Not least because the manufacturing capacity of China is brought to its knees, bringing to a halt many other manufacturers worldwide (including European car manufacturers) due to a looming supply chain interruption, but also for the many travelling restrictions that ensue from efforts to tame the virus propagation.
Paris alone, often claimed to be the most visited city in Europe is registering a drastic reduction in its number of visitors, and the hexagon has already observed a 30 to 40% decline in tourism, according to French economy minister Bruno Le Maire. Venice, a symbol of Italian tourism, is probably set to suffer an even higher decline after some cases were detected in the region. Pure tourism set aside, trade shows can be large contributors to regional prosperity, it is anticipated that Barcelona’s cancelled Mobile World Congress (MWC) will cost Catalonia up to 500 millions Euros in lost revenue. Now, even increased health measures hardly convince travellers they are safe to attend trade shows where tens of thousands of people flock into confined venues. Indeed, a long list of companies officially cancelled their attendance to Embedded World in Nuremberg at a short notice, even though the organizers repeatedly communicated about heightened cleaning and disinfection measures while also encouraging a “no-handshake policy” at the show.
The reduced attendance expected at Embedded World is clearly a cascading effect of Mobile World Congress’ high media profile cancellation, and now other shows in Europe are registering cancellations from high profile exhibitors.
Late February, Signify (formely Philips Lighting) announced it would not participate in Light + Building 2020 which was due to take place this March in Frankfurt, so did the Z-Wave Alliance, an umbrella for over 700 companies with stakes in smart connectivity for homes and businesses, digital health and energy management. Shortly after, Messe Frankfurt decided to postpone the trade fair, acknowledging that the travel restrictions in place would make it difficult for both visitors and exhibitors to attend the fair.
Since then, other fairs have been cancelled or postponed, with tentative schedules over the summer, but uncertainty remains.
Yet, those non-exhibiting companies still need to reach their customers and many have created so-called virtual exhibition booths, or at least a microsite in one form or another, enticing would-be visitors and non-attendees alike to learn more about their products as if they were in the real venue. One example is Anritsu’s web exhibition site, a surrogate of what would have been visible at MWC, or Gigabyte’s digital show (Gigabyte’s MWC Online), with a 3D-rendered virtual booth to be visited at the click of a mouse.
Under the motto “Bringing Silicon Labs to You“, wireless SoCs provider Silicon Labs acknowledges it wasn’t able to make contact with as many customers as it had anticipated during last February’s Embedded World, either due to travel restriction or because many companies cancelled their attendance altogether. The company has put up a microsite to deliver its Embedded World message, complete with webinars, blogs, design articles.
From an event organizer’s perspective, alternative digital solutions are coming into place too. One example is DATE 2020, the Design, Automation & Test in Europe conference originally due to take place in Grenoble from March 9 to 13, 2020. On precautionary grounds due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers announced the physical event would be replaced by a virtual conference.
For the virtual event, a virtual conference environment will be set up to allow authors of accepted papers (long/short regular presentations, interactive presentations, special session presentations), as well as an Exhibition Theatre and PhD Forum presenters who want to, to present their work in a virtual way. All papers presented in the virtual conference will be published in IEEE Xplore and ACM Digital Library and the organizers also promise that a virtual market environment will be set up for the exhibitors.
Companies like digital twin technology provider Matterport must experience a surge in demand for such exploits, and it is probably only a matter of days before 3D virtual reality booths are offered to VR headset owners, complete with video conferencing features and spokesperson avatars. It may not be as social and lively an experience as real meetings, but the cost-benefits could seduce more companies in the future, especially once they’ve already gone one step in the direction of operating virtual booths or virtual conference theatres.
This makes me think that as exhibition shows are concerned, there may well be a “before” and “after” Mobile World Congress 2020.
At the same time, teleworking is largely encouraged even by companies who typically shunned the idea, with employees in large enterprises becoming hesitant to unecessarily expose themselves to corporate crowds, be it in the corridors, meeting rooms or canteens.
Anonymous professional network Blind recently ran a survey regarding companies’ work from home policies, the impact of the Coronavirus in the workplace, and the hesitance and productivity of professionals due to the outbreak. It revealed that over 76.1% of Amazon professionals are working from home, while only 30% of google professionals are working from home, the majority expressing discontent regarding their company’s response to the coronavirus. And with the number of cases now growing each day in the US, more professionals are becoming afraid of going to work, adding the fear is also negatively affecting their productivity in the office.
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