The Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (HKTDC) Hong Kong Electronics Fair - Spring Edition - and the HKTDC International ICT Expo will be held once again at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from today until Friday, with more than 2,700 exhibitors participating. The fair displays the most up-to-date advances in products and technology, while the International ICT Expo showcases the latest solutions in telecommunications, multimedia, internet and digi-tainment. Compared with other electronic fairs in nearby cities, such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou, Benjamin Chau, deputy executive director of HKTDC, says the fairs have a broader scope of international exhibitors and visitors. 'The fairs gather thousands of exhibitors bringing along their breakthrough technologies and up-to-the minute products, and [this year] we have also introduced new product zones and pavilions, and have lined up some very important seminars and conferences.' The testing and certification zone, which provides solutions for companies in the industry, is newly added to the fair. Other product zones include audio and visual, digital imaging, electronic gaming, electronic manufacturing service, in-vehicle electronics, navigation systems and solar photovoltaic electronics. The popular hall of fame is also back, showcasing a top range of electronics brands and stylish products, joined by a number of international electronic brands such as Philips, Daewoo International, Hyundai IT, Changhong, Pierre Cardin, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. At the International ICT Expo, three new zones have been set up. The zones include cloud computing and open source, and telecom, networking and wireless technologies, and smartphone. Another highlighted pavilion in the expo features this year's outstanding developments in electronics software, with the Hong Kong honourees from the Hong Kong ICT Awards and the 2009 China Outstanding Software Products Award. Other thematic zones include computer and peripherals, enterprise solutions, information technology outsourcing, digi-tainment and multimedia, e-logistics and retail technologies, and home-grown innovations. A number of exhibitors have been long-time participants at the fairs. 'The timing of the fair is ideal as we will launch our products in July or August, just in time for Christmas,' says Dino Lalvani, chairman and chief executive of Binatone Electronics International, an exhibitor. Exhibitors predict sales at the fair will pick up from the poor numbers last year. 'Due to the economic downturn, sales at last year's fair was lower than previous years, although the number of visitors didn't decrease that much. But we think buyers from Southeast Asia and America will be making more purchases this year,' says Jeff Chan, marketing manager of Coby Manufacturing Company, an exhibitor. Stanley Ng, chief executive officer of MapKing, another exhibitor, also predicts the sales will pick up this year. Although the worst of the economic downturn is over, companies are still finding measures to retain their customers. For Goldtop 2000, a long-time exhibitor at the fair, cutting costs and an increase in research and development is its solution. 'To cope with the economic downturn effects, we cut down on the costs of packaging and increased research and development which includes unique product designs,' says Janet Yau, the firm's sales manager. One of the special products that Goldtop 2000 is showing includes a home DECT phone which offers voice navigation instructions and emergency pendants for the elderly. First-time International ICT Expo participant Tera Age also agrees that increase in research and development is necessary especially in the software development industry. 'Aside from increasing workers in the research and development department, we have also strengthened our marketing team to stay competitive in the industry,' says Rio Chow, chief operating officer at Tera Age. Taking part in the expo is one of its marketing strategies and the company hopes it will help promote local brands as they face stiff competition from global brands. 'Although the technology in the local brand software applications is as good as international companies, we can't directly compete with them on the research and development level due to financial limitations,' Chow says. Lalvani predicts the electronic product trends for this year will include low cost, unique design, slim and eco-friendly, yet still maintaining good quality. Ng believes smartphones will be one of the main focuses. Chan says his company will be showcasing simple 'back to basics' products such as televisions and netbooks. Some exhibitors believe eco-friendly products are still going to be the major trend for the years ahead. Tobi Doeringer, director of global sales at Mascotte Industrial Associates (Hong Kong), an exhibitor, says many electronic companies are aiming to have 25 to 30 per cent of their products made in an environmental friendly way in the near future.