Amper Tradeshow Fair

Whilst the Nuremberg-based Embedded World celebrates its birthday

While the Nuremberg-based Embedded World celebrates its birthday, the Czech Amper tradeshow is in the 26th year of continuous operation.

First of all, semiconductor manufacturers and makers of test equipment usually don’t show up in person at Amper. Instead, they are represented by their distributors – funnily, one company can have multiple booths presenting it at the same time. This probably dates back to time of the Soviet Union: then, development largely took place with components selected from catalogs. As the Soviet empire fell, distributors took their place (see e.g. Howard Moon’s classic Soviet SST).

Given that Amper traditionally targets electrical engineering, one can clearly see that most cable manufacturers add intelligence to their connectors, switches and other electromechanical gadgetry – being unwilling to leave the value added services pie to third party suppliers is a wise business decision.

To speak of third party suppliers, there were many. For example, a start-up called 4Dot is offering the monitoring of ball bearings as a service: you buy the hardware from them, slap it on to your bearing and pay them some money every month. Another company offers a Wi-Fi button based on SigFox, which furthermore contains a few sensors. Finally, BigClown provides developers with an Arduino-like set of modules which can be combined into a ready-made PCB prototype easily.

In the metrology department, distributors show a lot of interesting components. For example, Transmille’s distributor provided one of their transfer standards which is the most modern 8.5 digit multi meter currently on the market (discounting new Russian units which are unlikely to become available in the West).

Danaher elected to become Farnell’s madness victim in this year’s Amper. Their DMM6500 multi meter, still in beta stage, was demonstrated at the booth. The system is not bad, but suffers from a slightly low resolution touchscreen which furthermore feels wobbly to the touch. Another issue is that the pricing of the unit seems to be extremely geo-dependent, in one country, it cost about €800, while another country’s residents have to pay about €1400. Help yourself, of course, by combining OEMsecrets with a travel sniffing service like GoEuro or Opodo.

Finally, technologies like SigFox and LoRa are coming to age. Starnet is a network operator who covers almost the entire Czech Republic with its custom LoRa network: developers of smart devices can use this low-power network as an alternative to 3G and 4G connectivity. According to the vendor, device congestion is not an issue: in practical tests, up to 20,000 units were handled by a single gateway.

People who feel gouged by Messe Nuernberg will be happy to find Amper significantly more affordable. Booths are cheap, while Czech hotels have yet to figure out the trick of really raising prices during a trade fair. Food prices are also very fair and in line.

To cut a long story short: for people who create smart devices, the world is your oyster – fairs like Amper show that a good business model can be found by trying to create value and reduce pains.

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