DETROIT – During the recent $279 million renovation of Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, a complete digital upgrade was performed that included a broadcast studio, Internet and WI-FI upgrades and an extensive fiber network all packaged under the catchy name, Cobo Center Technology Services.

“The creation of Cobo Center Technology Services, though significant on its own, is part of a larger overall plan designed to enhance the customer experience,” said Claude Molinari, general manager of SMG/Cobo Center.

New digital signage, ranging from the 4,800 square-foot marquee sign on Cobo Center’s exterior, to more than 100 digital message boards outside of each meeting room, ballroom and exhibit hall, provides meeting planners with opportunities for advertising, branding, revenue generation and attendee interaction. Use of the signs enhances any show with relevant content such as schedule-at-a-glance, show mapping, logo loops, sponsorship video spots, and Twitter feeds – all incorporating virtual components into live events.

“In our first year of digital signage operation, Cobo Center generated more than $800,000 in advertising revenue, an astounding feat for a convention center,” said Molinari. “Our customers quickly caught on to the fact that these signs can create substantial revenue streams.”

During the recent renovation, an extensive fiber network was permanently installed throughout the facility, radically amplifying Cobo’s Technology Services capabilities. Live streaming from anywhere in the convention center to digital signage via the Cobo Center broadcast studio makes large events attendee focused. Like no other convention center service, the broadcast studio provides a technology command center and control point for all fiber feeds in use by the event, a sound stage for live or recorded broadcasts to hybrid audiences, and source for satellite uplink around the globe, eliminating the need to rent a satellite truck.

The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), Cobo Center’s largest annual event,peaked Wi-Fi usage last year during Press Days at 14,640 unique users, an increase of 62 percent the previous year. The current WiFi system in Cobo is an Aruba 802.11ac wireless network designed to accommodate 32,000 devices simultaneously. Discovery during pre-event planning may reveal estimated high usage, in which case, the Technology Services department is prepared to add more APs to smooth out the user’s experience and allow for a greater number of guests and their wireless devices to access the Internet at ever-increasing speeds. Full customer use of WiFi service has always been free throughout Cobo Center.

In a world where exhibitors and attendees now carry multiple Wi-Fi enabled devices on a regular basis, it is critical that the system can support a large number of devices simultaneously.

Other technology enhancements that support events in Cobo Center include: a free facility app that is fully integrable with event apps; recent cell tower upgrades with all providers; online event service ordering for all event services, making service ordering paperless; conversation pod furniture groups where customers can relax, plug-in and recharge between meetings.

About Cobo Center: With 723,000 square feet of exhibit space, Cobo Center boasts one of the largest contiguous exhibit floor spaces in North America and is the 17th largest convention center in the country.

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