Integrated Systems Europe is one of the largest technology and AV exhibitions in the world. Held every year at the Amsterdam RAI, a gargantuan 12-hall conference center in Amsterdam, the conference takes up every inch of space in each of the twelve halls. Companies come from all over the world to show off their products and introduce new technology to the growing European market.
The conference is daunting. This year I traveled to Amsterdam, the first time I had ever left the United States, in order to cover ISE. I had no idea what to expect going in, save for an assurance from several colleagues that the show would be larger than anything I had experienced, and the need for a plan beforehand would be imperative; Stopping at every booth is impossible, though the conference will expand to a four day event starting next year to help attendees come closer.
This year’s conference has come to an end. I hope to return to bring our readers coverage from the show as it continues to grow. I thought I might share some of that experience with my readers that might find the conference worthwhile and wish to make their first trip to the show in the coming years. Whether you attend for a day or three, you’ll need a plan going in.
First tip: They call it the rai. \rī\. All caps, it stands for Rijwiel en Automobiel Industrie (Bicicyle and Automotive Industry) and they call it the rai. Welcome to Amsterdam.
EH Publishing’s offices are in Framingham, MA, about 25 minutes outside of Boston. I left from Logan Airport. Obviously there are direct flights, but I’m the restless type and prefer a layover to break up long flights. I flew Aer Lingus to Dublin, about a six hour flight, with a layover before my next sixty minute flight to Amsterdam. It was perfect for me, though this is more about preference than anything.
Bring comfortable shoes.
You’ll be walking. A lot. Between the city of Amsterdam, which utilizes cycling and public transport as much if not more than automobiles, and the show, I’m sure I put 30 miles on my shoes, easily.
A taxi driver told me that Amsterdam is a city that is meant to be seen while walking about, and I agree with him. The center is all thin streets broken up by canals and alleyways with hidden shops and restaurants everywhere. Bring a jacket but don’t worry too much about buttoning up, the weather hovers around 20 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit most of the time in February.
Buy a Type C outlet converter for your electronics.
If you need to be connected, pay extra for a data plan on your phone. WiFi at the hotels, while free, is spotty and slow, and for those that have trouble with navigation (like me) pulling up Google maps is a lifesaver to get an idea of where you are. Every street has a long name.
Make sure you have a chip and pin credit or debit card.
Most cabs can handle slide cards (though you may need to explain to them how it works). Amsterdam has an interesting system where cab companies sponsor independent drivers (so I was told). Don’t be surprised when you’re picked up in a Mercedes one day and a Camry the next. Just make sure they have a sign on top of the car. You’ll find that shops outside of the convention center with a slide card are few and far between. Euros are always a solid option, just check to see if and how much your bank charges for international withdrawals.
Finally, Amsterdam is an English speaking city. A majority of people in the city can communicate with Americans. But it’s written in Dutch. Ninety-five percent of signs are in another language. Just a heads up.
Integrated Systems Europe
Print your pass out beforehand or don’t.
There are attendants at the entrances that can check you in and print it out for you. An employee will scan your paper and give you a badge. You’re in.
Coat checks are right downstairs for you. There will be show guides and maps as soon as you enter. Grab them. The Amsterdam RAI is a mishmash of large and a bit less large halls on different levels with almost no order. It’s a labyrinth. I spent twenty minutes wandering between Hall 10 and Hall 9 in search of Hall 8 and once I got there I couldn’t find a way out.
I’m being dramatic but the point remains. With so much to see, it’s important not to waste time getting lost. Most halls are in clusters, like 9, 10, and 11, so that can help you gain your bearings. Stick to the outer walls and you’ll find digital display signs above entryways that will point you to the different halls. They aren’t perfect, but they’re helpful.
In the halls themselves you’ll see a booth marked with numbers like, for example, 8-F125. The first number stands for the hall, the letter stands for the row, and the number is the destination. City, Street, Address. Stand in the center of a row and somewhere above you there will be a banner showing what letter you’re at. Though there will be missing letters, isles are alphabetical.
You’re going to get thirsty and you’re legs will get tired.
Utilize booths that have seating areas. Some give away drinks. In the hallways there are almost always kiosks where you can grab a drink or snack. There are a good amount of options and a couple places where you can be served.
Be sure to ask if they take swipe cards if you don’t have a chip and pin or any euros on you. Not all will.
There are also rest areas if you need them. The one in Hall 8 (luckily beside the booth for CI Europe, CI, and TechDecisions) has good space. At the end of the day many booths will hold small events and serve beer or wine. Grab one, you’ve earned it.
Booths, for the most part, are clustered together with similar technologies.
However some will be scattered for different reasons.
Be sure to spend some time in whatever hall has display screens. They’ll have the most visually impressive booths and you don’t want travel all the way to ISE without stopping to smell the 4K UHD flowers. The audio hall is also worth checking out. You’ll find residential setups, home theaters, automated control panels, cool gadgets and great home televisions.
They’re fun to check out whether you have money for them or not. At the least you’ll be treated to classic American rock, techno, and today’s hits from incredible stereo systems.
The smaller booths have a handful of employees that may or may not speak English. If they don’t, odds are they don’t sell their product in America anyway. Larger booths will have armies travelling with them. Employees will be wearing flag pins to indicate the languages they speak. Anyone with a British or American flag pinned to their lanyard can help you out. If you’re not looking to be bombarded with facts and want to peruse, many booths will have brochures that explain the highlights of the technologies they are showcasing.I found that most brochures were in English, or at least had an English translation along with the company’s native language.
When employees ask to scan your badge you can accept or decline. Some booths will use the scan to enter you into a raffle to win products, and I personally like to keep updated on companies that interest me.
In the end, the show isn’t as overwhelming as it seems when you enter the RAI. Go in with a game plan. Write down the numbers of the booths you wish to see and order them. That way when you find yourself in Hall 8, you can see all the 8 booths, and when you find yourself in Hall 3, you can see all the 3 booths. You’ll get a sense of general direction sooner or later. With an extra day available next year, I’m sure your first trip to ISE will be as fulfilling as mine was.