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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

The sensor tags in use by Manheim come in two form factors: a dangling tag that can be attached to a car's ignition key ring, or a plug-in device that connects to a vehicle's onboard diagnostics (OBD) connection. In either case, the tags do not draw battery power from a car—which is key, Weinisman says, since some sensor devices consume battery power that a vehicle requires for operation.

Each tag is commissioned by linking the vehicle's VIN and other details with the tag ID number in the Cox2M software. The tag then beacons at pre-set intervals. The LPWAN gateway devices capture that data and forward it to the Cox2M software, which calculates the vehicle's location within the lot. With that data, 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. The car's location is then displayed on a map of the lot.

Using the app, the company can view when a vehicle is test-driven and when it returns, as well as when a vehicle goes to a servicing area.
The software can accomplish more than real-time locating, however. For instance, the company reports, management can view when a vehicle is test-driven and when it returns. They can also view when a vehicle goes to a servicing area, and thereby better understand its status. Historical data can provide other purposes as well, such as understanding which cars attract the most interest and how that might relate to their location in the lot, and workers can potentially rearrange vehicles accordingly.

The system issues alerts to authorized parties in the event that a car has been placed at the wrong location or has not returned from a test drive by a specified time. Users can also view which vehicles are in neighboring lots, in order to understand how inventory is distributed.

Since the system has been deployed at Manheim's lots, Weinisman reports, "There's been tremendous amount of adoption by sales staff and customers." The solution not only saves time for the sales staff, but they are finding that they can share the collected data with customers as well. In fact, he says, Manheim's lots are printing fliers with instructions for customers, indicating how they can use the system to search for a specific car. For instance, a potential buyer could sign in at the lot's website, indicate his or her location and the kind of vehicle he or she is seeking, and then view icons for each car that might be of interest, along with its location.

Cox Communications is now in discussions with other customers, including additional Cox companies, about how a Cox2M solution would benefit them, whether for vehicle or fleet management, or for smart cities or agriculture.

When it comes to IoT solutions, Weinisman states, "As an industry, we need to think in terms of end-to-end solutions." That means offering more than just software or sensors, he notes. Most companies are not interested in piecing together a system of hardware and software. "They just want a solution that works."

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