovations.

The trade fair business in Germany started back in 1165 when the city of Leipzig received its town charter and rights as a market town. Due to its strategic position on the market routes to Prague, Berlin, and Frankfurt, it quickly experienced a flurry of commercial activity.

In 1497, the right to hold trade fairs was granted to the growing city of 10,000 inhabitants. And throughout the surrounding 110-km area, only the town of Leipzig had the right to stock goods and organize trade fairs.

This exclusivity would change in due course, and it was inevitable that trade fairs would spread south to Munich. As the recognized centre of the German high-tech industry and one of the leading centres for IT and communication technology, it was logical that Electronica exhibitions would set up camp in the city

Getting To The Show
Nearly half of the 70,000 people visiting Electronica 2010 will come from abroad. If you’re flying into the Munich airport, you’ve got a few choices for getting to the show. By far, the best way is to take the regular buses that run from outside the air terminal. Taxis can be very expensive unless you’re traveling in a group.

If your first port of call is central Munich, use the S Bahn trains or the Lufthansa City Bus Service, which runs into central Munich and terminates at the main railway station. Most people get to the Messestadt (show ground) by U Bahn. But first, let’s clear up this U Bahn and S Bahn stuff.

Munich has a fantastically good and efficient train system that also happens to be mind-numbingly complex when you’re trying to work out what ticket you need. Even resident Germans find it hard to comprehend. The S Bahn lines are the suburban trains that run into 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.

Remember, the Munich rail system works on an honesty policy. Get your ticket at the date and time-stamp machines located near the train platforms before boarding the train. Don’t think that by acting like a dumb tourist, you’ll get away without a ticket when the plainclothes ticket inspectors who regularly patrol the trains question you. You won’t. The inspectors have heard it all before, and the fines are steep.

Transportation is available at europeforvisitors.com/munich/articles/u-bahn-s-bahn.htm and at www.muenchen.de/verticals/Traffic_Transport/227515/index.html. A map of the Munich rail network is available at www.munichtradefairs.com/documents/subwayplan_dez07_000.pdf.

Be Warned
So you’ve made it to the show. It’s vast. Nearly 3000 companies set up shop along huge halls. It’s worth taking a look at the show’s Web site, www.electronica.de/en, to see what’s available. Once you’ve paid your entry to the exhibition, you’ll get a show catalogue that’s big enough to club a lion to death.

Here’s where you sit down and plan your itinerary of exhibition stand visits. Take as much time as you need to develop this plan. Don’t be tempted to try and wing it around the show. Desperation and dehydration will inevitably set in.

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Don’t forget to find the moving walkways (just like the ones in airports) that run the length of the exhibition site. But they are only on one side of the exhibition complex, and that’s on the first floor adjacent to the line of the B halls, with crossover areas to get to the A halls.

Dedicated Technology Areas
For many people, the main reason for being there is to establish new contacts. Interestingly, according to the show’s organizers, about 85% of polled visitors say the main reason for being there is to observe what their competitors are up to. Regardless of what they’re seeking, visitors will get a strong dose of automotive electronics and wireless communications.

The automotive presentations will look at markets and strategies in the semiconductor, supply, and automotive industries. They will include insights into electro-mobility, driver assistance and communication, charging infrastructure, high-voltage contactors, and multi-channel 77-GHz radar solutions and component capability in electric drive systems.

The Wireless Congress will provide information on current applications, safety aspects, certification and qualification problems, test & measurement developments, standards, and market opportunities. It also will cover Bluetooth technology, wireless sensor and mobile networks, energy management, embedded wireless applications, ZigBee, machine-to-machine (M2M) and automation systems, and radio-frequency identification (RFID).

Electronica hosts numerous conferences and discussion groups. In addition to the automotive and wireless sessions, these events will include medical, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), software, lighting MCUs, motor control, real-time operating system (RTOS) computing, communications, and lighting. Take a look at the conference programme at www.electronica.de/en/home/visitor/event-database.

Let The Fun Begin!
A vast proportion of Electronica’s international visitors stay over 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 www.panorama-cities.net/munich/images_munich.html.

My advice is to stay as near to Marienplatz, the central square of Munich, as you can. From there 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. Munich is world famous for its variety and quality of beer, and a great pub guide can be found at www.europeanbeerguide.net/munipubs.htm.

I’m more of a wine man than a lager beer person. But when I’m in Munich, that changes. I drink both. The beer is great, and so are some of the beer halls. They’re invariably linked to the breweries that produce the stuff, so they’re a must to visit. To get a taste of which breweries are the major players, go to www.beerdrinkersguide.com/BDGWebsite/MunichBeer/BigSix.htm.

The Hoff Brau House is the best known and, consequently, is too much of a tourist trap for my taste. But it’s where Adolf Hitler made some of his early speeches, 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.

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But back to the beer halls. One of my favourites is the Augustiner Großgaststätte. It’s huge, historic, authentic, brash, and very Bavarian, and both the beer and food are good. Don’t expect microscopic portions of designer food. The beer comes in big glasses, and the food comes in Flintstone portions. The suckling pig is particularly tasty. The Augstiner is centrally located and only a short stumble from Marienplatz with its gothic Town Hall or from Karlsplatz with its fountains. Take a look at www.augustiner-restaurant.com/.

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 gigantic joints of pig accompanied by bucket loads of sauerkraut or dumplings you could play football with. Don’t worry. Munich has plenty of fine dining experiences, such as the restaurant at the Königshof Hotel. It isn’t cheap, but it boasts one of the best wine cellars in the city. For more, see www.koenigshof-hotel.de/en/restaurants.

Alternatively, there’s the well-rated Spatenhaus, with its splendid views of the Munich Opera House. There are plenty of fine restaurants in this city, and a lot of them can be referenced at www.munich-info.de/restaurants/lists/restaurants_en.html.

One final culinary point for first-time visitors to Munich to remember involves weisswurst. These white sausages are a traditional Bavarian specialty. First created around 1850, they’re made from veal and bacon flavoured with parsley onions, ginger, and cardamom. They look anemic and maybe a little unattractive. I like them, though you should only eat them between breakfast and noon.

The sausages are made daily, and the Munich tradition of consuming them before lunch stems from the fact that the meat is unsmoked. Before modern refrigeration, they perished the same day. This custom still holds true, 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 eat the meat inside.

More Technology Tomorrow
Back to the business of the show. No one ever gets to see all of the technology that’s displayed at Electronica. It’s a physical and mental impossibility, and trying to accomplish such a feat is a certain route to madness. This is where Electronic Design and Electronic Design Europe can help. You can catch up with the hottest technology featured in our exclusive exhibition video reports available on Engineering TV at www.engineeringTV.com.

Hope you have a good show!


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