The adaptation of innovation and new technology is necessary progress in any industry, and carwashing is no exception. Keeping your business up-to-date with the latest in carwash technology can mean a more efficient and profitable business. You will have the tools you need to operate a successful business, and your customers will appreciate your attention to the newest tools and products available.

Today’s new technology can help with many issues carwash owners commonly face, including lighting emergencies, increased surveillance needs and durable technology requirements.

Emergency lighting

Power outages can create dangerous situations for employees and customers in any building, and this includes carwashes. Power outages are not caused solely by weather, and they can be unexpected. Because of this, business owners cannot wait until an emergency strikes to address the problem.

Emergency lighting can provide a safer environment for anyone inside your carwash when the power goes out, and it is required by many building codes. Rather than viewing it as a necessary, but non-valued expense, carwash owners should view emergency lighting as equipment that can add value to a business by providing a safe environment.

Customers, employees and any other visitors to the business should be able to exit the building safely in an emergency. Lighting should be installed that will provide a safe exit from the building, or to allow those in the building to operate in a realistically efficient manner.

Types of lighting

A new type of supplemental emergency lighting has recently come onto the market. Though these lights will not meet code (they do not have test switches), they can be used in addition to other wireless lights to provide even more light coverage during an emergency.

There are several different types of supplemental emergency lighting:

  • Individual wireless lights. These come in different models, are typically battery-powered and have motion sensors that will activate the light when it is dark and movement is detected. A benefit of these lights is that they operate on their own. Example: a storage closet can have its own lighting, unaffected by the other lights.
  • Wireless lights activated by a signal from a device that detects a power outage. Unlike the individual wireless lights above, these lights can be set to the same frequency and controlled together. One power outage detector can activate dozens of battery-powered lights, and it can often serve as a remote control as well.
  • Wireless technology in bulb adapter form. These lights work with existing light fixtures, allowing them to use battery-backed power. An adapter screws into a socket, and a bulb screws into the adapter. The user can control the fixtures with their normal controls, and the device can detect the difference between a power outage and a light switch change.

Combining supplemental lights and wireless lights with LEDs can also help lower power consumption. LEDs have a lifespan of 30,000 to 50,000 hours. Supplemental emergency lights come in many forms, including ceiling lights, spotlights and path lights.

Supplemental lights may be best suited in areas where emergency lighting is not required by code. Areas like interior offices, cubicles, hallways and restrooms are suitable places to install these lights. Stairways are often poorly lit, and they can be extremely dangerous during a power outage, so these areas would benefit greatly from supplemental emergency lighting. Outdoor battery-powered spotlights can also be useful during a nighttime power outage if occupants need to exit the building.

Surveillance needs

Many carwashes are able to operate without staff present. This can be profitable and efficient for the business, but it also means a carwash may be more susceptible to crime. Coin machines and vacuums can be targets for thieves, and vandals may be attracted to bay walls. Proper surveillance can deter thieves and vandals and help catch criminals if they do strike.

Wireless surveillance systems have advanced throughout the years so the quality of their pictures can be just as high as that of wired systems. Though these systems may be new to the carwash environment, case studies based in other industries show how they could benefit a car care business.

One example is the Cheltenham Festival in South West England’s Gloucestershire. The event sees well over 200,000 visitors every March, and it chose to use a wireless system when it upgraded its security technology in 2013.

Wireless options can be effective

Faced with an increase in crime, the University of the West Indies in Trinidad did the same. The closed circuit television (CCTV) system allowed the university of more than 39,000 students to maintain the beauty of its campus while still maintaining a safe environment.

Cameras focused on major parking areas, entry and exit points. Cameras were set up to provide feed to nine network hubs, and each hub handles a zone of the campus. Zones are recorded, and hubs are connected back to the main command center with a fiber optic network. The second phase of installation involved adding a system to a medical center a couple of miles away from the main campus.

With wireless systems, it can be much faster to install a high quality, high throughput wireless link than to install and terminate the required cable to create the same link, says Michael Pereira, director of Streamline Systems, Ltd.

The network was made up of two powerful radios, and the main campus and medical campus were linked together using one paid of FM1100M united with 100MB licenses. This allowed the maximum possible bandwidth when needed.

The entire system used a total of 77 IP fixed and IP fixed dome cameras. All internal legacy cameras were integrated into the modern IP system. A power backup was also installed.

"Since its installation, the system has been instrumental in a number of arrests on campus and has offered an increased feeling of safety to students and staff," says Sgt. Gregory Corraspe, who manages the security control room on campus.

Weather/budget concerns

Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) faced a different challenge when it needed a new video surveillance system. Its cameras needed to be mounted on existing light poles, but the cameras required low voltage power, and the lights were running on a photo cell using high voltage power between dusk and dawn.

WWCC’s budget was also a constraint. There was no existing way to connect the new cameras to the campus network, and the cost to trench through concrete to install conduits or cable was not in the budget. Digging the trenches would have also hindered campus activities.

The problems WWCC faced were remedied with a wireless system. No digging was required, plus the campus will be able to expand the system as needed in the future.

To solve the voltage issue, a system was installed that charges batteries during the night when parking lights are on. When the lights are off, the batteries supply power to the network and cameras.

High winds and extremely cold temperatures were also a problem for WWCC. A camera was installed with an auto tracking feature that activates during the nighttime low activity hours, and it can record onboard if the signal is lost.

 “This technology helped resolve many of our concerns to provide the best possible coverage without driving up our costs,” says Mark Padilla, security director for WWCC.

Mobile, durable computers

Finally, mobile, durable computers can help a car care business run more smoothly and efficiently. These devices come in varieties that are touchscreen, watertight and have rubber bumpers, so being around carwash equipment will not destroy the equipment.

A durable computer option “can accept credit cards with the mag swipe reader, has a full 70-key keyboard as well as a hot swappable battery,” says Joan Rickards, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Two Technologies Inc.

Durable computers can also integrate with existing business systems and software, some using custom or Android-based application specific software, according to Rickards.

Devices can be backlit with large screens and powerful processors, long-lasting batteries for multiple shifts and dual cameras. Some have micro USB ports, connectivity via dock and 3G and 4G wireless capabilities.

The use of mobile technology will impress customers and improve access to information for employees as well as provide better services for customers.

Each technology outlined here has the potential to help owners and operators spend less time reacting to problems and more time improving a carwash’s profitability.