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IoT Solution to Bring Location Awareness for Half a Million Cars

Manheim is deploying an LPWAN solution from sister company Cox Communications to track the locations of its vehicles across its North American sales lots.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 13, 2018

Automobile auctioneering company Manheim is using a low-power wide-area network (LPWAN)-based Internet of Things (IoT) system developed by its sister company, Cox Communications, (both owned by Atlanta-based Cox enterprises), to track up to 500,000 vehicles at car lots across North America. The new solution, known as Cox2M, is designed for asset management across multiple industries, but is initially being launched with the company's automotive division to help track vehicles as they are received, processed, test-driven and sold in large lots. Cox Communications calls this the largest LPWAN commercial IoT deployment in North America.

COX2M is the new connected asset services business line of broadband and entertainment company Cox Communications. The solution is intended to serve a broad market that includes smart cities, says Barak Weinisman, Cox Communications' executive director of new businesses and growth and Cox2M general manager, while the company chose to focus first on the automotive market. Weinisman cites what he calls a clear road map toward connected cars using IoT technology. Such trends include IoT-based connectivity and sensors to provide music, find cheap fuel or share vehicles.

Manheim's sales staff can locate a vehicle in real time by signing onto the firm's website, or by using an app downloaded onto a smartphone or tablet.
In the meantime, however, Manheim is leveraging the IoT to gain visibility and automated management of its vehicles while they are still on the sales lot. The automobile auction company operates 80 locations across the United States and 120 locations internationally, with a total of 7 million cars sold annually and a half million vehicles on its lots at any given time.

Cox Communications' Barak Weinisman
Locating vehicles within lots has historically been a problem that increases exponentially with the size of the lot and inventory. Since there can be tens of thousands of vehicles parked across a single Manheim lot, which may be needed at any time by a potential customer or the sales staff, visibility into each car's location and status is critical. Manually searching for specific cars can mean employees walking several miles on a daily basis—a process that consumes time they would otherwise spend serving customers. For a buyer who has come to pick up a car he or she has purchased, or to look for a specific car that person wants to test drive, the searching process can also be time-consuming and frustrating.

Manheim piloted the Cox2M solution last year at its lot in West Palm Beach, Fla., and is now deploying the system across its North American lots. The technology consists of battery-powered sensor devices assigned to vehicles that transmit a unique identifier via LPWAN. Gateway receivers have been installed throughout those locations. The Cox2M system then collects the data on a cloud-based server, calculates the location of each sensor device and pairs that information with the vehicle's descriptors, such as its vehicle identification number (VIN), make and model.

Cox Communications developed the sensor tag, Weinisman says, to meet the deployment's need for a small device that would not draw power from a vehicle, but would dependably transmit data using battery power that could last for years. The company either develops its own sensors or selects products available on the market, depending on the particular use case.

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