IoT Solutions World Congress 2017 –
Neil’s take on European Circuits’ IoT trip into the future.
At the beginning of October, myself and Philip Briscoe set off to Barcelona for the IoT Solutions World Congress 2017 to represent European Circuits and following the event we felt it worthwhile to share the experience with you. Furthermore, we want to share what it is like to exhibit at this type of event, taking the opportunity to give helpful tips along the way.
The Internet of Things (IoT): “Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cellphones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. This also applies to components of machines, for example a jet engine of an airplane or the drill of an oil rig. As I mentioned, if it has an on and off switch then chances are it can be part of the IoT. The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices.” Jacob Morgan, Forbes Online.
In what was a significant investment, European Circuits made the decision to exhibit at an event that, although heavily researched online, was relatively unknown compared to the exhibitions we regularly exhibit at (Southern & Northern Manufacturing, Subcon and Electronica/Productronica).
The key reason behind the company exhibiting at the event was simply down to the increasing enquiries we are receiving in relation to the IoT (varying from Design to Full Product Build).
In addition to the IoT enquiries, we are also keen to expand our business across the globe and one look at the visitor/exhibitor list and you can see this is a truly global event.
Background to exhibiting – Booking the stand and logistics
We pretty much always book an exhibition a year in advance, so our research into this event started late 2015, early 2016.
Mid 2016, we made the decision to exhibit. I got in touch with the always helpful Pedro Luis Sanchez Macias (Sales & Visitor Manager at Event Organisers, Fira Barcelona) and he let me know that the floorplan was still in development but we could signal our intention to sign up and thus we would get the early bird rate that they offer.
When the time came to pick our stand, we ended up getting a really good location in the exhibition hall. We were located near one of our customers ADC Infraestructuras y Sistema, as well as other major brands such as Nokia, Vodafone, and directly across from us, Matooma. Our stand position was predominately Pedro’s suggestion but we were given a choice so we will cling to some of the credit!
One aspect of the booking we felt was a bit misleading and should be considered if you are looking to attend in future, was the need to use an official show logistics warehouse (RESA Logistics). The firm delivers exhibition kit to and from the show. This meant that we could not hire a courier to take our kit straight to and from our stand, we had to involves a middle man, whom demanded an expensive fee for their services in the process. This wasn’t communicated to us prior to booking.
Promoting the event – Website, social and e-mail newsletters
Time moved on from the booking and it wasn’t until nearer the event that we started to heavily promote online, sending out specifically created IoT related content with the event in mind, via our website, social channels and e-mail newsletters (content included, thought provoking IoT blogs, unique imagery including web banners and general information about the event).
We also included event information in our e-mail signatures and we made a conscious effort to inform our customers of the event when speaking at meetings and during phone calls.
Packing up, travel, accommodation and setting up
Before we left, we got Norman, our PCB Design and Test engineer, to design silkscreens for the manufacturing team to make our promotional PCB coasters – The coasters went down a treat at the show. You would be amazed at how fascinated people are by them.
Philip bought shortbread, a subtle nod to our Scottish roots, for visitors to try at the stand and again passers-by were delighted at the small sugar rush it gave them.
We travelled over to Barcelona on the Monday with the show starting on the Tuesday and we were pleased with ourselves on arrival at our hotel, The Catalonia Plaza. As we stepped out the taxi outside the hotel, I pointed across the road to a sign for the exhibition, “There’s the exhibition hall right across the road!”. Well weren’t we just full of ourselves, logistical masters we thought…
Not quite, we dumped our bags at the hotel and then proceeded to walk about for over an hour in 26-degree heat trying to find the correct exhibition hall.
Note: This was OK for fit guys like me and Philip but just a warning for any others that may not be in fighting shape.
Eventually, we found out that we had to get a taxi to the exhibition. It was a 55-minute walk from our hotel. Lesson learned, we recommend you try booking the two hotels across from the correct exhibition hall! (Hotel Fira Congress & Hotel Porta Fira)
When we did arrive, we were very impressed with the facility, the Grand Via Venue, designed by award winning Japanese architect, Toyo Ito, is massive, modern and overall, very impressive. The longer walk to Hall 5 wasn’t really what we were looking for after a long journey and then the search but we soldiered on.
We are told the exhibition is going to be in Hall 2 next year (nearer the entrance and larger in size) which sounds like a good idea.
Our kit was sitting waiting for us on our stand which is always a relief when exhibiting far away from our home base. Our kit (made last year by Citrus Displays) and accessories took no more than 45 minutes to assemble. If we are to do the show again, we may well use an IOT display unit we are working on with Replicade.
After the stand was ready, it was back to the hotel to catch up on e-mails from the day gone by followed by a brief dinner (My vegan dietary requirements set us off on another quest but we shall move on!).
Day One – A strike, a taxi to remember, crowds and wonder
Opening times for the exhibition were longer than anything we have experienced before, 8.00am until 8pm. This meant for a hearty breakfast on the first day!
As you may well be aware, we arrived in Barcelona in the midst of a turbulent political landscape and unfortunately for us and the exhibition there was a strike that affected public transport and taxis on the first day. This meant we were slightly late as we scrambled for one of few taxis on the road which wasn’t ideal but there wasn’t much anyone could have done differently with regards to this. Indeed, the organisers e-mailed the night before giving us prior warning that it may be tough going transport wise.
An amazing coincidence happened as we were about to enter our long-awaited taxi, a couple of gentleman, obviously going to the show too asked us if they could share the taxi. We said “of course, that makes sense”. Well to cut a long story short, the two guys worked for a company that need PCBAs for their products! First lead of the week before we got inside the hall.
If we were worried about the strike impacting the visitor attendance, we needn’t have. The first day was great in terms of leads and general footfall.
Another worry was the fact myself and Philip, do not speak any other languages, besides English (fluently). Again, we needn’t have worried as visitors either spoke perfect English or we got by pointing at signs and exchanging business cards. Ironically, we also met a potential customer who came from Cumnock which is not that far from our factory in Glasgow!
Myself and Philip took turn about to take breaks during the show and it was during this time I could wander around to see what was going on. Massive companies like Microsoft and Google took up large stands and you can see they are well aware of the significance of the sector.
Application test beds were on display, most notable products that caught my eye were; working solutions for precision agriculture, predictive maintenance, connected transport and connected workforce safety and operations products.
Large companies were out on force, however, it was refreshing to see the small start-up held just as much, if not more, clout and intelligence on the subject matter. The small stands I visited drove home to me; the opportunity is there for anyone that has a great idea, drive and knowledge. Furthermore, it told me there is definitely a place for European Circuits to help these companies get to market with its’ expertise in the field.
Day one raced by as it was so busy but as we left for the day, our legs were in need of a rest. Unfortunately, the taxi strike meant we had to wait in a taxi queue for over an hour. We definitely need to get a hotel nearer next year.
When we got back to the hotel, we had a quick dinner and then it was onto e-mails until the back of 12am, catching up on the day gone by.
Day Two – Characters, Countries and Censis
Learning from the first day, we set off earlier and got to the exhibition before it opened this time. We were queued up, waiting to burst into action.
The second day at an exhibition is one where you know the lay of the land a bit better, you know the people in the stands around about you better and overall you feel more comfortable in your surroundings. The key to a good day is always footfall though and we were delighted to see a similar return of leads as the first day.
The show offered up many creative minds and day two was no exception and I really enjoyed learning from our visitors as much as they learned about us. Some great conversations were had; not only on the benefits but also on the perceived negatives that can come about due to the creation of an IOT product. Issues surrounding security and privacy for example.
Another pleasing aspect for us was the varying countries represented. We received enquiries from Columbia, Slovakia, Spain, The Netherlands, Canada and as far away as Australia.
Familiar faces and accents were in supply too and we were delighted to meet up with Stephen Milne and Craig Fleming of Censis at the Congress. We have been in close communication with Censis recently and we will be exhibiting at their Technology Summit and Conference on the 2nd of November at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.
The guys were over from Scotland to listen and take in what was on offer and without being able to speak for them, I believe they were both excited and re-assured that the IoT scene in Scotland is in-line, if not ahead, of the curve with regards to physical and workable IoT products out in the field.
Come the end of day two we decided to have a networking dinner with the guys at Censis back at our hotel and thankfully this meeting meant we found the hotel’s roof top bar which was a stunning backdrop to discuss all things IoT.
Day Three – Speakers, Blockchain and packing up
Upon arrival on the third day, I decided I would go and take in a couple of talks at the auditorium while Philip manned the stand. Unfortunately, I was rejected at the door because I had an exhibitors badge on. Apparently, I should have been given a Congress pass too and because I wasn’t wearing it, I wasn’t allowed in. This would be a good tip for anyone thinking about attending next year. Make sure you have all the passes printed out.
I felt I missed some valuable insight due to my expulsion. In fairness, we direct tweeted the organisers about this and two members of the sales and marketing team immediately came to our stand to explain what had gone wrong and told us how we could resolve it. We also got a couple of retweets which we were chuffed about.
I am not sure what the exhibition has in mind but I believe it would be great to have the talks from the three days uploaded to a web portal or even onto YouTube to watch after the event – they did seem to be recording them after all.
Later, on the third day, I did manage to sit in on a couple of Blockchain talks and although I still need to research it more before I put any of my money toward it, it seems inevitable that the future digital economy is on its way. Like a lot of things at this exhibition, and I wrote about this after the show on LinkedIn, the technology is clearly there for us humans to dramatically change the way we interact with the physical world.
The one big question that sticks out to me is how quickly will the masses adopt IoT technology, it’s associated analytics and Blockchain for that matter? The stark truth is that people do not have the time to learn about the technology/analytics side of things – People need something that integrates seamlessly into their everyday lives without having to think or feel like there is extra work to do. I’d guess adoption is the biggest challenge companies that make IoT products and new economic models will have, now that we are seeing it can be done.
The third day drew to a close and we were delighted with how the show went. All in all, we were very pleased in terms of leads, facilities, knowledge gathering and general networking.
We packed up and left the kit for the logistics warehouse company to collect, tired, we stumbled towards the exit and back to the hotel to pick up more e-mails from the day that had past.
As if the chance meeting in the taxi was not enough of a networking lesson, the final night in Barcelona also taught me you never know who you might meet when you get yourself out and about.
The final day at the conference coincided with the Scottish National Football team playing a key qualifier against Slovakia and I was keen to watch it. This being said, at the end of the show I was knackered and I seriously considered getting an early night. Football won over fatigue, however, and off I went to an Irish bar that I googled on my phone. A pretty random destination.
As I sat down, I got speaking to a young couple on my right who were on their holidays. This conversation led to an introduction to the people sitting around me. The first person I spoke to worked for Kaiam in Livingston, one was the lead from Cumnock I met on day one that I had not noticed and finally I met the mum of a former employee at European Circuits!
A great night was had and it led to my final tip for this article… Hope that your football team do not score a last-minute winner when you are flying home early the next day. I suffered a slight sore head let’s just say.