Signs of the times: The big three at IFA 2015
As the doors close on another packed IFA at Berlin's Messe fairgrounds and exhibitors begin dismantling booths and packing away all the consumer tech treasures, Gizmag takes a look back at three technology trends that battled it out for showstopper supremacy at IFA 2015. Connected appliances came into the spotlight to take center stage, slightly overshadowing a strong showing from smartwatches, with HDR TV technology elbowing in to herald the next big thing in living room entertainment.
At the last few IFA consumer electronics shows, the Internet of Things – where everyday objects like fridges, music systems, televisions and home security systems are network connected – has been little more than a buzz phrase thrown around here and there, a kind of support act to the main events. A sign of things to come rather than something we should be investing in now. There was a definite shift in focus at this year's event though, with many consumer electronics manufacturers making much of the life-enhancing power of the connected home and some even giving IoT top billing.
Samsung's press conference, for example, opened with a lengthy affirmation of the company's commitment to a connected gadget future. President of Samsung Electronics Europe YH Eom reported that the European Commission values the IoT market to be worth one trillion Euros by 2020 and the company is hoping to tap into that market by working with commercial partners to build the ecosystem necessary to support the millions of connected devices that will make up the Internet of Things in the next five years.
A living room-sized corner of LG's booth was given over to its vision for the connected home, demonstrating air conditioning systems, washing machines, window sensors and smart plugs that all reached into the cloud to chatter away to each other and provide their users with the tools to manage home electronics remotely. In addition to the usual IoT suspects like connected kitchen appliances and home entertainment systems, Panasonic also had a Back to the Future-like interactive digital window in its vision of the near future, which would stream soothing moving images at the whim of home owners.
German manufacturers Bosch and Siemens both had Home Connect devices on show, where an app is used to control household appliances, including fridges packing camera technology that allowed users to check supplies remotely. AEG, meanwhile, opted to use camera technology to allow home chefs a live feed view of what's cooking in its ProCombi Plus Smart oven. Elsewhere, Neato introduced a Wi-Fi-enabled robotic vacuum to its range and Netatmo added a wind gauge to its Weather Station device, both of which can be monitored using a mobile app.
With manufacturers big and small seemingly committed to a connected future, all that remains is to see if gadget-savvy consumers buy into an IoT future. The huge crowds gathered around all manner of smart appliances at IFA 2015 would suggest that they will.
Rise of the smartwatch
While smartwatches had a strong presence last year, two big name releases ensured lots of cameras were focused on wrist candy this year at IFA.
Though the second-generation Motorola Moto 360 has a lot going for it (it comes in two sizes, is available in a wide range of build options, and is rated for up to two days up time on a single charge), the Samsung Gear S2 really stole the show. Samsung's new Tizen OS smartwatch provides users with a three-fold control solution – touchscreen, two side buttons and a rotating bezel for scrolling – that feels intuitive and lets you get your fingers out of the way while reading info off the screen.
Gizmag also took a hands-on look at the fashion-first Asus ZenWatch 2 and the Huawei Watch, the latter featuring the most luxurious build we've yet seen in an Android Wear-based smartwatch. Elsewhere, TomTom made a leap into the fitness wearable space with the Spark, and LG had its glitzy Watch Urbane Luxe on display, which features a 23-karat gold body and a hand crafted alligator leather strap.
While smartwatches might never become truly essential pieces of tech, they're certainly growing up fast. Asus and Motorola are more committed than ever to providing users with a wide selection of aesthetic choices, while Huawei has worked on raising the bar when it comes to the build quality of Android Wear devices. Samsung's Gear S2 represents the biggest development though, with refined software, nice hardware and an awesome control experience.
Three letters: HDR
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, a technique used in photography and cinematography to present the viewer with image color and luminance that's closer to what we'd see in real life. Now HDR is coming to televisions.
"One of the most exciting advancements for the viewer is the emergence of High Dynamic Range content, or what we call HDR," said Sony's CEO Kaz Hirai at the company's IFA Press Conference. "HDR changes the way movies and TV content looks on your TV screen, with a wider range of brightness and contrast without compression. So you can really see the difference, particularly in bright or dark areas of your screen. And that means picture quality of your content becomes closer than ever to what you see and experience in real life."
All of the big names in TV manufacture had HDR-capable televisions to show off, including LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Philips and of course Sony. Visitors to IFA were given the opportunity to compare the HDR experience in side-by-side comparisons with non-HDR TV sets in darkened cubby holes at company booths.
And we admit to being literally taken aback by the vibrant HDR experience of the demonstrations, though suspect that the effect may be somewhat different in a living room setting. Then there's the issue of a lack of available content at the moment. Early adopters may be in for a lesson in patience. But we think it will be worth the wait.