IFA Berlin event promises smart watches, connected cars and more

Sue Marek

Next week's IFA trade fair in Berlin, which kicks off Sept. 5 and lasts until Sept. 11, will likely attract the attention of the U.S. wireless industry more than it has in the past. For the first time, the event will feature keynote addresses from two high-profile U.S. executives--Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint (NYSE:S) and Alan Mullaly, CEO of Ford Motor Co.

Why are U.S. CEOs taking the stage at a European trade fair? According to executives from IFA, the group's recent strategic partnership with CTIA is behind the interest from the U.S. executives. Last February CTIA announced it was partnering with IFA as its official show partner for global consumer electronics.

Hesse is expected to talk about the impact of wireless on society, while Mullaly is likely to introduce a new vehicle concept that will make driving safer and easier.

The annual event typically attracts more than 140,000 visitors, which organizers say does not include exhibitor staff. Approximately 45,000 attendees are international. IFA executives say that the exhibitor space has grown by 2 percent this year and they are optimistic that attendance will be strong.

By far the biggest buzz around IFA so far is not the keynotes but the gadgets that will likely make their debut. Samsung and Sony are both expected to have big press events the day before IFA's show floor opens. A top Samsung executive earlier this week confirmed that the company's upcoming device announcements on Sept. 4 will include a smart watch named "Galaxy Gear" and the company's next phablet, the Galaxy Note III. Likewise, Sony is expected to announce the new Xperia smartphone, code-named "Honami."

But beyond the smartphone and smart watch hype, IFA organizers say that many of the exhibitors at the annual trade fair will be talking about connected devices--including TVs, smartphones, home appliances, automobiles and more. Because IFA's roots are in the home appliance market, the show often draws appliance manufacturers, which are now all part of connected home initiatives globally.

I'll be at IFA next week covering the event for the first time. Look for my photos and coverage at FierceWireless. --Sue