Evolving Unlimited Clubs: RFID vs. LPR, and what about the APP?
The ever-evolving world of unlimited clubs has changed dramatically over the last several years. It wasn’t long ago that unlimited clubs were looked down upon, and now, if you don’t have one you are losing business! New technology is changing the way we administer these clubs, and with that, we have seen a rise in member numbers. Gone are the days of 200-300 members. Today, sites have over 6,000 members and the administrative tasks have multiplied. Operators now have a choice between RFID technology or License Plate Recognition (LPR), and don’t forget about the app! So, which method is right and how do you choose? Under each option, I will briefly list what I see as the pros and cons and what we need to think about.
This is the technology most of us are familiar with-a sticker in the window. Used by toll roads, parking garages and others for many years.
- Reliable; high read rates
- Controllable; attendant places in car
- Simple equipment
- New windshield technology making obsolete
- High cost per sticker to replace (with more members this cost is noticeable)
- Administrative (needs someone to manage who has what sticker#)
LPR (License Plate Recognition)
Newer technology and where, I believe, things are headed. However, don’t be so quick to rush to into new technology without all the facts.
- Less administrative work
- Lower operating cost (no sticker to replace)
- Easy on the customer
- Less Control; customer can move the plate from car to car (although some have controls- see DRB car picshttps://www.drbsystems.com/products-and-services/pos-software/sitewatch/)
- Lower read rates (90-92% is what I am hearing which sounds good, but on a 1,000-car day, 10% is 100 cars, or almost 10 per hour to mess up your line!)
- No standard plate formats
- More equipment means more things can go wrong/break
Oh, the app! Companies have done a great job associating the app with LPR, and although they can be cousins, they are not siblings. In other words, an app can go with either RFID or LPR. It is important to note here that there is a difference between a true app and a mobile-ready website. Generally speaking, apps are easier for customers to navigate and understand, whereas a mobile-ready version is just your website condensed to fit a mobile device.
- Customer-friendly (newer generations do everything on their phone and apps)
- Transfers the administrative work to the consumer
- Reach customers faster
- It’s cool!
- Must manage updates on two platforms: inside POS and within the App (possibly 3 if you have a market-based website)
- Less control (how do we control what the customer can change and how often?)
- App needs to be updated every time Apple or Android performs a system update (does your supplier have that ability, and are they prepared for the updates?)
As you can see, all of these options come with benefits and drawbacks. While you might be impressed with new technology, I would advise to hold off until it is tested more. Nothing is as straight-forward as it appears, and while some companies might seem like they are behind in technology or slow to the party, they probably have a reason for slowing down and working to solve some of these issues before it becomes your problem.