WolkAbout IoT Platform introduces a new type of industrial automation for carwashes
As technology expands, we’ve begun to enter an entirely new realm where staying connected 24/7 is the norm. This digital revolution also affects the way companies are doing business. In the near future, they will have to start providing solutions that enable total connectivity, thus improving operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. Ready2Wash, a specialist in providing integrated solutions for self-service carwash stations, recognised this and engaged with Wolkabout to support its IoT services.
Founded by a team with more than 20 years of global experience in carwash manufacturing and software development, Ready2Wash started by changing strategy and technology so it could be ahead of the disruptions the carwash industry faces. The company identified the opportunity to create a carwash IoT solution to reduce operational and maintenance costs, increase automation and flexibility, and maintain security and privacy levels. This solution could also aid the company in understanding carwash customers and their typical behaviour in order to improve the service offered.
Business requirements and challenges
The Ready2Wash IoT solution was driven by the following business requirements:
- Enabling near real-time monitoring and management of the entire carwash system, including sending alerts if any part goes beyond operating threshold or if anomalies or malfunctions are detected.
- The ability to analyse the performance of the carwash system over time, with both financial and operational insights, and utilising this data as real field performance feedback for improvement.
- Getting insights into a carwash consumer behaviour depending on different variables such as localisation, part of the day, day of the week, weather conditions, and creating loyalty programmes and marketing campaigns.
- Increasing carwash customer satisfaction by enabling mobile payment of the carwash services.
- Replacing physical money with digital tokens, thus reducing operational costs and logistics and improving customer experience.
Ready2Wash faced some challenges from the outset. The company needed a partner that could connect a diverse set of carwash machines, systems and sensors, many communicating on different protocols, onto a single IoT platform and make them visible and controllable. In addition, the amount of data and data types was so vast, that the solution handling it needed to be scalable and flexible. The IoT platform that deals with this amount of data, among which are information about financial transactions, needed to be readily available and highly reliable with no piece of data being lost. Finally, Ready2Wash faced the challenge of integrating both new and legacy equipment, without additional investment in the hardware replacement.
As the majority of carwash machines were never connected, data was manually compiled resulting in delays and inaccuracies in decision-making. The lack of real-time data meant self-service carwash operators couldn’t react to malfunctions in real time, while lack of the historical trends meant the future trends could not be predicted.
WolkAbout developed an end-to-end solution for Ready2Wash on top of WolkAbout IoT Platform. The platform itself was provided using a Software as a Product (SaaP) model, assuring the highest level of independence for the Ready2Wash team, as well as the ability to resell this cloud-based solution to different carwash owners.
Given that WolkAbout IoT Platform is vendor agnostic, it can connect a range of diverse machines seamlessly and provide an end-to-end solution, right from the machine connectivity to data acquisition and processing, with custom-built business applications on top of the platform.
As many of the carwash machines were not designed to share data, the solution demanded retrofitting of hardware to enable their connectivity. WolkAbout built a simple gateway mechanism called Modbus bridge device, which acted as a connectivity module that safely and reliably transmitted the programmable logic controllers’ (PLCs) data over Wi-Fi to the WolkAbout IoT Platform.
PLCs were fitted with a bridge device, so there was no need for hardware changes to the existing carwash system. All data – operational, financial, customers and third-party data –were collected and available for use at one place. The WolkAbout IoT Platform is designed to have reliable two-way communication between the platform and carwash facilities in order to enable realtime monitoring of various operational parameters, workflow automation, real-time detection of fault situations, remote configuration of the system, as well as customised management, operational and technical dashboards.
A web portal created for self-service carwash owners helps them manage multiple facilities from any location, monitor all their work processes and malfunctions. The key feature is control, as WolkAbout IoT Platform allows remote actuation of switches, relays and water pumps. At the same time, Ready2Wash solution allows customers to use carwash services through the customer web portal and mobile apps more easily and securely than ever before. Customers can enjoy the convenience of mobile payment by buying virtual tokens via credit or debit cards. When geolocation services detect a customer at the specific carwash facility, they can use carwash services by spending virtual tokens instead of physical coins. Lastly, customers can join marketing and loyalty campaigns and earn rewards, such as free washing.
Through the monetisation module of WolkAbout IoT Platform, carwash owners are also able to analyse the financial performance of the carwash system in real time, allowing them to have insights into the accurate financial standing the moment any payment occurs. Furthermore, self-service carwash owners can also track financial data over time, and be able to utilise this data as a real field performance feedback through time. The Ready2Wash web portal provides a deep view into a carwash customer behavior depending on different variables, helping carwash owners understand customers typical behaviour and create tailor-made marketing campaigns and loyalty programmes.
With WolkAbout IoT Platform, Ready2Wash was able to build the IoT solution and transform the existing self-service carwash business.
The B2B solution (for carwash owners) includes:
- Centralised data: All operational, financial, customer and third-party data is now collected and available for analysis at a central location.
- Real-time system visibility and control: The solution enables near real-time automation, monitoring and control of carwash facilities remotely over a web portal.
- Condition monitoring: Real-time alerts and notifications, as well as historical analysis of machine data help improve real-time condition monitoring of the carwash system.
- Real-time financial monitoring: Besides online service utilisation, the financial reporting capabilities help carwash owners slice and dice sales data to get actionable insights.
- Understanding customers needs: By recognising the customers’ behaviour and habits, carwash owners can reward their loyalty. This feature helps them define multiple loyalty programmes for various groups of customers.
- Extensible for additional equipment: As WolkAbout IoT Platform is hardware and connectivity agnostic, it can integrate any additional equipment and can be used for customer specific requirements.
- Fast time-to-market: Adoption of the Ready2Wash solution allows carwash owners to digitally transform the way they do their business in weeks.
The B2C solution includes a customer web portal, as well as Android and iOS applications. They enable carwash customers to:
- Buy Ready2Wash tokens via secured payment process through the mobile applications
- Use services of any carwash facility by spending tokens instead of coins, with a single tap in the application
- Join loyalty campaigns and earn rewards and bonuses
- Navigate to carwash facilities easily