Columnist Rob Lane explains why this year’s ISE was the best yet.
Another year, another ISE – and boy, what an ISE! We now know that a total of 80,923 people visited the exhibition over the four days, a 10.3% jump on last year’s record-breaking attendance. This sits alongside figures for exhibitors (1,296) and floor space (53,000sqm across 15 halls) enabling us to say with confidence that this was the biggest ISE yet.
It certainly felt like it; the buzz at the RAI was obvious from the minute the show opened. But it was Day 2 that really set the benchmark – it was heaving! Everyone was talking about how they’d never seen so many people coming through the doors, and at one point the organisers had to close the main entrance, and divert people to other access points.
It’s impossible to do ISE justice in a show report feature, let alone a monthly opinion column, but it’s worth rounding up a few of the highlights as I saw them. For me, the opening address by Carlo Ratti, architect and director of MIT’s Senseable Cities Lab, set the scene nicely. Speaking at the end of the Smart Building Conference the day before ISE kicked off, Ratti discussed how traditional cities are transforming into smart cities, and how technology and associated industries are driving a transformation that will lead to a “richer, beneficial and more experiential life”.
This ethos, of course, could be applied to most of what was exhibited at ISE 2018. Wherever you looked, intelligent tech was in abundance. Of course, some technologies are still to prove their usefulness chops – step forward VR! – but again, ISE was able to show just how today’s groundbreaking technologies can step beyond the experiential into the practical. There were several practical applications for VR and AR (in the XR Technology Zone), along with AI and robotics (the Drone Arena was of particular interest here), while Italian architect Fabio D’Agnano’s presentation at the XR Summit on Day 1 set the scene not only for ISE 2018 but for future events.
One could argue that more architects and designers should be beating a part to Amsterdam
According to D’Agnano, at least two-thirds of architectural practices are now experimenting with VR, and are using it across the design, construction and maintenance stages, and that real-time rendering – enabling architects and clients to do virtual site visits – is less than “a couple of years away”. (I would argue that this capability already exists: I wrote about a solution on page 38 of February’s Installation.)
It’s clear that ISE 2018 and the technologies and services it champions is an essential platform for all building-related technologies – whether commercial or residential, in-building or for-building. It might be the exhibition pilgrimage for AV integrators, distributors and technologists, but one could argue that more architects and designers should be beating a path to Amsterdam also.
Behind the scenes
The people working behind the scenes at ISE deserve a huge pat on the back. Most attendees won’t give a second thought to the huge amounts of work that takes place in the weekend leading up to Day 1, when the exhibitors descend upon the RAI to start building their stands. I can confirm that it is no mean task working to get stand and tech aligned and working. Frankly it amazes me that everyone is ready on time, with carpets down and vacuumed.
In recognition of this, ISE 2018 featured the second annual ISE Stand Design awards. Somewhat overlooked last year, this year’s awards was very well executed and the awards ceremony well attended. ISE managing director Mike Blackman introduced the awards, which confirmed 33 finalists (out of 1,200+ stands!) in four categories, before the winning stands were unveiled by EXHIBITOR magazine.
Indeed, a big pat on the back is long overdue to all of the magazines and their teams who add value to the ISE experience. The ISE Daily, of course, deserves huge plaudits. Overseen by the team who produce this very mag, the amount of work that goes into getting a broadsheet publication out every day at the show is incredible.
With an expected 98% of exhibition space for ISE 2019 booked before this year’s show closed its doors, next year’s event is almost guaranteed to be a success. If it can, again, better its predecessor on numbers and create the same kind of excitement as 2018 remains to be seen. I’ll certainly be there to find out.