RFID - A Welcome Addition To The Car Sales Industry
Distributor/integrator Dynasys sells thousands of RFID (radio frequency identification) tags to CarMax for loss prevention, time and attendance, access control, and inventory tracking purposes.
Although RFID (radio frequency identification) technology is continuing to garner widespread acceptance, many of the existing applications are designed for a single purpose. In other words, it's rare to see a company install RFID equipment that is used for access control and asset tracking. But, that is just what CarMax (Richmond, VA) did.
CarMax is a multi-brand car dealership with locations in 12 states. The company boasts an inventory of more than 12,000 new and used vehicles and is regularly acquiring existing dealerships nationwide. As with any car dealership, loss prevention is a major concern for CarMax. But, unlike many other dealerships that have implemented RFID technology (e.g. car immobilizers) to solve only this problem, CarMax decided to fully integrate RFID products into its entire operations. For example, the company wanted to incorporate RFID into its time and attendance, access control, and inventory tracking systems. Furthermore, CarMax wanted these systems nationally networked so the company's headquarters could have real-time inventory visibility.
With nearly 50 dealerships in need of this integration, CarMax employed the use of multiple VARs and integrators for the various aspects of the project. The company's MIS (management information systems) department acted as the primary integrator. However, after contacting Texas Instruments (TI) (Plano, TX) for the RFID products, CarMax was referred to TI RFID authorized distributor Dynasys Technologies (Clearwater, FL) for the RFID tags (transponders).
Choose The Right Tag For The Application
More than just a distributor of AIDC (automatic identification and data collection) equipment, Dynasys also manufactures more than 100 of its own products. Furthermore, the company commonly acts as an integrator of the equipment it sells. But, it was Dynasys' expertise in TI RFID tags that secured the company a piece of the pie in the CarMax project. "You have to choose the right tag for the application," stated Bob Scher, CEO of Dynasys. "In this case, the customer needed a tag that could be read through the metalized film of tinted or smoked windows or through snow or ice. For these types of applications, I always recommend TI model RI-TRP-W9UR passive, low frequency [134 kHz] transponders."
Scher explained that the tags are affixed via a suction cup to the inside of the windshield of each car on a CarMax lot. The information on the tags includes the vehicle's year and model as well as the serial number of the tag. This information is written to the tags with a TI model RI-STU-251B reader/writer.
A Fully Integrated RFID Solution
When a CarMax salesperson wants to take a test drive, the vehicle is driven to one of the lot's automated security gates (most lots have multiple gates of this type). As the car approaches the gate, metal detectors in the ground sense a vehicle is approaching. The gate is equipped with a TI model RI-ANT-G04E antenna which, once activated by the metal detectors, begins searching for the vehicle's transponder signal. Once the vehicle's tag is recognized, the system begins searching for the transponder embedded in the salesperson's ID card. (Each ID card contains the employee's name and access privileges. Employees use these cards for punching in and out as well as gaining access to the dealership's computers.) The salesperson holds up the ID card for the antenna to read.
The software (which is proprietary to CarMax) verifies whether the vehicle is in the dealership's inventory. In addition, the system verifies if the employee has punched in for the day and is authorized to remove cars from the lot. A built-in video camera in the gate captures an image of the employee holding up the ID card. That image, along with all of the transponder's data, is sent to the dealership's database. If all of the data is approved, the gate opens. The same scenario is repeated when the employee brings the car back to the lot.
Offer The Value Of Inventory Management
"This is more than a simple loss prevention system," Scher said. "Instead, its biggest value is in providing activity levels for vehicles [i.e. which vehicles are being test driven the most]. This knowledge is used for future inventory ordering and marketing forecasts. Therefore, it is not only important to know which cars are selling, but which cars are being shown and are not selling."
Scher said the tags are reusable and the inventory departments at each dealership are responsible for rewriting them. Because of the size of this contract, Scher has a full-time employee dedicated solely to this account. He said his contract with CarMax dictates a strict timeframe in which Dynasys must be able to deliver the hundreds of tags needed for every new dealership CarMax acquires or opens. "Although we are currently only providing the tags for this customer, we plan to make an offer to also provide the readers for future installations."