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The Chicago Auto Show gets an update with the swipe of a phone

A 16-year-old multimedia company is gaining recognition as a go-to expert on connected devices, wearable gadgets, and tag-and-touch technology.

The firm, Specialty Publishing, owner of Connected World magazine, is hosting its first pavilion and conference at the Chicago Auto Show in February to showcase how motorists of the future can connect their cars to their homes, doctors, health monitors and to other vehicles.

Auto show attendees will get to see and experience the latest tech breakthroughs, including wearables, fitness gadgets, connected apps and tracking devices. “We want to educate people about the connected technologies that are all around us and which many people still are not taking advantage of,” says Peggy Smedley, who runs Carol Stream-based Specialty Publishing with her husband, Dave.

The 20,000-square-foot pavilion will also include displays of near field communication, or NFC.

The technology enables certain smartphone users to tap or wave their phones over an NFC chip to launch applications. One tap of an NFC-enabled Android or BlackBerry phone — Apple iPhones use a separate protocol called iBeacon and cannot be used — can access information and demonstrations as diverse as how to find the most buzzed-about exhibit, interactive tattoos embedded with personalized information, and diapers that alert parents when it’s time for a change.

Libertyville-based Motorola’s latest Moto X phone, for example, lets a motorist put an NFC tag on a car’s dashboard to launch Bluetooth automatically. The motorist also may program three “skip dots” to do whatever he or she wants, such as connect to a family member’s phone number. From there, the motorist can wave the phone over the dot to launch the program.

Another NFC innovation is San Francisco’s parking meter system, which lets users tap or wave their NFC-enabled smartphones over the meters’ NFC stickers to pay for parking and to set the desired time to park. The system texts the driver before the meter expires and lets the driver pay remotely for more time. The payment is processed against the credit or debit card associated with the mobile phone number.

The NFC phenomenon is creating soaring revenues, with Juniper Research predicting consumers will generate $50 billion in sales through NFC-enabled mobile payments this year.


See three of Connected World’s holiday gadget picks here.