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updated: 2/8/2017 8:38 AM

Auto Show's hottest tech? It's in your hand

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  • Although technology will be present on the show floor, some of the hottest technology at the 109th Chicago Auto Show will be on attendees' smartphones.

    Although technology will be present on the show floor, some of the hottest technology at the 109th Chicago Auto Show will be on attendees' smartphones.
    Photo courtesy Chicago Automobile Trade Association

 
 

Many people go to the Chicago Auto Show to see what's new in technology on the show floor.

But those attending the 109th show, set for Feb. 11-20 at McCormick Place in Chicago, may find the coolest technology in their own pocket.

The Chicago Automobile Trade Association, which hosts the annual gala, is beefing up its technological offerings to make the show experience even better, according to Mark Bilek, CATA's senior director of communications and technology. For starters, the entire show floor -- more than 1 million square feet -- will have high speed Wi-Fi available to the public for the first time.

"We're the only show to offer that across all of the show floors," Bilek said. "That's a huge boost for people coming to the show."

The improved Wi-Fi network will allow showgoers to better utilize the other treats CATA has planned. A new, more robust Chicago Auto Show app is available, which not only offers a $2 discount on a show tickets, but also keeps the ticket in the app -- much like how an airline app can hold a boarding pass.

Bilek notes that, in addition to containing a map of the show floor and schedules, the app provides integral notifications that will allow exhibitors to send messages to attendees as they pass by, offering anything from contests to more information on a product. This year, Bilek said the app also offers a contest to win $20,000 toward the purchase of a Buick Envision or GMC Acadia SUV.

"It's a great virtual companion," Bilek said.

The app itself is free and available for download at the Apple's iTunes Store or Google Play.

And if that's not enough, this year's show launches a program called epass, which allows attendees to register their ticket or app, which then can instantly send and receive information from exhibitors by just swiping a bar code.

"For example, you're interested in a new Fiat and you walk up to the product specialist and first thing she says is give me your name, your email and ZIP code," he said. "Imagine if all you had to do is scan your badge and all that information is shared instantly."

In addition, epass also lets you quickly register for test drives, ride-alongs on any of the show's indoor or outdoor test tracks, or other special features at the show.

"It's a great way to connect at the show, so people don't suffer 'attendee fatigue,'" Bilek said.

He added that epass is also a useful tool for the exhibitors, as the data that can be culled from it can get into fine detail on attendees' interaction, like how long they shopped and where they shopped.

"Auto shows are No. 1 for (return on investment) for auto exhibitors, and 60 percent who come to our show are in market (for a new car)," Bilek said. "Using epass, we can show the automaker their ROI and they are able to trace sales."

All this reflects the tech-savvy audience that the show attracts. The Chicago show was the first of its kind to offer online ticketing, according to Bilek, and today about one-third of tickets sold is done online.

"It's about the consumers," he said. "They love it, they use it and we want to offer it to them."

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