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[IFA 2019] IFA executive director says trade disputes hold back innovation

BERLIN -- Collaborative innovation loomed at the forefront of the 59th IFA 2019 in Berlin, Germany.

Jens Heithecker, the IFA executive director, emphasized on the power of the approach in shaping the future, as he opened up the stage for IFA keynote speakers on Friday and Saturday.

And it’s one that requires openness, which is the backbone of the annual trade fair that is a staunch supporter of freedom.

“A bit over 20 years ago, listening to western media would have cost your career for people living under East German dictatorship,” Heithecker said. 

Jens Heithecker, the IFA executive director (Messe Berlin)
Jens Heithecker, the IFA executive director (Messe Berlin)

“Today, of course most people use small devices that we can carry around in our pockets and IFA is at the forefront of showcasing this technology.”

Heithecker said IFA has two objectives: Showcase what’s best in the industry and bring the best minds together for co-innovation.

“Trade is not a zero sum game,” he continued, adding that the increasing trade sanctions and discord were harmful to consumers, industries and countries.

“(With trade sanctions) what you can buy will not be the best product, because it is not using the best components in the world,” Heithecker said, noting that it is a setback for innovation itself because it makes co-innovation so much more difficult.

As for this year’s IFA’s trends, the executive director picked out voice-commands and artificial intelligence. Voice-command technology is simply referred to as voice in the tech industry.

“Voice is not a novelty but rapidly becoming a standard interface,” Heithecker said.

He elaborated that people no longer apply particular significance to internet of things when talking about it, because it has become the new normal.

“At IFA 2015, IoT was promised to completely transform every single device in our homes,” Heithecker said, hinting that the same will happen with voice controls.

Another trend at IFA 2019 is AI, Heithecker said, but that that may not be very obvious to consumers.

“It is best that AI is completely hidden from us,” Heithecker explained, meaning that it does not draw attention to itself when making people’s lives easier.

AI has already started to transform the world and it is done so through next-generation 5G mobile connectivity, he added.

In order for technological advancements, it is crucial that the world continues to develop together, the IFA executive director said.

The IFA 2019 is taking place from Friday through Sept. 11 in Berlin, Germany.

Its keynote speakers include Richard Yu, the CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group; Cristian Amon, the president of Qualcomm; Anthony Wood, founder and chairman of Roku; and Hakan Bulgurlu, CEO of Arcelik.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (
Korea Herald correspondent