IFA 2015

Farrukh on an Oxboard

During his speech at the launch of the Spark, a GPS sports-health tracker with music, co-founder Peter-Frans Pauwels said, “At TomTom, when we recognise something like this, we just can’t help ourselves. We want to make it easy…Yeehaw!” This was the spirit we discovered across the press days at IFA – before the keynote speeches even began – executives sharing two key matters: recognising the need for a newer, better, different way of doing something, then, delivering on that inspiration.

The entrepreneurial spirit carried itself further when we came across Ernie Hiemstra, the design innovator behind the Oxboard: an electric people-mover. Building upon Segway’s ground-breaking success, the Oxboard is akin to a skateboard with a fully electric motor which carries the ‘Oxboarder’ depending on how you control the pads underneath your feet. Like any innovation, at first it takes time to understand, but once mastered you never look back.

Beyond individual entrepreneurs and their visions, IFA offered established conglomerates a platform. For example, Pansonic’s CEO, Laurent Abadle spoke “I am looking forward to taking a tour of the technologies that we are developing that will change the way we live our lives, over the coming years, for the better.” Focus is not simply on a new product or service for the sake of it, but for improving the quality of people’s lives. This was demonstrated in one key product, the Panasonic Nubo, a 4G camera which enables you to monitor/view anything/anywhere, without the need for a wi-fi connection.

In the same press briefing, while launching a new product to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Technics brand, director Michiko Ogawa, spoke, “Of course, 50 years is but a moment in time compared to music, which has been an integral part of human culture, since antiquity. From the standpoint of audio’s future, we could call the last 50 years, just an overture.”

Shagufta with Corine

In an industry dominated by men, it was refreshing to hear and see a female executive on stage. At the TomTom event earlier, my photographer colleague Dr Shagufta Ahmed – who worked in regulatory affairs for an MNC in the pharmaceutical industry before she left to join Implausibleblog – spoke with co-founder Corine Vigreux who mentioned that it was nice to see another woman there.

Elsewhere, Dr Farhana Safa, a former eye surgeon who just completed a course in car design – and covers car related events for Implausibleblog – has observed much the same, that there are but a handful of female car designers. It isn’t so much a question of competence – she won the Concours of future design award by Salon Prive – just that many industries, for whatever reason, have a gender glass ceiling which must be broken, and perhaps it will be women with greater entrepreneurial spirits who will lead the way.

From new coffee machines (Miele), automatic pasta makers (Phillips), bigger TVs (Skyworth), better fitting earphones (Urbanista), cooler fridges (Samsung), mirrors which add make-up to a real-time image of yourself sitting in front of it (Panasonic), immersive gaming (Sony), smart kettles (Smarter), thermal sensors for smartphones (Seek Thermal), even 3D printed food (XYZ Printing) – yes, I did eat a biscuit printed then baked at IFA! There was no shortage of innovation at Europe’s largest consumer electronics show.

Sadly my phone died the night before the first press day. Running a social media platform, attending one of the most interesting events, I had intended to stay connected to share everything I experienced with those who follow Implausibleblog. Instead, I struggled with the free-to-use computers and at times laughable wi-fi in the press lounge so simply remained off-line for much of my time. Unlike others who do suffer withdrawal symptoms when disconnected from the Internet, I understand and use technology simply as an enabling tool.

While disappointing, it wasn’t the end of the world and let to the following thought. In an increasingly connected and fast-paced digitally enabled world, we need to ensure that we find time to appreciate the things we have, we do, and are around us. The moment technology disables this function of ‘gratitude,’ it is then that technology has moved away from being an enabler to becoming something that has disabled us.

So to my own contribution to entrepreneurial endeavours, a new digital advertising solution which has in the words of Anita Nayyar, a senior innovation consultant, two benefits:

  1. “Giving the customer a sense of control over WHO is allowed to advertise to them. (As )They can tailor their profile and the types of brands who advertise to them according to their *actual interests.”
  2. “Taking out the ‘stalker factor’ from targeted advertising- and creating a much needed sense of autonomy, a space where customers can go and explore new brands .”

Whether technological products at IFA or new services such as my advertising model, innovations and entrepreneurialism are about good manners. They are about being decent in enriching and enabling individuals lives. They are about doing something more, better, – irrespective of gender.

If there is any lesson I have taken from IFA 2015 it is a realisation that for some, even if when we are disconnected from the world, we realise how connected we actually are to it. To quote Peter-Frans Pauwels, “Yeehaw” indeed!

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