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Archive for the ‘Trade Shows’ Category

Notes From SPS Show

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I promised in my last blog to give you the run down on the SPS show. Well, first there’s Nurnberg. Nurnberg is an old city that’s about an hour train ride north of Munich, which I think still counts as Southern Germany (Bavaria), though I could be wrong.

Nurnberg seems to be an odd place for this show. Northern Germany is the heart of German Industrial might. While Nurnberg is centrally located, it doesn’t have the manufacturers you would find in Stuttgart or Hannover. I’m glad the show is there though, as it doesn’t have the distractions of Munich and is much prettier than the northern German cities.

Here are my top takeaways from the show:

IT’S HUGE

The first thing about this show is that it is huge. There are twelve halls. Three I think are dedicated to anything and everything having to do with Motion Control. From Motors to systems, if you can’t find it at SPS, no one makes it. But the really weird thing is the shape of the halls. They’re not rectangles. Not even pentagons or octagons. One is a triangle with rounded corners. Another is sort of a rectangle with a ball on the end, and so on. Not only that, but it’s really hard to walk through them because the aisles go in all sorts of odd directions.

THE FOOD

If you like to eat, you’ll love this show. Vendors here aren’t into the logo’d up pen or luggage tag type of giveaways. Here, you eat (and drink). At the high end, the Siemens, Phoenix Contact, and Wago’s of the world have essentially complete restaurants in their booths. You can get sausage dinners or Wiener schnitzel with beer, wine, and cocktails. At the next level, you can get sandwiches, pretzels and some German bakery. At the lowest level, everyone has cookies and candy. Some companies were even handing out Schnapps and other liqueurs.

THE LANGUAGE BARRIER

Lots of attendees didn’t speak English. Maybe I’m an Anglophile but I pretty much believed that if you are an Engineer anywhere in the world you have a pretty good command of English. Well, that’s not the case. Lot’s of people moving through our booth were not English speakers. They recognized DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP but that’s about it.

WIRELESS

I didn’t see anywhere near the amount of wireless I expected. Maybe because I am working on wireless everyday now I am more sensitive to it, but it just wasn’t there. I’m not talking about the 803.11 Wireless Ethernet routers and gateways. Everybody has those - it’s old hat. But I barely saw any cellular, Zigbee or other sensor networking, even in the “wireless area” which wasn’t more than two small booths.

STUDENTS

Germans are big into Engineering education. There were many teachers taking students on tours, so a large portion of attendees were much younger than you would see in the US.

WOMEN

This is short. There weren’t any. Almost no women working in booths. A few companies used them to accessorize their booths but they were mostly the typical German style women (I won’t comment further). 98% of the wait staff doing food duty were women, but that was about it. Engineering is a very male dominated profession in the US, but in Germany it appears to be even more so. However, there was one very popular, nearly naked woman for some company in Hall 6 - I’ll post a picture if I get some requests.

EUROPE SALES BARRIERS

Distributor after distributor explained to me how hard it is to sell in Europe across country lines and even within a country. In Switzerland for example if you’re from Lucerne (German part) you have a really tough time selling in Geneva (French part). In France, you have to be French. In Belgium, Holland and other places it’s the same way. If you’re not like me, I don’t buy. I was totally unaware of this problem before the show.

It was a great show, our booth was a success and I am glad I got to experience it - sinus infection and all.

SPS Show - Nurnberg

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Yes, it’s my fault. I arrived home from SPS 2009 a week or so ago and I still haven’t recapped the show in my blog. I’ve got so much to say about it, but I brought home a pretty massive sinus infection from Germany that has kept me down and out until now. If you’ve been on a plane with any kind of congestion you know how miserable that was. I literally got home, walked into the house and collapsed on my bed without even taking off my coat. What I forgot to do was to take the phone off the hook. My “restful” sleep was interrupted by about 10 phone calls.

I actually developed my sinus infection right there in Nurnberg though not at the show. On Wednesday I decided that a good 20 to 25 minute run through the old town would be fun, so off I went. At home, you see, I run up and down “kettles”. For those of you who are not from Wisconsin – those are hills made by glaciers. I live in the midst of hundreds of them. When I run the next hill is always a short distance away. It’s agonizing but a really good workout.

In Nurnberg there are no hills. Just level ground with beautiful thousand year old castles and eight hundred year old restaurants. It was a fabulous morning run. Right up until I got lost. And I mean not just lost, but really lost. So there I am drenched with sweat, freezing in 40 degree weather, standing on a street corner in Germany trying to figure out if I go forward, backward, left, right or just stand there until someone comes along that will speak English. Well, 45 minutes later, I’m back at the hotel with my Sinus’ preparing for all out war with my head.

Sinus infections are the kind of thing that hit you hard, and keep you down for a while. I was able to answer a few emails but just didn’t have the energy to do much of anything else. Today, it’s a week later and I am just starting to get my old energy back. I even went for a bit of a run yesterday to prove I still had it in me.

Here are my top surprises of the show. I will go through them in detail in the next blog:

  1. It’s HUGE – Eleven odd shaped halls with hundreds and hundreds of vendors
  2. Their big into food. I’m talking full blown restaurants right there in their tradeshow booths.
  3. A lot of Germans haven’t really mastered English – that was a surprise to me
  4. Lot’s of Ethernet and not much CAN. In fact, a lot of EtherNet/IP – as much as Profinet IO, which surprised me.
  5. Only a little wireless
  6. Lot’s of students
  7. Few Women
  8. European Loyalty

FTF 2008 Opening Address

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Freescale’s CEO Rich Beyer (formerly CEO at Intersil) gave the opening address at FTF this year. Since he has only been with the company for 3 months it was interesting to see how well he handled himself and the promotion of Freescale. Luckily for him, he did fine.

The most curious part of his presentation was his comments about developing a lot more infrastructure around their parts and particularly their “development environments”. This probably shot a chill up the spine of a lot of vendors.  Is Freescale moving up to take over what their design partners are currently providing?  Maybe or maybe not… The Freescalers I talked to indicate that this is being driven by their customers. Customers don’t want to deal with the learning curve of having to integrate and trouble shot new protocols and technology platforms. They want to buy parts with everything integrated. Freescale is simply responding to the needs of their customers.

On the new PowerQuicc platform for example, they recruited RTA to port our Ethernet/IP and DeviceNet code early in the process so they could advertise it as Linux DevicNet and Linux EtherNet/IP capable. How this all works out we’ll have to see. It won’t surprise me if they have a grand design to be more than a chip company and want to get some of the margin from the collateral provided by their partners.

Freescale Technology Forum 2008

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I am attending FTF this week in Orlando. That’s the Freescale annual Technology Forum. 3000 people, all embedded Engineering types, taking hundreds of classes and getting exposed to all sorts of new ideas and insights.

Lots of cool things at this show. Everyone gets a little communicator. This is a device the size of an overly large checkbook that can send and receive email and do all sorts of neat things. It has this little radar deal to find people. If you want to make contact with a customer or supplier, you can have it continuously scan for them. If them are within 50 feet of you it goes off and tells you they’re near. In seminars, I used mine to scan the room to see who is taking the class from what companies. And it’s your survey tool. After every class you get the class survey to fill out.

Another innovation I hadn’t seen before is a programmable name badge. This is a Freescale board that is your show identification and of course can be read by communicators. To transfer your ID, just hold it up to someone else’s communicator. It has a bunch of buttons, a display and an accelerometer. And it can be programmed. They are giving away about $2,000 to someone who develops the best application for it.

RTA has a booth here where we are showing a bunch of stuff we built with Freescale products. We showed our Schneider Altivar 31 Option cards for DeviceNet; our Altivar 31 Option cards for EtherNet/IP and Modbus TCP, our ASCII to PLC gateways and our 32 point I/O module.

CAOTM And Blue Hair

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Drew B, the creator of Instant Automation Man, and I attended the Upper Michigan AOTM Event last week at the Soaring Eagle Casino way up in Mount Pleasant Michigan. It’s a ways to go but your typical non-vegas casino. Every variety of frail old men and women you can imagine. Blue hairs, wheelchairs, walkers and oxygen tanks blocking the aisles. I was surprised that I didn’t see any hospital beds or oxygen tents but maybe I just didn’t hit that part of the casino.

I did two afternoon sessions on Industrial Networking and covered the gamit; ASi, Modbus, DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, Profibus, Modbus TCP and ProfiNet IO. It went pretty well but I always forget how complicated this stuff seems to the uninitiated. For me, well I’ve been doing this for a hundred years, it’s all straightforward. I forget that most people don’t know much more about this stuff than how to hook up the cable. It takes me a while to dial back and help people get some idea about all these networks. Ace Marketer Drew will have a video and a transcript of the presentation up next week.

The newest part of the gig was a section on EtherCat. The more and more I study it the more I like it. It’s fast, reliable, physically easier to wire and easy to understand. It’s apparently growing like crazy. You can expect to hear more from me about this in the near future.

JR

RTA, Inc. - The Industrial Networking Home for DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, Ethernet Drive,
Modbus TCP, Modbus RTU, PROFINET CBA, PROFINET IO, BACnet, IEC 61131-3,
IEEE 1588, AS-Interface, PROFIBUS, EtherCAT and other networks.
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