By Texas Instruments
The Bob Lewis Automotive Family dealership uses a key tracking solution that simplifies vehicle access for test drives and boosts security to deter theft. (Photo by Performance Analytics, Inc.)
Performance Analytics, Inc. (PAI), a privately-held company based in Palo Alto, California, the U.S.A., developed its electronic lockbox, IntelliLot, to provide auto dealerships across America a more streamlined and effective sales tracking and accountability system. IntelliLot was developed when several large dealerships approached PAI about creating a key tracking solution that would simplify vehicle access for test drives and boost security to deter theft.
Until February 2006, The Bob Lewis Automotive Family dealership, based in the San Jose, California, the U.S.A., had relied on a traditional manual system that required salespeople to retrieve car keys from a main office or from lockboxes throughout the car lot. Often potential buyers were left waiting for an unacceptable amount of time, and there was no way for the dealership to track which salesperson took what vehicle and when.
Steve Lewis, president and partner of Bob Lewis, said the inconvenience and delay caused by retrieving keys from remote locations decreased sales by 10 percent. “If salespeople have to search for vehicle keys or retrieve them from a central location, they’re spending less time with a customer, and it’s hurting sales,” Lewis said.
Enabled with RFID and ZigBee wireless technologies, IntelliLot’s speed and convenience helps salespeople at the Bob Lewis Automotive Family dealership increase the number of test drives, boost sales and improve inventory tracking and turnover. PAI turned to Texas Instruments (TI) for RFID readers and transponders, and enlisted Firetide, a privately-held technology company based in Los Gatos, Calif., for a wireless mesh network to connect data from the boxes to the IntelliLot Web-based management system.
Each lockbox, large enough to hold a vehicle’s ignition key and key-fob, is equipped with a 16-bit processor and RFID reader/antenna. The key is attached to a plastic one-inch-by-two-inch electronic key-tag that contains TI’s Tag-it passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag, compliant with the ISO/IEC 15693 standard. Salespeople gain access to each lockbox attached to the car’s window through a plastic card embedded with a similar TI 13.56 MHz RFID tag encoded with a personal identification number.
POWER FROM DATA
At the beginning of each work day, salespeople present their cards to an RFID reader in the main office. The reader validates each person’s access privileges for that day and sends the ID number to all the vehicles’ lockboxes.
To gain entry to the boxes, salespeople insert their cards into the box and enter a personal identity number or PIN into a keypad. A ‘special tone’ indicates that the box may be opened. Transceivers located on the lot provide vehicle location information and relay the salesperson’s name, date and time the vehicle was accessed via ZigBee, Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
The Bob Lewis Automotive management team can access the data from any Web-connected PC or PDA on a password-protected Web site created by PAI. The team can readily track who has a vehicle, how long they have it, and how often (if at all) a vehicle is test driven. Lewis uses the information to determine which cars are sitting on the lot without test drives and which vehicles are test driven frequently but not purchased.
“The IntelliLot system fully automates the information process, providing the dealership with detailed data on the performance of their sales personnel and the movement of cars on the lot,” said Dennis McGinn, CEO of Performance Analytics Inc. “The system also identifies cars that are not getting many test drives so the dealership can immediately adjust its pricing and promotional strategy on a per vehicle basis.”
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