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Report on CEBIT in Hannover, 14 - 20 March 1996

Every March the world travels to Hannover in Germany to witness the largest information show in the world. A total of over 5,500 companies exhibiting in some 25 halls set in an area about the size of the City of London with some 700,000 visitors with over 100,000 from outside Germany makes this the largest gathering of IT people in the world. Britain was represented by 267 exhibitor companies and was only exceeded by Taiwan (318), the USA (513) and, of course, Germany with 3804 exhibiting companies.

The European market is analysed annually by a European body called the European Information Technology Observatory. This is a useful report for anyone looking to the market developments. The suggested European growth in the IT business is 8%, with the UK as one of the highest growth areas with 8.9% growth.

The academic sector was well represented with one hall exclusively dedicated to Technology Transfer. Some 36 stands, covering an area of approximately 50,000 square metres, allowed all the German, some Swiss and Russian Universities to demonstrate their technology skills and to offer information technology exchange to industrialists from around the World. The University of Berlin offered a compendium of the research projects underway in the form of two floppy discs, which replaced last year's 680 page booklet.

The big trend in the show was Video Conferencing - over 200 companies were showing video conference facilities, with 75% showing for the first time. Along with this trend was the growth in sub-miniature video cameras to enable the user to conference from any corner of the office or workplace.

On the rapid prototyping front a number of companies were showing low temperature prototype systems which etch plastic with heat rather than with laser. These systems enable the user to have the prototype machine on a desktop in their office rather than in a specially constructed room. These were all known as 3D printers and produce complex models from 'STL' files.

The growing number of LCD flat screen displays with 180 degree viewing areas was clearly evident at the show. Prices in this sector are expected to fall to those of conventional monitors by the year 2000.

Within the virtual reality sector a number of exhibitors were showing "CAVE's". One of these areas enabled the visitor to experience driving a mechanical digger! In addition, more normal situations were presented such as home kitchen design and garden simulation. A particularly interesting simulation was garden designing for the disabled.

Connection to the Internet was almost standard for all exhibitors and the only exceptional interface I found was the new Superscape Visnet 3D Browser.

In an attempt to spread the load at the CEBIT, a new show will start this year called CEBIT Home. This new show will cover the Home electronics area and will be held 28 August - 1 September 1996. The show is already a sell out and I suspect that it will grow to the size of CEBIT. New concepts in exhibition staging will be tried out including a massive Multimedia arena, Chancel 2000 - a presentation of technology and its interaction with man, and an exotic games area including waterfalls, rope bridges and skyscrapers linking the major exhibitors.

People in the multimedia, games and entertainment area can look forward to spending both March and August in Hannover from now on. From the hype I am certainly interested to visit to see this new show and will perhaps report again in September on its realisation.

Bill Boffin
Bill Boffin & Associates