IFA: The 'corporate' electronics show

IFA, the consumer electronics show held in Berlin each September, has something for everyone -- including the corporate buyer.

Peter Sayer/IDG

IFA: The corporate electronics show

IFA, the consumer electronics show held in Berlin each September, has something for everyone -- including the corporate buyer. True, its many halls are dominated by home entertainment equipment and white goods such as smart washing machines and connected refrigerators. But some of the products on show would be equally at home in the enterprise. Here's a quick tour of 2017's crop. 

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Caterpillar T20 tablet

The typical tablet is a fragile object, not the kind of thing you would want to risk taking onto the shop floor or a construction site. The Caterpillar-brand T20 tablet from Bullitt Group, though, is made of tougher stuff. It's designed to withstand a fall from 1.8 meters and survive being immersed to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes. It runs Windows 10, can connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G, 3G and 2G wireless networks, and costs €649 ($780).

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XYZprinting Da Vinci Color 3D printer

You may have already considered using 3D printers for prototypes and one-off designs, but been put off by the expense and lack of color. The Da Vinci Color from XYZprinting might change that. Like other 3D printers, it builds models a layer at a time using an off-white filament -- but then it colors each layer with its built-in ink-jet printer. The result is models with rich color and smooth blends. It can print objects up to 200x200x150mm, and retails for €3599 ($4,335).

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PowerRay underwater drone

The PowerRay underwater drone can dive to depths of 30 meters, and stay down for up to four hours, way longer than divers can operate at that depth without decompression. It films its surroundings with powerful spotlights and a 4K camera, storing video on an SD card or streaming it up the drone's 70 meter tether to a Wi-Fi base station on the surface. With a wireless controller and two Zeiss VR One Plus headsets, the drone costs around €2,200 ($2,635).

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Invoxia Roadie GPS tracker

The Roadie looks like a giant USB memory stick, but is designed to keep track of family members or objects rather than data. It uses low-power data networks such as LoRa, and a battery can last up to eight months. Invoxia is also developing a ruggedized version for long-term tracking of shipping containers, but it could also be used on vehicles or industrial plant.  Due out in late 2017, it will cost €99 ($119) including a three-year subscription to the radio networks.

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Huawei Technologies' Kirin 970 mobile AI chip

The CEO of Huawei Technologies' consumer business chose IFA to unveil a neural processing chip that could find its way into future mobile phones. The Kirin 970 houses a CPU, a GPU and an NPU, or neural processing unit, an accelerator for some of the basic math behind recent advances in artificial intelligence. That means businesses could soon put expert image recognition systems in employees' pockets, ready to identify products or diagnose faults even without a network connection.

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Hardware development kits for Amazon Alexa

You might not see a role in your workplace for Amazon.com's Echo, but the Alexa voice interface is proven, and it's easy enough for developers to create new "skills". One thing stopping forklift drivers, say, from asking "Alexa, where should I put this pallet?" is the lack of ruggedized Alexa devices. To make it easier to build them, at IFA Amazon showed hardware development kits from companies including Sugr, Doss Audio, Conexant and Cirrus Logic.