Munich's mega techfest, aka the Electronica 2014 show, becomes golden this year, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. From November 11 to 14, approximately 2700 electronics companies from around the globe will display their latest innovations.

For some people, the thought of visiting this enormous event, trudging many kilometers through what seems like a never-ending maze of exhibition halls, is about as attractive as a trip to the dentist’s office.

But forget those wannabe technology luddites. Fifty years in the making, Electronica is still considered by electronics engineers, designers, purchasers, and academics as an opportunity of utopian proportions to catch up on the latest electronics technology. That's why this year’s show expects to attract over 70,000 visitors.

At the exhibition, they'll be presented with a bewildering array of electronic technologies housed in a baffling number of halls and locations (Fig. 1). But after being bewildered and baffled during the busy day, don’t expect the confusion to stop. Come the evening, some critically important decisions must be made. Like where shall I eat and drink tonight, and what train do I catch to get these venues.

Before taking a look at the nocturnal delights offered by Munich, I'd better mention a few things about Electronica 2014. Foremost, there are innovations…by the bushel-full, and the bushel is the size of a small city. Innovations spread across the entire electronics landscape, from semiconductor technology, displays, nano-systems, sensors, test and measurement, EDA, and passive components to electro mechanics, power electronics, PCBs, and automotive- and wireless-related technologies.

Climbing the Techno-Mountain

Do not get overwhelmed trying to scale this mountain of technology. First thing to do upon entering the show is grab a show guide. They’re easy to recognize—similar in thickness to Mr. Schwarzenegger's forearm and heavy enough to knock out a rhinoceros. Seize this redoubtable tome, sit down, and begin meticulously planning your itinerary for the day. This will not only save an enormous amount of time, it will also considerably reduce the number of blisters on your feet, and improve your chances of leaving the show with a modicum of your sanity intact.

Forums and Conferences

Electronica isn’t just a massive exhibition, though. A slew of forums and conferences are on tap that cover a multitude of technologies.

Efficient energy consumption will be a prime subject this year, especially when you consider that manufacturing machines account for two-thirds of all electricity consumed by the industrial sector. According to the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association, intelligent automation systems could save 10% to 15% of all energy used in Germany's industrial sector. That corresponds to a potential savings of at least €4 billion.

Improving the power network infrastructure could further increase efficiency. Expanding renewable energies as part of the overall drive toward energy efficiency presents networks with major design challenges due to fluctuating power flows. Electronica's forum on this subject will present technical ideas and offer possible solutions.

Download this article in .PDF format
This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.

Cars Aint What They Used To Be

Automotive electronics is now firmly established as one of the most important market sectors for electronic components. The increased networking of automobiles, or “electromobility” as it’s sometimes called, coupled with the development of autonomous driving, will mean additional design work and eventual sales for the international electronics industry.

Germany's economic development agency, Trade and Invest, revealed that the global market for automotive electronics in 2013 approximated €200 billion. According to analysis by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers' Association, it predicts that market to increase to more than €430 billion by 2025.

Klaus Meder, chairman of the automotive electronics division at Robert Bosch, tends to agree with the strong outlook: "The future of driving is electrified, automated, and networked.”

With electronics of course playing a central role in the rise of electromobility, the value of hardware and software in the automobile will continue to grow in the years to come. Expanded Euro NCAP guidelines, used to assess vehicle safety, are driving the spread of assistance systems such as advanced emergency braking systems. Customers and manufacturers alike are putting their money on more and more networked functions in the automobile, and new drive solutions will make it possible to further reduce CO2 emissions and conserve resources.”

Watch Paul’s “5 Tips for Surviving Electronica 2014” video on Engineering TV:

Getting To The Show

To see and embrace all that technology, you've first got to find a way to the show. With over 70,000 people in attendance, that can turn into a rather challenging prospect.

Nearly half of the people that visited Electronica 2012 came from abroad. So, if you’re flying into Munich airport, there are a few ways to get to the exhibition grounds. Unless there’s a group of you, taxis can be very expensive. The best and most economical transport, by far, are the regular buses that run from just outside the airport terminal to the Messestadt (show ground).

If your first port of call is central Munich, the city’s train system is a joy to use. It’s clean, reliable, and efficient. Options include the S Bahn or U Bahn trains.  (There’s also the Lufthansa City Bus Service that runs into central Munich and terminates at the Hauptbahnhof, Munich's main railway station.)

The S Bahn lines are the suburban trains that run within the city and to outlying areas. The U bahn constitutes the central city lines. Without a doubt, the majority of people staying in central Munich take the U Bahn. The U2 line runs to the show and makes two stops at the fairground, Messestadt West (Fig. 2) and Ost (east).

Baffling Ticket Tariffs

So far, so good, but there is just one major headache when it comes to riding the train—the  mind-numbingly complex ticket tariffs that not only totally baffle overseas visitors, but also confuse any citizen of Munich with an IQ under 140.

Above all else, remember this: The Munich rail system works on an honesty policy. There are no entrance or exit barriers, so nothing can physically stop you from completing your journey without a ticket. Do not attempt this, though, no matter how tempting and easy it may seem.

Decipher the complex instructions on the ticket-issuing machines and get your ticket. Before entering the platforms, make certain you use one of the small machines nearby to date- and time-stamp your ticket before boarding the train. If you forget, it’s at your own peril, because you’re considered to be riding illegally without a ticket.