The World’s Best Trade Show

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I just got back from Hannover Messe, and I’m evermore convinced that it’s the best trade show in the world.

It’s not the sexiest — entire rooms were dedicated to valves and switches — and the brand names weren’t well-known, if not often unpronounceable. The attendees were shopping for stuff to put to work in or around factories and other places where big machines operate, not to find fun new apps or toys. Reporters covered it for arcane trade journals, not Wired magazine, if they covered it at all.

But it’s the best show ever because of those things. What’s on display was the technology that runs the world.

So, instead of an improved entertainment experience, I saw ways to make assembly lines run better. A bigger TV screen wasn’t for movies but rather viewing data on how machines are running. AI wasn’t a chatbot for instant messaging, it predicted when an electrical grid might crash, or a fleet of robot trucks might hit a snag. 

What I didn’t see was a bunch of technocrap that marketers will have to spend billions to convince consumers to buy, so no quadraphonic audio systems promising to improve our listening experiences by at least 2%, or all-room smart home devices that will make our lives easier sometime in the future by making them more complicated.

It was chocked full of tools that industry can put to use right now to operate more effectively and efficiently, and do so within the strict controls of physics and economics.  

As such, it was a hands-on, reality-resident experience of how far we’ve gotten on topics like renewable energy, robotics, and how the industrial infrastructure is transforming the world, along with how far we have to go (and how difficult it will be to get there).

Since this is the step in the food chain of civilization that consumes the most resources and produces the most pollution in service to making most of the things we use so that we can call ourselves civilized, it was a can’t-be-missed checkup.

And it made all the blather about consumer-focused tech seem like an irrelevant afterthought.

That’s kinda sexy, come to think of it.

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