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Four events, 240,000 fewer attendees and invitations only − All you need to know about IFA 2020

After the cancellation of MWC, Google I/O, GDC and numerous other tech events, it came as a surprise when it was revealed that this year’s edition of IFA, the huge annual gadget and home appliance showcase, is set to go ahead as a physical event, albeit on a much smaller scale than usual. Read on for what we know about IFA 2020.

IFA 2020 dates

As ever, IFA 2020 will take place in Berlin − presumably at Messe Berlin. The show will open on Thursday, September 3, and it will run for three days only, coming to a close on Saturday, September 5.

But get this. Last year’s show attracted 245,000 visitors, including 2800 journalists from 160 countries. Not only would that, to put it mildly, not be advisable in the midst or immediate aftermath of a deadly pandemic, but it wouldn’t be possible either, the city of Berlin having banned events involving more than 5000 participants until at least October 24.

IFA 2020 will not be open to the public. Instead, the event’s organisers have said that it will be invite-only and that they “will put strict limits on the number of attendees”, with no more than 1000 people allowed to attend each of the four main events:

  • IFA Global Press Conference
  • IFA NEXT meets IFA SHIFT Mobility
  • IFA Global Markets
  • IFA Business, Retail & Meeting Lounges

800 journalists from at least 50 countries will be invited to Berlin to cover the Global Press Conference, which is where brands and manufacturers will showcase their latest products.

IFA NEXT meets IFA SHIFT Mobility will have a startup flavour, while the final two will give companies the opportunity to hash out deals.

The organisers of IFA have promised a “virtual experience” too, but it isn’t yet clear what that will entail.

Read more: Best smartphone

IFA 2020 exhibitors

Although several major companies dropped out of MWC 2020 before the GSMA eventually pulled the plug on the entire thing, the vast majority of attendees seemed determined to press ahead with the show, despite the rapid spread of coronavirus at that time.

It should perhaps come as no surprise, then, to see that several huge names have already given IFA 2020 their backing, including Qualcomm, Huawei, Fitbit, Sennheiser and Miele. Here’s what the companies have said:

“Wireless technology has never been more essential. I look forward to sharing how 5G, AI and other key technologies will deliver the capabilities the world needs during these unprecedented times and beyond at IFA Berlin 2020.” – Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm

“Huawei has been participating IFA for 9 years. It has been an excellent platform for #Huawei to promote our products and strategies as well as meeting friends around the world. We look forward to joining the event in the new form.” – Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei

“A really surprising and inspiring IFA concept at the right time. We are currently examining how we can best use these ideas for Fitbit’s global ambitions. It is more important than ever to provide positive impulses for our industry, media and trade.” – Michael Maier, CEO of Fitbit

“In a time in which exchange of ideas and positive impulses are more important than ever, we are very pleased to see such a creative approach to bringt the spirit of IFA to life in 2020.” – Daniel and Dr. Andreas Sennheiser, co-CEOs of Sennheiser

“Corona presents us all with great challenges. The creativity with which the Messe Berlin is nevertheless managing to bring exhibitors, trade and media together this year is really great. And we are delighted to be part of it.” – Dr. Reinhard Zinkann, executive director of Miele

At the time of publication, more than 1800 exhibitors are listed on IFA’s website, though it doesn’t look like the directory has been updated since last year’s event.

IFA 2020 keynotes

Qualcomm president Cristiano Amon will deliver the opening keynote, and apparently plans to speak about “the company’s latest developments in 5G, AI and other key technologies that will drive the future of the Internet and deliver the devices and capabilities the world needs”.

Amon was a keynote speaker at last year’s event too, as was Huawei CEO Richard Yu, who we’d love to hear from given the ongoing US trade ban.

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IFA 2020 coronavirus safety measures

IFA’s organisers “have been in close coordination with public health authorities,” according to Jens Heithecker, the executive director of IFA Berlin.

“They have worked with us as we have developed our concept, and together we have agreed a safe and workable solution,” he added.

“Of course, we hope and expect that between now and September, the public health situation will improve. However, we are basing all our planning on the most stringent health and safety guidelines.”

Reducing the number of attendees to 1000 per event should make it easier to enforce social distancing, and all keynotes and press conferences will take place on two or three stages, meaning attendees won’t have to move from conference hall to conference hall.

That will come as a relief to anyone who’s ever visited the labyrinthine Messe Berlin before, where getting completely lost and finding yourself in the middle of a building site is par for the course.

“The organizers will make sure that social distancing, careful crowd control and other effective public hygiene measures are all in place,” IFA has said in an announcement.

We’re going to assume that handshakes are off the menu.

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