Future Perfect

Zap those economic blues. Seven shiny tech tips from CeBIT 09

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The global economic crash getting you down? Take the talking cure.

The population of Hanover in northern Germany pretty much doubles once a year when around 500,000 computer and IT industry movers and shakers from all over the world click over to CeBIT, the world’s biggest technology expo.

With thousands of exhibitors and hundreds of product launches and demonstrations, CeBit 09 (3-8 March) is about trying out new technologies and thinking around new trends.

It’s also about gossiping and partying and getting the face-to-face contact that the stutter of the video conference just can’t match.

And, naturally, these days, it’s about analysing the global economy and what its collapse means for tech business.

Tip 1: “No Problemo”

Adding some Hollywood glitz to CeBIT 09’s launch today, bodybuilder, actor and Governor of California Arnold Schwarzeneger said that the best businesses would view the global economic crisis as a challenge.

You can use a crisis as an opportunity to shine, an opportunity to leap past your competitors who are taking it maybe easy and taking the easy way out.

That’s what winners do. Losers whine, but winners move forward in a strong and powerful way.

Why Arnie? He’s representing California at CeBIT. With the eighth largest economy in the world, California is considered big enough to be CeBIT 09’s partner “country”. Plenty of tech muscle there, then.

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The Governor of California shares a tweet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Tip 2: Silicon Dragon

While their near economic future may seem grim, help may be at hand for new tech start-ups.

True, bank credit is crunched. But venture capitalists are plush with funds gathered from institutional and major private investors. They remember the tech innovations which followed the end of the dotcom boom.

Emerging from his CeBIT den, Frank Böhnke, General Partner at Wellington Partners, which specialises in investing in young European tech, internet and digital media companies, says that he’s on the lookout for good ideas.

The current climate couldn’t be better for start-ups: "A new company can develop in peace and quiet during an economic downturn."

Tip 3: Theft Bytes

Take care of your tech security and save what money you’ve got left.

You’ve probably been robbed at clickpoint and you didn’t even know it.

There’s "phishing": the number of people who unwittingly gave passwords details to online con artists went up by 25 per cent in 2007, according to CeBIT research.

And "pharming": a recent black-hat hacker technique is to guide the unwary user to a counterfeit website.

And "zombies": marshalled into "botnets" to carry out computer attacks, millions of home and office computers work for criminal gangs without their owners’ knowledge.

Confused? Worried? Visit CeBIT 09’s Security World hall to see the latest anti-hacker technology as well as alarm, video surveillance and biometric systems.

Tip 4: Hotting Up

Save energy. CeBIT 08’s "Green Village" blossoms into a "Green IT World" this year, spreading its shoots into a new hall full of environmentally friendly tech products.

According to CeBIT research, half of German shoppers would happily pay extra for energy-efficient high-tech devices. Some ten per cent wouldn’t mind paying up to 20 per cent more.

At CeBIT 08, Microsoft Chief Exec Steve Ballmer launched an energy management system designed for domestic users.

This CeBIT, the German Minister of the Environment Sigmar Gabriel explains how the interest in energy efficiency is likely to develop into one of the IT industry’s most important new markets.

Tip 5: Ghost Rider

Save even more energy. Get behind the wheel of one of CeBIT’s energy-saving electric cars, press down the accelerator and take a snooze.

Scanning the road with stereo cameras, radar sensors and a GPS sat-nav, the car’s computer analyses data so that the chauffeur bots doing the driving can avoid any black ice, traffic snarl-ups or Jeremy Clarksons ahead.

For more extreme va-va-vroom still, visit the track outside the CeBIT conference centre where high-speed heavy trucks slalom past obstacles and roar around bends – again, minus human drivers.

To get the robo car specs, quiz the boffins in the CeBIT cars, transport and navigation hall.

Tip 6: Web + Society = ?

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CeBIT 09: Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer, Amazon

Take a good look at yourself.

Come to CeBIT to see the future; they give you a mirror.

Tagging your digital data? Posting it online to friends, family, business colleagues, to the entire Internet? You’re living in Society 2.0: the "Webciety".

As well as an area devoted to cracking the jargon – Enterprise 2.0, Open Source, blogs, wikis, web TV, social networks, user generated content and so geekily on, CeBIT 09 brings together top industry speakers to explore what’s going to happen when everyone is potentially connected to everyone else. New markets, new opportunities, everyone hopes.

Elite geeks taking part include: Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer, Amazon.com; Marco Boerries, Executive VP Connected Life Division, Yahoo!; Reid Hoffman, Founder, LinkedIn; Stewart Butterfield, Co-Founder, Flickr.

Tip 7: Wall To Wall

Finally, look beyond the economic doom and gloom. Get things into perspective.

Stacked high with glittering gizmos, CeBIT has whole halls dedicated to personal mobile players and interactive entertainment.

One shiny bargain likely to make a big splash is a smart phone which doubles as a pocket-sized big screen TV.

Launching at CeBIT 09, Logic’s Logic Bolt looks like a chunky mobile phone. But tap the 2.4 inch touch screen and a built-in projector turns any wall into a giant screen. Displays range in size from 36 to 64 inches.

As well as movies, the Logic Bolt can project video from your Xbox or Nintendo Wii. With Bluetooth, a three-megapixel camera and the ability to read MS Office documents, the Windows Mobile GSM phone is expected to retail for around $100.

As cool, shiny, amazing tech gets cheaper, the consumer market is likely to grow. Fingers crossed.

Vital Stats

CeBIT 09 takes place between 3 and 8 March 2009 at the Hannover Messe Exhibition Grounds, Hanover, Germany.

A full ticket booked in advance is 71 Euros (£64); a day ticket, 33 Euros (£30).

See CeBIT for further details.

A version of this appears in the March 2009 issue of BMI Voyager.