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Drones Reduce Inventory Time from Days to Minutes at Car Dealerships

FoxTrac has adopted a solution from RFID and IoT systems supplier SmartX Technology to locate vehicles in Montreal concessionary yards.
By Edson Perin
Feb 10, 2017

Before launching four years ago to solve business problems and automate processes for car dealerships, Canadian technology systems supplier FoxTrac was already developing solutions with passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to track vehicles during warranty, maintenance or repair services at authorized repair shops. However, the company faced an even greater need: to find specific cars within a yard in which thousands of vehicles are parked—especially during winter, when they can be virtually invisible under a thick layer of snow.

While searching for a solution that could address this challenge while still allowing inventory counts to be carried out in a more efficient and constant manner, Marco Lisi, FoxTrac's CEO, turned to RFID specialist SmartX Technology, which develops and deploys radio frequency identification and Internet of Things technologies, with a focus on results for businesses.

Top: On a sunny day, a drone reads the beacons to complete inventory counts of cars in stock. Bottom: The counting or localization is impeded by snow, but is enabled by the same drones and beacons.
Lisi, a family member who owns two BMW dealerships in Montreal, says that one of the main bottlenecks for companies in this sector is having to precisely control millions of dollars' worth of inventory that cannot be checked at the desired frequency.

"It took us a day and a half to check the vehicles parked on one of the courtyards, even with five staffers doing the counting and reading of the serial numbers in the traditional way—that is, by hand, one by one," Lisi says. With the drone and beacons (Bluetooth Low Energy tags) from SmartX, he adds, the same task can be completed within only 10 minutes.

"Normally, car resellers only inventory once a year because the manual process takes a lot of time and is expensive," Lisi explains. According to the entrepreneur, controlling inventory in the past required that employees proceed to each car in order to write down its serial number by hand. "With passive RFID tags, it would be easier, except when snow covers vehicles, which prevents UHF readers from interrogating the tags."

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