World’s biggest high-tech fair in robotics, computers and consumer electronics opened its portals on Thursday, March 9, 2006.
102-inch plasma-TV at CeBIT, Hannover 2006
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the fairgrounds in Hannover the day before the opening and revealed plans to polish up Germany’s image as a global innovator. This “High-Tech Strategy (for) Germany” would include expanding digital infrastructure via more DSL and cable Internet connections, apart from government investment to the tune of six billion euros in “future technology”. Merkel is also planning a “national IT summit”.
CeBIT 2006, running from March 9 to March 15, is hosting more than 6,200 exhibitors from 71 countries. Expected half a million visitors will come to admire their products.
CeBIT is still very German in the sense that German firms still occupy around half the stands, though Asian companies – from China, Hong Kong and South Korea – have expanded in a big way.
Little Big Brothers
New applications for RFID or Radio Frequency Identification technology have had the market buzzing long in advance. Older applications such as in paying road toll on European highways or getting on to the ski-lift are familiar by now, but the tickets for the World Cup in Germany this year will be having such RFID tags. The Vatican library has fitted out two million books with RFID transponders. High risk sex offenders in Taiwan are wearing RFID tags. US passports will have RFID labels from October onwards. Pfizer is selling Viagra in packages with RFID to stop copying. World’s major retailers such as the US Wal-Mart and Germany’s Metro are planning to create futuristic supermarkets which will produce an instantaneous bill the moment the customer has pushed the trolley, piled high with purchases, through an electronic gate. What about Metro’s smart refrigerator that tells you when you’re running out of milk or eggs? What about an intelligent washing machine that can tell you when there’s a red sock among the white linen, or can read the tag on a woollen sweater and tell you not to shrink it by washing it at 60°?
Naturally the success of RFID will depend on how suspicious customers are of these “little Big Brothers”, and whether they’d like to be transformed into “transparent customers”. But it’s a well-known fact that the average human being likes comfort as much as he likes gadgets.
The other buzz ahead of CeBIT was with “Origami”, the code name for Microsoft-Samsung-Intel’s Ultra Mobile PC, or UMPC, which is a mini laptop computer combining the functions of a mobile phone with those of a lightweight tablet computer – with a touch-sensitive screen. People won’t have the problem of keeping work and home life separate once they have this “lifestyle device”.
Who needs friends if there’s football?
A World Cup is always a good thing for CeBIT. There’s the expected boom in flat screen displays for crystal-clear high-definition television or HDTV.
High definition DVD recorders could also have been winners from the World Cup, had they not been bogged down in the battle between rival formats – and the rival groups of companies using them. Hannover, in its impartiality, is displaying both.
Deutsche Telekom announced this week that it will be possible to watch 20 of the 64 matches, including the final in Berlin, by using their mobile service.
Otherwise multifunctionality is the buzzword: mobile phones plus multimedia services plus 2 megapixel digital camera plus the latest in RFID. Mobility and connectivity, if you’re looking for lifestyle words. For example, Samsung defines the UMPC as a handheld organizer, an MP3 portable music player, a mobile television receiver, a games console and a laptop personal computer in one. They’ll be having global positioning and digital TV tuners and Web cameras in the future. Battery life will be increased from three and a half hours to “all-day”. And future models will of course be running on Windows Vista, Microsoft’s latest, due in the second half of 2006.
Gizmos and gadgetry
Alpacas in Peru are carrying RFID tags to prevent rustling. Guests at a Barcelona night club have RFID chips implanted under the skin. So where’s this year’s CeBIT gizmos and gadgetry?
NEC of Japan is presenting a mini-robot which can recognize people biometrically and address them by their proper names.
Swedish Electrolux is displaying a robot lawnmower which cuts grass and returns to the charging station on its own.
German firms Vorwerk and Infineon decided to invent an electronic carpet which tells the vacuum cleaner where it gets off.
High-tech buffs cum fashion victims will love the new “eClothes” or “smart wear” which have sewn-in textile keypads to operate an integrated MP3 player, for example.
Lastly, Taiwanese company Asiamajor has a webcam that actually makes you look more attractive for Internet dating!