Orbit combines innovation with interactivity
Interactive exhibits are proving a hit with visitors to this year’s Orbit information and communication technology fair in Basel.
The largest ICT fair in Switzerland brings together business providers and technological applications.
One of the fair’s "specials" is Mac Swiss, which provides a platform for companies showing off Apple products and services.
"We have a very broad spectrum of products," Rolf Lehmann, Apple product manager in Switzerland, told swissinfo. "Of course the iPod has been widely advertised – but we also have specialised products for server solutions and a good choice of software."
But whether you’re a chief executive or just on work experience, everyone likes to get involved and the most popular stands are unsurprisingly the interactive ones.
Novell, whose software delivers race information at motor circuits around the world, is luring challenge-seekers to its stall with its Sauber Formula One simulator.
Keen shoppers can take a guided tour of a Smart Shop – in this case a supermarket of the country’s leading retail chain, Migros – with a "clever" trolley that tots up what you’re putting into it (see video).
PayNet, which specialises in the online payment of bills, has set out their wares in partnership with all the big Swiss banks and is attracting good crowds.
Giancarlo Palmisani, manager of the fair, believes the event in Basel marks the start of a far-reaching change in the ICT market.
"What astonishes me walking through the hall this year is the use of voiceover technology – that’s really being pushed," he said.
"Technological solutions for products using radio frequency identification are also being heavily displayed – and of course the whole mobile application is still very big."
Compared with other countries, Switzerland is characterised by very high per-capita spending on information technologies.
The bulk of this is spent not on equipment but on services: the costs of telephone calls, internet services, cable television charges and the radio and television licence fee are still among the highest in the world.
And the services sector has also been where most of the development in ICTs has occurred.
Switzerland – the country that gave the world the World Wide Web (at Geneva’s particle physics laboratory, Cern) and the computer mouse (Logitech) – has failed to become a front-ranking producer of ICT equipment.
Palmisani is confident about the future of the Basel fair which brings together 525 exhibitors and co-exhibitors at 255 stands.
"This market contributes SFr7 billion ($5.7 billion) towards Switzerland’s Gross Domestic Product. Measured by GDP it is the third largest industry in Switzerland," Palmisani added.
2005 marks the first time that the traditional Orbit fair merged with the Internet Expo to from Orbit-iEX, a comprehensive fair for information and computer science.
Initially Orbit was aimed at the general public before it decided in 2000 to target just the business sector. Three years later it redefined itself once again, focusing on small- and medium-sized businesses.
swissinfo, Thomas Stephens in Basel
Orbit has existed for over 13 years and the Internet Expo since 1997 in Zurich.
At Orbit-iEX 2005 there are 525 exhibitors.
Entry is SFr25 (in 2002 it was SFr55).
The Orbit-iEX fair 2006 will take place May 16-19.
Orbit is the largest information and communication technology (ICT) fair in Switzerland.
At this year’s fair, the use of voiceover technology was being promoted, as well as technological solutions for products using radio frequency identification.
The Swiss are not shy of dipping into their pockets for information technologies, but the bulk of their spending goes on services rather than on equipment.
In compliance with the JTI standards
More: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.