Key Tracking Systems For Car Dealerships Are Improving
NOTE: Before you read this… I recommend watching the attached video 1st to get an idea of the solution we are offering. If our technology is of interest to you, then you can read add’l details.
The loss of keys along with the time squandered in trying to find them is the bane of many car dealers. Selling a car without a key is not possible. I’m sure many of you have plenty of war stories about frustrations regarding car keys. Having said that, I know many of you also struggle to find the vehicle the key belongs to. Finally, we all understand how frustrating it is when a fellow salesperson forgets to put a car window up or returns a demo car to the lot not parked properly. Thankfully key tracking systems for car dealerships are improving!
I worked at a major car dealership for almost 4 years. We had over 1000 pre-owned vehicles of available inventory. I absolutely identify with the frustration of all these issues. This begins the story of what I did (with the help of a really smart programmer friend) to finally solve this problem forever.
Our mission when we designed this system was simple:
- Primary: Get a prospect into the seat of a demo car they wanted to drive without any delays.
- Secondary: Solve the problem of staff accountability with vehicle inventory. (yes.. it was frustrating having to re-align cars on the lot because somebody was too lazy to do it right the first time!)
A Little Background on Key Tracking Systems for Car Dealers
Automotive Key Storage Systems have been around for many years. We started out with systems that allowed us to organize the keys in a cabinet. These systems, we generally hung the key on a 10 x 10 grid of hooks. We used the last 2 digits of the vin or stock number to decide which row and column in the grid of hooks to use. Many car dealers today still use this manual process for tracking keys. Car Dealers that support this system know they have the following problems:
- Lost car keys which cost money to replace
- Lost time finding the keys which cost customer satisfaction scores, employee moral, lost vehicle sales.
New School Key Tracking Systems – (Most Electronic Key Systems Today)
We moved to electronic systems which added employee authentication. Authentication is helping to understand which person removed a key and at what time they did so. Today there are many systems that can electronically keep track of who checked out a key. These computerized systems typically have some type of tracking ID mechanism associated with the key. Electronic circuits need to validate a particular key is being removed or returned. Furthermore, these systems have added bio-metric scanning to accurately report who accessed a particular key. Some of them will even take a photo of the person as they access the system.
These key systems are great with keys but do nothing to report location of the vehicle. (There are a couple of key system vendors that use GPS tracking devices as a separate product to track vehicle locations. Their solution is expensive and not integrated.) Let me point out too, you must physically move to the location of these systems to interact with them. This causes the constant hassle of walking away from your prospect and returning with availability status.
Obviously it would be much easier for everyone if you could access the key tracking system from wherever you are. Checking out a key from wherever you are is even better. You know ahead of time that it is already assigned to you.
Today’s Key Systems are Expensive to Manufacture
There is a problem not discussed but is generally known throughout the Automotive Industry. That is, the architecture today is expensive to manufacture and to scale the system. Each ID chip per key must be electronically hard connected to a port that can read the chip ID#. This requires plugging these ID chips into a slot or hole. Each slot or hole then needs to be electronically connected to a monitoring circuit that can identify the location of the key slot in the key cabinet as well as associate the ID# of the chip on the key ring. These systems are using a local computer to store all information. Each manufacturer has his own unique custom solution for doing this.
Because of their architecture, these systems are expensive to build and are not very efficient. The proprietary interfaces that read the chip ID# use custom components that sometimes break or are lost. Then you will need to replace them which can be annoying and cost money. Because each chip ID requires its own slot to connect to, the key density in a single box is low. If you require a system to keep track of hundreds of keys you are required to purchase multiple units and string them together. If you have 1000’s of keys it is a major expense.
Next Generation Advances To Simplify, Lower Production Costs, Provides Advanced Features
RFID technology has been around for many years. One might ask why the manufacturers of all these smart key cabinets didn’t use a more cost effective wireless RFID solution. If they did, then you could simply attach a low cost passive RFID tag on each key ring and hang the keys on a hook as in the early manual systems. You would not need to build custom slots and RFID chip components that fit into your custom slots. This would then allow a substantial savings in the manufacturing cost and provide greater key density in a single cabinet.
The reason they didn’t choose this route is because there were too many issues with wireless RFID in a cabinet. Just like your microwave oven has dead spots that result in cold areas in your food, RFID signals have similar issues. You could not reliably detect passive RFID tags in a cabinet due to these similar dead spots in the RF signal. However, a new patented RFID antenna now generates the same signal in 5 different directions simultaneously. This has totally eliminated any dead spots!
Key and Car Tracking Recognized The Opportunity To Innovate
Key and Car Tracking, llc has engaged the engineering company that designed and patented this revolutionary antenna. Their founder is now a member of our advisory board. With his help we have produced the worlds first RFID key cabinet that can use passive labels and the wireless signal from their revolutionary antenna. It is 100% accurate in scanning and detecting what keys have been added/removed from the cabinet after each door locking event. This has resulted in substantially lower manufacturing costs!
There are also a few other patented techniques from this same engineering company that allow RFID to integrate very well into a cloud system like ours. As an example, their technology allows our smart key cabinet to pre-process a scan event. When someone closes the door, their scanning technique will send us only the changes detected. No other RFID scanning system pre-processes their scanning events. If we did not have this new type of advanced RFID Scanner/Reader we would be sending hundreds or thousands of scans a second across a cloud architecture. This is very inefficient and fraught with problems.
In evaluating how to improve electronic key systems for car dealerships, it was clear early on that this RFID technology will provide a major positive impact.
The Cloud Is The Place To Be – And Here’s Why
Information can easily be accessed from anywhere
A cloud based system has many advantages. The most noticeable advantage is that everyone has access to current information at their fingertips. This enables your staff to check on the status of any vehicle as they are speaking with a prospect. When the vehicle is available they simply click on the demo button. Voila, this assigns the vehicle to them. Your staff now knows with authority that they own the key. More importantly though, the key and vehicle location is established ahead of time.
Assuming the status of the requested vehicle is DEMO, then our system would tell you who checked out the car and at what time. You could immediately explain to the customer the status. This eliminates a lot of back and forth as you are trying to serve the needs of your customer.
Information added/ System interaction accomplished remotely
If you expect to allow people to update your system in real-time, the only way to make this possible is give people access to the system from wherever they might be. Our cloud based architecture allows people to provide vehicle location information quickly and easily as they are returning a car. We also allow your staff to report discrepancies regarding vehicles as they see them. Finally, they can interact with the system to check out a vehicle for a demo, move, or other function. This improves the efficiency while stopping by the key cabinet. Your staff has already performed the action for removing or returning a key. After they authenticate their identity they are simply taking or removing the key itself.
Staff/Employee Communication – It’s Important
Let’s reiterate this. Our cloud architecture provides the ability for staff/employee members to interact with the system and each other in real-time. This allows them to do their job in a more efficient manner. It also allows them to share with each other when something goes wrong. If a vehicle has the window down, simply select the vehicle in our system and report that it is down. You can do this as you are walking past the vehicle. Our system knows who parked the vehicle and will immediately send a SMS text message to that employee. We also send a message to the employees immediate supervisor. This would allow the supervisor to send another person to take care of this issue if needed.
Location Information Without the Use of GPS Tracking
We took advantage of this architecture to add vehicle location tracking information. This enables your staff to easily check in a car as they are parking it on your lot. As they check in the car we require them to report the vehicle location. If you do not report vehicle information then our system does not allow you to return the car or the key. Magically your entire staff now knows exactly where the car is! We accomplished this without adding any expensive tracking devices on your vehicle.
In case you are wondering, to keep employees honest about reporting the proper location at all times, we keep historical information on who last touched a vehicle. If the vehicle is in the wrong spot, you will immediately know who made a mistake in reporting its last location. Harvard Business Review published an excellent article about using social pressure for motivating your employees. I wrote a blog topic regarding this article here:
This social pressure has proven to be very effective and works to keep your staff members honest.
GPS Tracking is Actually Kinda Better… and YES.. we do offer it too!
For those of you that simply want the best… and have the money to purchase the best… we do offer a GPS tracking device fully integrated into our system for car dealerships that want to choose this solution. GPS Tracking offers advantages over our software only location tracking. Specifically, we can show you a real-time map of a stolen vehicle.
Our solution is to provide you with a strong magnetic mount gps device that has an extended battery life of over 6 months. The battery is rechargeable. There is a battery level alert that generates when it needs recharged. In the unlikely event it was placed on a vehicle where it got knocked off, there is a drop alert. By providing you with this type of GPS device you will not have to incur the labor cost for typical installation!
The downside issues you will face with GPS tracking device to report location information is:
- Location is not specific to a lot/row. It is accurate to within 6 meter. It does not report location information if the vehicle is inside a building. Our recommendation is using the GPS Tracking to augment the location information being supplied by your staff.
- GPS Tracking devices have a initial upfront burdened cost that is high depending on how many vehicles you need to track each month. Expect to spend approximately $75 – 90 per vehicle. Then add to that the monthly cellular connection per vehicle.
I know a few car dealers that have an insurance deduction north of $20k per vehicle stolen. It wouldn’t take too many stolen car incidents to justify this expense. You might even get a reduction in your insurance premium each month for having this technology available for your inventory.
Finally, Lets Talk About our Vehicle Portal Technology
We’re excited offering our Vehicle Portal Technology to the automotive industry. Automotive dealerships can enhance their vehicle visibility in many ways.
The technology uses the same advanced antenna that our smart key cabinet uses. Therefore it is 100% accurate about reporting which vehicle drove through the portal, the direction, and the date/time.
Our vehicle portal has the advantage of a one time up front cost and a small monthly fee. The portal scans passive RFID labels for the vehicles that can be recycled. If necessary, the cost to replace RFID lablels is not concerning.
Satellite lots, service buildings, ingress/egress,
Each dealership will utilize the portal technology based upon their needs. If you have satellite lots then it makes sense to install a portal there. While vehicles are driven in and out of these remote locations, our system will report this to the historical information area for each vehicle along with the date/time stamp.
We can monitor ingress/egress locations. You designate the person to receive a stolen vehicle alert. The stolen vehicle alert happens as the vehicle is passing through the portal. If a vehicle has been off your lot for more time than you have allotted, it is easy to setup a time limit alert.
There might be areas of your facility where reconditioning people are moving vehicles in and out. You can setup a portal to keep track of this activity. It is really up to you to decide how these portals could best help your dealership.
As a forward thinking note these portals could be used in conjunction with your customer vehicles so that your service department knows when a customer has just arrived. It is very easy for us to send a text message then to whomever you designate.
It is our thoughts too that you might want to start tracking physical assets inside your service buildings. A passive rfid label could help thwart theft of expensive tools and machinery.
Wrapping UP – Next Steps
Hopefully you now agree that Key Tracking Systems for Car Dealerships are Improving!!
Also you have surely found enough of the information we have shared to be of interest to you. If that is the case, please contact us and we can begin a dialog of how our technology could help you solve some of the issues you are facing today.
Key and Car Tracking, llc
Phone: (614) 344-0554 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org