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Remote management on the rise

October 11, 2010
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The concept of remote access has only recently become a recognized part of the successful management of a car-care facility.

The availability of high-speed Internet service has accelerated the use of remote technology in many applications. Several carwash equipment manufacturers now feature equipment that has remote access features built-in.

This technology is ideal for monitoring multiple locations from a central point. The facilities can be several blocks or a thousand miles away; distance does not matter.

Access the information
Remote access can have some variations:

  • An always-on high-speed connection using the Internet; or
  • A direct connection from the carwash to the remote location utilizing a standard phone line.

A broadband type connection with a higher speed of information flow will allow the user to access information at an increased rate over just a direct telephone connection and allow multiple tasks to be completed simultaneously.

The high-speed Internet connection can be a

  • DSL connection; or
  • A broadband connection, using a cable TV line, or a wireless connection.

A DSL connection is usually supplied by a telephone company that piggybacks the DSL Internet connection onto a phone line.

A broadband connection is usually supplied by a cable television company using its existing coax cable.

A wireless high-speed connection is a line-of-site service transmitting from a tower, mountain or a tall building to the facility. Some areas also have direct fiber optic connections available to businesses.

High-speed Internet connections have two ratings called upload and download speed. In order to have the full effect of a high-speed connection, both the carwash and the remote location will need a broadband connection.

A common broadband speed would be around 1.5 Megs of upload and download. A minimum speed desired would be 256 Kilobytes. The higher the number, the faster the connection.

The benefits
By having this remote connection, an owner or investor can view multiple locations that may have video surveillance systems and check for problems.

They can access carwash equipment and see if it is operating properly or needs maintenance scheduled.

It will allow them to see sales reports from pos systems or process credit card reports from a central location.

This type of remote access equipment will also allow operators to remotely open and close bay doors, activate automatic carwash bays, and even shut-down bays, when desired.

This equipment can also initiate sales reports and trouble messages via e-mail messages. These e-mail messages can be directed to any remote computer, a cellular phone or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA).

What’s an IP address?
Most remote management options utilize an Internet connection using a computer. A remote management system may consist of:

  • A broadband modem;
  • A router; and
  • A small computer network at the carwash site.

The modem will convert the DSL/broadband signal to a usable internet connection and the router will let individual computers or equipment share a single Internet address.

One option owners may need from their Internet service provider is a static IP address that never changes, so they will always know the exact Internet protocol (IP) address of their carwash network.

This can be thought of like an address to a house or business. When owners want to access their carwash remotely, they simply type in the assigned static IP address into the connection software and will be directed to the appropriate device.

There are some companies that can provide remote access without using a static IP address, but they charge a monthly fee to track the current IP address of a system and report it to the owner.

Site security
Anytime there is a remote connection, security is a concern. Owners must be able to control who has access and who is kept out. This is where viruses and hackers can become an issue.

The best way to defeat a computer virus is with an anti-virus program that is kept up to date. A site is typically secured with a combination of a firewall and a virtual private network (VPN) connection device.

  • A firewall — filters what traffic is allowed incoming and outgoing from the site on the computer network.
  • A VPN connection device — takes this one step further and encrypts the allowed traffic so no one can intercept it and read the information without the proper authorization.

This is especially useful for financial information that needs to be protected. This will limit, but not stop a dedicated hacker.

In order to set-up this internal management network, an owner may have to contract with a local cabling/networking company that can work in conjunction with his or her equipment supplier.

Remote rising
The remote management of carwash sites will be an increasing trend as operators and investors expand the number of sites that they are managing.

This technology allows an owner to watch video, check the status of equipment, verify credit cards sales, control expenses, account for employee time, and provide a greater level of overall security from a remote location.

Allen Hansen is the owner of two Spotfree Car Wash locations. He is on the Board of Directors of Heartland Car Wash Association and owner of E-Vision Systems- video surveillance system sales and consulting. He is also on the ICA Self-Service Advisory Council. Alan can be reached at