electronica 2020 goes digital…

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

01 October 2020

electronica 2020 goes virtual
electronica 2020 goes virtual

As travel restrictions across Europe continue to tighten in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the organisers of electronica, the world’s leading trade fair & conference for electronics components, systems & solutions, have confirmed that ‘electronica virtual’ will now replace its usual biennial in-person trade fair in Munich this November, with an expanded digital offering & online conference programme.

EPDT Editor, Mark Gradwell reports…

This show preview was originally featured in the October 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The show organisers had been hoping to maintain and host a live in-person electronica this year, with plans in place till only a few weeks ago for a scaled-down ‘compact exhibition concept’, alongside an expanded digital programme – but the developing situation around the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent tightening travel restrictions among many countries which would normally send both exhibitors and visitors, has forced a re-evaluation of plans. Many trade shows have already had to cancel or postpone this year, as the coronavirus outbreak has prompted a succession of national lockdowns – but alongside CES, the big consumer electronics show, which has already gone all-digital, electronica is the biggest show for our electronics industry.

Embedded systems: the innovation turbo for the 21st century

Embedded technologies are vital for addressing socio-political challenges such as the climate crisis, demographic developments or increasing resource efficiency. In key branches of industry, they underpin a great deal of innovation. An overview of the latest developments in the embedded field was to be a focus at this year’s electronica from November 10 to 13, 2020 in Munich.

electronica 2020 logo_580x280
electronica 2020 logo_580x280

Computers are disappearing from our perception, but remain at the same time omnipresent, as advances in microelectronics allow intelligent functions to now be implemented locally, wherever they’re needed. Embedded systems like these usually operate with a high degree of autonomy. That applies to monitoring the environment (sensors), interacting with it (actuators) and communicating with other embedded systems or computers. The required functions are increasingly provided by artificial intelligence (AI) and pattern recognition algorithms.

Data processing takes place in central data centres (the cloud) or, more and more frequently, at the point of origin itself (edge computing). The latter is particularly suitable for time- and safety-critical applications, also helping reduce the huge amounts of data to be transferred. In a largely automated, adaptive production environment, or in autonomous vehicles, direct processing of the data at the edge even proves to be essential, for example, to avoid impending machine failure or accidents. It does, however, demand specifically tailored ‘intelligence’.

electronica virtual

Messe München, operators of the renowned showground, exhibition & conference centre in Munich, Germany that is home to electronica and many other trade shows, will organise the world’s leading trade fair & conference for electronics as a virtual online event this year. The current travel restrictions in Europe, which are becoming more stringent, have necessitated a re-think of planning. The digital format for electronica in November will offer exhibitors digital trade fair booths, with electronica virtual seeking to provide delegates and exhibitors additional ways to interact and network. Large portions of the accompanying conference and supporting programme will also be made available digitally.

In light of travel restrictions that have been imposed by a large number of both visitor and exhibitor countries, Messe München felt that electronica would have lost its character as a world-leading trade fair if it had been held as an in-person event in November. Falk Senger, Managing Director of Messe München said: “Even though an in-person trade fair could have been conducted with the help of our safety and hygiene concept, the latest developments related to travel restrictions in many countries forced us to rethink our plans. We are adapting these plans to this dynamic situation and are now focusing solely on our virtual format. International exhibitors and visitors are the heart of electronica. In light of current COVID-19 conditions, we would not have been able to meet the expectations with an in-person trade fair.

electronica 2020 to be held digitally_580x280
electronica 2020 to be held digitally_580x280

Kurt Sievers, CEO of NXP Semiconductors and Chairman of the electronica Advisory Board added: “After re-evaluating the situation, I consider the decision of Messe München to be very appropriate and responsible. We are pleased that, with electronica virtual, a concept is now offered for 2020 that allows exhibitors to reach their international customers, even in the continuing difficult pandemic period. Via this digital platform, exhibitors can present their innovations, learn about industry trends and efficiently network with customers and suppliers.

Online trade fair  with virtual product presentations & supporting programme

The virtual format of electronica will aim to provide the electronics industry with a platform for global industry discussions this November. Opportunities will include virtual trade fair booths, enabling exhibitors to continue to communicate with international customers and talk to them about their products and solutions. The virtual show will be complemented by a digital conference and supporting programme. Individual talks and panel discussions on trend topics like the automotive industry, embedded systems, IIoT, 5G, medical electronics and smart energy will be available online.

The EPDT view

As this issue went to press, EPDT was waiting on updates from Messe München with more information and detail about the nature and format of the digital event that will attempt to replace one of the key fixtures in the electronics industry events calendar. Back at the end of February this year, as the coronavirus outbreak was just beginning to snowball across Europe, and a few weeks before lockdown in the UK, I flew to Nuremberg, Germany for Embedded World – another big important show for the electronics industry.

electronica 2018_Entrance_West_580x280
electronica 2018_Entrance_West_580x280

Two weeks earlier, Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile telecoms show, which typically attracts over 100,000 visitors and 2,000 exhibitors to Barcelona, Spain during the same week as Embedded World (and is the largest show I have ever personally attended), was eventually cancelled, after an avalanche of exhibitors pulled out.

And although Embedded World went ahead, with plenty of exhibitors and visitors still meeting and having good discussions there (albeit with a wave, fist-bump or elbow touch, rather than a handshake!), a couple of the halls did look like they’d had the guts ripped out of them after escalating fears over coronavirus resulted in a succession of exhibitor cancellations in the run-up to the show – eventually numbering more than 200 (from a normal roster of over 1,100) and including virtually all the big distributors and semiconductor firms. This obviously had a knock-on effect on both the conference (with many speakers – particularly those from exhibitors who cancelled – also pulling out) and visitor numbers.

Shortly after, the postponement of another key industrial trade show, Hannover Messe, and cancellation of The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair signalled the trajectory of things to come – and since then, show after show in the UK, Europe and around the world has been cancelled or postponed.

As many adjust to working from home, and to digital and online events of many types, the world of work and beyond may end looking different in a post-COVID world. While many will hope that shows survive and return – some would argue there is no real substitute for meeting face-to-face – it’s entirely possible that, after the crisis around COVID-19 subsides, the industry may have to reconsider the role, impact and importance of such large events and shows.

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