(Photo: CeBIT)

The annual CeBIT fair, which takes place March 16 through 20, will have a strong focus on the biggest trends shaping the digital economy. The event, which is billed as the leading trade fair for IT and the digital economy, will be officially opened on Sunday, March 15, by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Also speaking at the opening ceremony will be Jack Ma, founder of Chinese ecommerce group Alibaba.

"Visitors to this year's CeBIT can immerse themselves in every conceivable aspect of digitization," said Oliver Frese, board member of Deutsche Messe, which organizes CeBIT. He cited the internet of things as one of the biggest opportunities in the digitization trend.

Tesla will exhibit at CeBIT for the first time this year. The California-based electric luxury sports car maker will be present in Hall 12 of the fair, which has as its motto "IT enables - Internet of Things." Tesla will use the fair to show the connected user interface of its Model S and demonstrate the autonomous-driving technologies it is developing. CeBIT said the auto industry will have a significant presence in the internet-of-things dedicated exhibition hall.

CeBIT's conference program will include addresses by, among others, US economist Jeremy Rifkin, investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald, Samsung's head of global marketing and Won-Pyo Hong, Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka, Yan Lida, cofounder of Chinese mobile phone manufacturer Xiaomi and  Shai Agassi, founder of mobility innovator Better Place, are also scheduled to speak.

This year's CeBIT partner country is China, which is expected to bring more than 600 exhibitors to the trade fair. Frese said the large Chinese delegation should also be of interest to IT companies interested in expanding their business there. Said the Deutsche Messe executive: "China remains one of the world's biggest and most promising growth markets for non-Chinese IT companies."

As in previous years, the automotiveIT Group will host its own conference during the CeBIT fair. The automotiveIT Congress, whose theme is "It drives the auto industry," will be held on March 19 at the Hanover Fairgrounds. Keynote speakers include Klaus Straub, CIO of BMW, Martin Hofmann, CIO of Volkswagen and Nikitas Drakopoulos, CIO of Mercedes Benz Cars.