Friday, April 27, 2012

Navigating through the underground

Getting to grips with the machinations of European underground transportation networks can be notoriously difficult for those from foreign parts, partly due to the fact that they employ systems that many visitors may be unfamiliar with.

And so it was when our industrious European Editor paid a recent visit to the beautiful city of Lisbon in Portugal to attend the European Machine Vision Association’s (EMVA) annual get-together at the resplendent Hotel Tivoli on behalf of Vision Systems Design.

After putting in a hard day's work listening to a variety of speakers describe the status of the image processing market in Europe, he decided to take a little trip on the local underground system to take in the sights of the city.

Sadly, however, his attempts to buy a ticket for the Lisbon underground proved somewhat unsuccessful, until, that is, a rather attractive young Portuguese woman came to his aid. Having helped our hapless European Editor purchase a pass for the train, the two then became engaged in a brief conversation, during which it transpired that the lady was planning a new life in Australia due to the lack of opportunity in her own country.

The decline of the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) has been widely covered by the media. But gaining a first hand insight into the plight of a single individual really brought the problem home to our European Editor.

Unsurprisingly, the data presented at the conference by Gabriele Jansen, the CEO of Vision Ventures and a member of the EMVA Executive Board, confirmed that the growth in gross domestic product in that neck of the European woods is predicted to be decidedly negative for the coming year.

Indeed, while most European countries look set to enjoy a modest growth of between +0-2.5%, Spain and Italy will be facing a growth of between -0-2.5%, while poor old Portugal will fare worst of all with a growth of less than -2.5% this year.

On the machine vision front, however, things aren't as gloomy. According to the preliminary data from the EMVA, European machine vision companies saw an increase in sales of 16% in 2011 compared with the year before.

As for 2012, it looks like there is more good news on the horizon. The VDMA (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau) -- one of the key industrial associations in Europe -- expects total turnover of machine vision products to be up 5% in 2012 over 2011, a year which itself saw a 20% rise in turnover from both the domestic and export market.

Germany, naturally enough, looks set to remain the number one market for machine vision systems in Europe, a fact that will undoubtedly mean that many bright individuals from the less successful regions such as Portugal will be attracted there to find their fortunes.

Those considering moving from the economically bereft European states to a destination somewhat further afield -- such as the lady that helped our European Editor on the Lisbon underground -- might be interested to note that the Australian economy is still on the uptick too.

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