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Swedish Car Dealer Turns to RFID

Holmgrens Bil is using a real-time location system to help manage its 1,000-car inventory.
By Jonathan Collins
Apr 07, 2006Late last year, when Holmgrens Bil—one of the largest automobile distributors and dealerships in Scandinavia—prepared to open its new and largest dealership site in Jönköping, Sweden, it sought a way to better track and manage its inventory.

Under the previous system, a Holmgrens salesperson looking to show a particular vehicle to a customer would first ask the maintenance staff where it had been parked. That often meant time wasted tracking down the vehicle.

Sweden's Holmgrens Bil is using a Wi-Fi-based RFID tracking system to keep track of the cars at its dealerships.

"We have had engineers spending up to half an hour trying to find a car at smaller lots, so as we opened our much bigger location, we knew it was a problem we had to solve," says Benny Holmgrens, managing director of Holmgrens Bil.

Soon after the new 700,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor facility opened in December 2005, it started using a Wi-Fi-based RFID system to enable customers and staff to pinpoint the location of any vehicle from anywhere across the three buildings and five parking lots comprising the dealership. Up to 700 cars are stored in the three floors of the main building at any given time, with as many as 300 more outside.

The new Wi-Fi RFID tracking system uses real-time location system (RTLS) hardware and software from San Mateo, Calif.-based RTLS specialist AeroScout. The system also incorporates applications developed by Swedish RFID systems integrator InformationslogistiQ (IQ), which deployed the network.

Each car on the site is tagged with an AeroScout T2 active Wi-Fi tag, adapted to hang from the vehicle's rear-view mirror. The tag transmits a 2.4 GHz signal carrying the tag's unique ID number. A network of 82 AeroScout location receivers detects the tag signals, which are used to calculate a car's general location—within 5 meters (16 feet) of its true position. In addition, 44 AeroScout exciters provide precise location information at building entranceways, lot gates and other choke points. An exciter is used to trigger AeroScout's T2 tags as they pass through a choke point to transmit a message, which is then received by an AeroScout location receiver. This provides instant knowledge that a tagged asset or person has passed through a gate, doorway or some other tightly defined area.

The system uses AeroScout's MobileView software to associate a tag's ID with its vehicle, and to collect and store location data.

Four Psion Teklogix WorkAbout Pro handheld readers, with software developed by IQ, are being used by maintenance staff to search for inventory. The dealership has also set up three of IQ's self-service information kiosks, which can be used by sales staff and customers to locate the cars they are looking for. "Customers seem to think it's a lot of fun to use the system to locate cars," says Holmgrens. MobileView software generates a graphical display of the lot, pinpointing the requested car on the kiosk screen.

The company didn't carry out a return on investment (ROI) analysis of the RFID system because it believed the benefits and payback to be obvious. Its eight other sites are smaller and more manageable without RFID, but as the firm expands those lots as well, it will consider introducing the RFID-based tracking system.

"It's not just the number of cars [on a lot] that would have to be considered, but also the size and layout of the lot," Holmgrens explains.
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