Whilst not quite on the same scale as the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the annual IFA trade show in Berlin does have its fair share of lavish press conferences and hi-tech gadgetry to drool over.
Unsurprisingly, the range of devices falling under the ‘smart tech’ category increased massively this year, with everything from robots that clean your floor to fridges that tell you when your food has gone off. There was even an Internet-connected pet camera that lets strangers fling treats out across a room, but perhaps the strangest thing we saw was a double chin remover which makes the bold promise to buzz away your excess neck fat.
So after a couple of days (and about 50,000 steps), here’s some of our favourite things from the show...
Panasonic SC-GA10 Smart Speaker
The SC-GA10 is Panasonic’s first foray into the world of smart speakers.
While some manufacturers have hedged their bets as to which intelligent AI will come out ahead, Panasonic has come out firmly in favour of Google. The SC-GA10 features full support for Google Assistant, which means that it will integrate with the latest smartphones and anything that’s Google Assistant compatible, including other smart speakers.
With a rich heritage in music, spanning over 60 years, it makes sense that the Panasonic SC-GA10’s unique selling point is its audio quality.
Inside this speaker you’ll find two 20mm tweeters paired with an 8cm woofer to round out the bass. This woofer has a dual voice coil, and is paired with a long port back bass reflex system for some extra oomph.
First impressions suggest that the speaker is capable of a level of audio quality that’s a step up from the stock smart speaker options from Amazon and Google. During our demo, the speaker’s low bass rumbled the walls of the room without losing too much detail in the mids and trebles.
For playing music then, the SC-GA10 looks like it might provide a high-end alternative to other smart speakers, but we’ll have to wait until next year to see how well it performs against the competition.
Huawei – Kirin 970 chipset
As part of CEO Richard Yu's keynote address, he revealed HUAWEI's vision for the future of artificial intelligence with the launch of the Kirin 970. By combining the power of the cloud with the speed and responsiveness of native AI processing, HUAWEI is bringing AI experiences to life and changing the way we interact with our devices.
"As we look to the future of smartphones, we're at the threshold of an exciting new era," he said. “Mobile AI = On-Device AI + Cloud AI. HUAWEI is committed to developing smart devices into intelligent devices by building end-to-end capabilities that support coordinated development of chips, devices and the cloud. The ultimate goal is to provide a significantly better user experience. The Kirin 970 is the first in a series of new advances that will bring powerful AI features to our devices and take them beyond the competition."
Simply put, the Kirin 970 can perform the same AI computing tasks faster and with far less power. In a benchmark image recognition test, the Kirin 970 processed 2,000 images per minute, which was faster than other chips on the market. Sounds good to us.
TomTom sport software updates
We all know people who have bought a smart watch filled with good intentions of exercising every day and then only to find it gathering dust in a drawer after a few weeks. Well, TomTom hopes to change all that.
TomTom used IFA to launch a range of new software updates across its wearable fitness devices which gamifies fitness to make exercise more compelling. Called Fitness Age, Fitness Points and Personalised Workouts, these combined features are said to give users the tools they need to "work out smarter, achieve their fitness goals faster and live a healthier lifestyle". The features are available as software updates on the TomTom fitness, running and multi-sports devices.
While Fitness Age is all about showing users how fit they really are, the Fitness Points tool gives users direct feedback about their exercise to improve their Fitness Age over time. The Personalised Workouts feature provides step-by-step exercise guidance tailored to an individual’s fitness level and exercise goals.
TomTom co-founder and managing director, Corinne Vigreux, said: “By introducing Fitness Age and Fitness Points we have now designed a reliable way to measure your fitness level. [These features] introduce a ‘personal coach on your wrist’ to motivate you when you need to do more and acknowledge your efforts when you’ve done enough.”
Technics SP10R Turntable
Billed as “the most premium turntable ever”, Technics continues its assault on vinyl records by resurrecting the classic (and reassuringly expensive) SP-10 turntable.
Built out of brass, die-cast aluminium, and deadening rubber - and with an external power supply to boot - Technics is pitching the SP-10R at well-heeled audiophiles.
Unfortunately, we might need to save up a bit (or get a very large pay rise) before we can buy one.
Aimed more at the mid-market, the gorgeous SC-C70 is a compact, all-in-one stereo system that features amplification, source, speakers and streaming smarts all in one box.
Sound comes from a pair of small 2-way loudspeakers and a mini-subwoofer whose combined output can be tailored to your room’s acoustic make-up using Technics’ SpaceTune™ technology. We look forward to seeing this on the shelves in the UK this September.
So all in all, another great event showcasing some stunning new tech to look forward to. For us though, just as important as all the glitzy product launches, is getting the opportunity to catch up with colleagues, customers and new contacts.
At the end of the day, people still buy from people, and it’s the relationships that are built and maintained at events like this that count in the long run.
We’ll be exploring some of the latest retail and tech trends, as well as sharing new strategies for how retailers and brands can succeed in 2017 in our forthcoming Masterclass ‘Retail Uncovered – Getting under the skin of what makes a successful retail strategy’.
Ars Technica UK, CNET, Huawei, TomTom, What hi-fi?