Should You Have Been at #SCEWC16?

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

Should You Have Been at #SCEWC16 in Barcelona last week? Well, the answer of course very much depends on WHO you are and what you would have been looking for.

China Pavilion SCEWC16

We went along as we are firm believers that our industry needs to continually broaden its horizons – whilst the DPAA and OAAA / Geopath events are superb these days, and DSE and ISE do their job, it’s fair to say that they are all really events where we talk to ourselves.

For the industry to grow, and for it not to miss out on various new trends, it’s imperative that it gets itself noticed in new places, different industry sectors and becomes part of any new trend.

We therefore had high hopes with #SmartCities – a trend that is an uber-trend if you like – much hyped, little understood and one where we joke, “the only people making money out of Smart Cities are the conference organisers”.

huawei stand SCEWC16

Our first interaction with the organisers of Smart City Expo should have perhaps warned us of what was likely to come next. It took six weeks, a dozen emails and a rude tweet or two before the promise of them replying (the organisers that is)  to our enquiry on how to be a media partner, actually came about. One of our clients who enquired about exhibiting (thank God they didn’t as you will see later) never even received a reply to that enquiry! Mind you, with quite a few of the World’s big cities, prepending their city name with the word ‘Smart’ and no doubt spending a lot of their citizens money to take an exhibition stand, medium sized business in the digital signage, OOH or DOOH world are obviously too insignificant to worry about – the easy money to be made, you see, is getting cities to be seen to be Smart by exhibiting!

It’s partly that arrogance which also made the show a waste of time. The hall was tiny, and it’s hard to believe the organiser Fira de Barcelona’s claim that there were 16,688 attendees over the three days. We walked the hall in an hour, we were bored so actually walked it twice in two.  It was busy but not crowded – even when the Congress (running next door) was not in session.

bismart SCEWC16

With the buzz around anything ‘Smart’ these days, it was no surprise that Cisco, Huawei, Siemens, Phillips, Telefonica etc. were all exhibiting en masse but who they were actually selling to was and still is a mystery. There were an awful lot of ‘Smart Cities pioneers’ and ‘Urban Innovators’ at the show – the Congress that ran alongside the exhibition was full of them on the speaking agenda but it seemed that every city (all smart of course) was exhibiting themselves; Smart Berlin; Smart Dubai, Smart Casablanca, Smart Kyoto, SmartGraz, Smart Cities NYC, Andalusia, Digital Greenwich, Peterborough (yes, Peterborough the cathedral city in the East of England, with a population of 183,631 was exhibiting) and if a city wasn’t ‘Smart’ then there was plenty of countries and government agencies who were happy to exhibit on a city’s behalf; Swiss Business Hub, GRENOBLE-ALPES METROPOLE, Finland, Government of Mexico City, GENERALITAT DE CATALONIA, MOSCOW CITY GOVERNMENT, QUÉBEC, STATE OF NEW YORK, Vienna, US Department of Commerce, Wallonia, the UK Department for International Trade, Bavarian Pavilion, US Pavilion, Israel, Denmark, Netherlands and the list goes on and on.

The China Pavilion was there but was not manned the whole time we were there – yes it was empty, void of people, lifeless and the Mayor of London’s stand which we were keen to see was also lifeless. At 11:00 we went to the stand to meet the representatives of Camden but were told they weren’t there (yet) and given the excuse that “the show does go on until 19:00” as if that was some reason not to be there for the first few hours of the event actually opening.

The Americans actually got the exhibiting part of the event spot on – there was a New York pavilion, a New York State pavilion and a US pavilion. The New York pavilion had folks like BigBelly and MySoofa on whom we could meet and have intelligent conversations with. They also had startups and business hubs and incubators who were keen to engage you and convince you of why you should do business in their city. All in all these US related pavilions were the saving grace for us in what would otherwise have been a wasted trip.

Whilst we are still firm believers in our industry getting out and known in the #SmartCities space our recommendations to you are as follows; If you are Civiq SmartScapes, CityBridge, Intersection then go get yourself on the New York City pavilion for next year, if you are an Amscreen, Esprit Digital, Eyetease or Pavegen talk to the Mayor of London – tell him to sort out his stand (a bright red BT telephone box and people that want to interact with you on the stand will make all the difference) and get involved that way and / or speak to the UK Department for International Trade and do the same.

After all, if you kiss enough frogs one of them might turn out to be a prince and with so many (and it pains me to write this) ‘Smart Cities’ exhibiting you might just get lucky with a lead – best however if you work their stands rather than expect anyone to come along to yours!

The event next year takes place November 14-16, 2017.

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