A retiree who walks his dog in Plaza Europa asks a policeman if this year the Mobile has changed dates. All that flood of people who get off the train in a hurry and with their mobile phones in hand have to go to the most popular congress held in Barcelona. But no, since this year the city has had two major internationally renowned events practically in a row. At the end of February, the Mobile World Congress (MWC), as always, and before that, at the end of January, the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE), the most important audiovisual hall on the continent that decided to change Amsterdam to Barcelona just before the pandemic and that until now he had not been able to enjoy a real edition.
The neighbor's confusion is the most normal thing in the world. The ISE and the Mobile have many similarities seen from the outside and even from the inside if one is profane in the matter. The professionals of the sector that populate the large stands converted into temporary offices with all kinds of comforts do find a thousand and one differences between the two, although the borders of the great technological events are increasingly blurred. In the ISE, which is the one that is being held now, screens, speakers and all kinds of elements necessary for any audiovisual montage reign. From a concert to a meeting room through virtual reality experiences that delight those who are simply looking for a little entertainment between meetings.
Music and image are omnipresent. They are found even in the most remote corner of the six pavilions that occupies the hall of the eight that has the Gran Via venue of Fira de Barcelona. Each area is specialized in a specific field: loudspeakers of all possible sizes are concentrated here, screens there, virtual sets beyond... The main agents of the audiovisual sector in Europe meet in Barcelona this week and the sensation It is that the numbers of 2020 – the last edition in Amsterdam – will be exceeded, but still somewhat below that of 2019, which broke record figures for the show.
The list of exhibitors adds up to more than a thousand companies, among which are large multinationals such as Samsung –the company with the most contracted square meters–, LG, Panasonic or Epson, to name a few of the best-known. Throughout this week, more than 52,000 people are expected to pass. As of yesterday, 68,000 professionals had registered, although normally there are 20% who do not end up attending for one thing or another. A few thousand up or down, the feeling of the organizers is that the numbers of the last pre-pandemic edition will be exceeded.
What becomes evident from the moment the show opened its doors yesterday morning is that there will be more attendees than last year, when an edition was held still at half throttle in the summer season to distance itself from the latest wave of covid. “We are very excited, it will be the biggest ISE we have ever done!”, proclaimed the general director of the congress, Mike Blackman, as he kicked off the congress while there were long queues at the access control and in the wardrobe with a dj that enlivened the wait.
Now without masks and again with paper accreditations hanging around their necks, all the important agents of the audiovisual sector in Europe meet this week in Barcelona, where these cold days for the locals are a sunny blessing for the majority of visitors coming from the big European cities. English and German are the two most heard languages in the congress, although up to 166 different nationalities are counted. To a lesser extent, there are also Americans and Chinese, who, even with some restrictions, can travel to international events again.
Local companies in the audiovisual sector try to take advantage of the opportunity and want to drink from the ISE as Mobile promoted the digital sector at the time. "The fact that all the great players are here allows us to reach agreements and internationalize in a way that would otherwise be impossible," celebrates Miquel Rutllant, president of the audiovisual cluster of Catalonia, convinced that the local talent that for many years had emigrating to have professional opportunities, it is increasingly easier to carve out a career in their land. There are already up to eight companies installed in the metropolitan area of the Catalan capital during the last two years, a decision in which the ISE has had something to do in one way or another.
The approaches between the local industry and the organizers are constant and very good relations have been established. In this sense, one of the aspects that has most surprised Mike Blackman's team is the warm reception given to him by the local authorities. In Amsterdam nobody paid any attention to them, and here they have even had the presence of King Felipe, who led the inaugural procession together with the Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez; the mayoress of Barcelona, Ada Colau; that of l'Hospitalet, Núria Marín, and the Minister of Business, Roger Torrent.