embedded world 2020 opened yesterday. After all the gossip and speculation about the event, with many major exhibitors pulling out, the first day was rather uneventful, and snow being the main talking point at the start of day 2.

We’ve not covered the various companies that pulled out on the blog. It became clear fairly early on that once companies started withdrawing from Mobile World Congress, it would be very difficult for them to attend embedded world. It also only needed a couple of companies to pull out citing safety concerns for their employees and/or customers to trigger a domino effect. The truth is that it would be very difficult for any American company to have flown people out to the show from the USA once a couple of big players had publicly announced their withdrawal.

So embedded world was in a rather difficult position. They must have known that there would be a domino effect, and that the show would be somewhat underwhelming in terms of visitors and exhibitors. We will probably never know in detail why embedded world went ahead when MWC was cancelled, but we suspect that the fact that the Messe which organises embedded world made it difficult for them to cancel one show without shutting down their whole business. MWC is organised by the GSMA, so they didn’t have the potential of a similar knock-on effect.

Whatever the reasons, the show did go on. It clearly hasn’t been an easy couple of weeks for the organisers as their recent statement shows:

“We have never held an exhibition under such complex, global conditions before. Unfortunately, the effects of the corona situation on this fair cannot be completely avoided. We regret, but respect the fact that a number of companies will now not be attending the fair at short notice. Nevertheless, we are convinced that embedded world is attractive and worthwhile for exhibitors and visitors again this year,” says Dr. Roland Fleck, CEO of NürnbergMesse.

The good news for the show is that a lot of exhibitors did attend, and the visitor numbers appear reasonably good considering the situation. In fact, many companies are tweeting about the show as if nothing is out of the ordinary, trying to attract visitors with offers like free coffee:

Our friends at Electronics Weekly have gone one better than this, and are offering free beer to drive people to the stand.

The Messe is also keen to highlight the relative normality of the situation, and I’m told by Clive, who is at the show for Napier, that this tweet is a pretty realistic representation of visitor numbers (although as he’s from California, he is moaning about the cold and the snow, which aren’t visible on the photo!)

There is at least one visitor who isn’t worried about the Coronavirus, although hopefully this cute robot is fully protected against malicious software:

Although visitor numbers appear to be significantly below previous years (and let’s not forget how busy the show was in the last couple of years: they have set a high bar for visitors), with Embedded Computing among those who were pleasantly surprised with the number of attendees.

We even wonder whether the relatively good news about visitors made the exhibitors’ party on the first night a little wilder than usual.

Not everyone, however, was quite as excited about the show as the dancers in the tweet above. Well-known Aspencore journalist, Nitin Dahad, highlighted what he called “empty halls”.

Sally Ward-Foxton, on the other hand, seemed rather pleased with the additional space. It certainly is the case that there are more places to sit and a lot more greenery at the show than in previous years.

Perhaps the final word on what is happening should go to one of the exhibitors who have made the event this year possible. I’m going to choose McObject, not because we have a relationship with them (we don’t), but because as a geek I think that in-memory databases are cool.


Embedded World 2020 – Success or Failure?

So what do we think about the show? We have people at the event but cut down our attendance dramatically because almost all our clients pulled out (as did many larger companies). I suspect this is pretty much what others will have done. The truth is that no one involved is to blame for what will be a disappointing show: I totally understand the reasons why companies pulled out, as well as why most decided to still attend; I have complete sympathy with the organisers who were put in an extremely difficult position once MWC was cancelled; and I can understand why visitors might choose not to go because of Coronavirus concerns or simply because so many large exhibitors pulled out.

It will be interesting to see what happens next year. Few people are talking about what will happen. Will the big companies automatically rebook? Will there be incentives for exhibitors who didn’t attend but still had to pay for the stand space they booked? Although I’ve seen many companies that withdrew trying to create online content that mirrored what they were planning to have on the booth, realistically few had time to create much of an experience. I don’t see anyone saying that they’ve discovered that an online showcase can replace exhibiting at embedded world. Perhaps the organisers should be helping the smaller companies that attended and made embedded world 2020 possible, but clearly are suffering from reduced visitor numbers. At this stage we simply don’t know.

In conclusion, however, I do hope that the show returns bigger and better in 2021. embedded world has built a fabulous event, and I know companies that felt they had to pull out of this year’s show who had decided to double-down on the show, at the expense of electronica, which they felt offered a poorer return on investment for their company. With any luck, 2021 will see the show return as strong as ever, and (other than Clive complaining about the weather) we will all be happy.