Friday, May 16, 2014

CEBIT 2014 Digital Business report

Australia’s largest and most respected IT conference and expo CEBIT has morphed from a tech industry meet-up to a true digital business/economy event. This year’s CEBIT conference marked their transformation by moving west from Sydney’s Exhibition centre in Darling Harbour to Homebush the home of the successful 2000 Olympics. The move has re-energised the event, now in its 13th year. A revamped offering over 3 days was more about innovation and facilitating business than just geek tech.

Travelling out to Homebush by car was an unnecessary luxury as the train ticket was included in the entry, ( a nice touch and a vote of confidence in the event from the NSW government). My fellow traveller was a prominent business publisher and he’d just taken charge of a wonderful new car from Mercedes. The car has so much technology crammed into it I quickly became his onboard technology advisor.

Belkin, a Central Coast based company greeted us when entering the substantial expo hall. They were promoting their new range of Smart Home technologies; automated networking of all things electrical in the home/office. The pricing points for these once very expensive items are now incredibly digestible and worth a close look.

Beyond the big company stands there was an impressive array of foreign trade stands from China, Germany, India and the UK. Though it was the crafty New Zealanders from Wellington that had the best pitch to my mind. The aspiring Tech City of Wellington had dragged over a bunch of fun business people to talk up their city and NZ as a whole. A mix of good business data, coffee, food and cheeky personalities was winning people over, me included. Wellington fell short on only one count, fibre optic broadband. Something I bragged Gosford had over them. Of course they quickly replied that they were onto it and a full fibre optic rollout to all premises was well on the way.

The conference side of the event was as thorough as always, with so called Big Data, eHealth, Cloud, Mobility and Cyber Security the main lecture themes. Though Paul Budde’s bite sized info sessions proved most popular. Paul heads a Central Coast based global telecommunications consultancy which has become a hallmark of CEBIT Australia over the last decade. His experience from around the world helps frame the Australian version of the CEBIT global franchise.

Close to my heart was a fun new concept this year. As startup’s have been on everyone’s lips this year, CEBIT revamped and expanded it’s fun ‘StartUp Alley’ concept. Almost 100 startup projects were present providing the quirky energy and pizzazz that tech expos usually lack. There was a wide range of new concepts waving their idea flags in the wind, all of whom later competed at a pitch fest event. One of the winners was a mob called MathsSpace, that is evolving the teaching of complex mathematics concepts in a very cool and engaging way. Though most of all the Startup alley bought new faces to the event, many young people of course, though notable were less tech looking experienced old hands and most encouraging many more entrepreneurial women.

An honorable mention to the University of Newcastle who were out in force again with their micro robotics students, a specialisation that the UoN are gaining a global reputation for. Their Nubots program was most popular with the crowd. Nubots are programmable 1 foot high robots that can do many things, among other things play football (watch out CC Mariners).

3D printing exhibitors were there in full force. This technology is evolving rapidly and is fast becoming mainstream. The sophistication of items that can be printed now is incredible; bones, complex tools and industrial spare parts among them. The price points for the machines has dropped incredibly and range from a few thousand dollars for basic machines to just $60k for incredibly sophisticated industrial units.
The opportunities these technologies represent to revitalise local manufacturing should not be under-estimated.

CEBIT Australia is now well underway to evolving into the “must visit” event on the Australian/Pacific digital business calendar. I was informed by an insider of the parent company in Hanover, Germany that the Australian franchise, started by Jacquie Taranto is seen as the innovation leader in it’s field. That’s saying something, as if you’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting CEBIT Europe it is a mighty tough gig to beat the Germans at their own expo game.

“Digital” Dave Abrahams

This article appeared in the Central Coast Business Review & on ABC Central Coast Radio 92.5

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