About Scancam Industries
Scancam is one of Australia’s hottest startups, single-handedly changing the way service stations protect themselves against fuel theft by using video cameras and licence plate recognition technology. The team at Scancam has created a multi-part system to solve the expensive global problem of fill-up and drive-off fuel theft from service stations. It attacks the problem through deterrence, identification of wrong-doers, reporting automation and recovery of money.
Fixing an everyday problem
Scancam Director, Eoin Byrne, first came up with the idea for Scancam during a trip to the local service station. Noticing the service station attendant taking notes, Eoin found out about the inaccurate and manual process behind the attempt to combat motorists filling up with petrol, then driving off without paying.
The only way this costly problem was managed by the attendants was by taking note of the number plate of a vehicle with suspicious looking occupants, then trying to quickly scan through a massive list of hundreds of numbers to see if that car had previously been involved in fill-and-drive-off theft from the station.
“We’re talking about a completely prehistoric way of managing an enormous risk,” explained Eoin.
With a background in security operations, Eoin saw an incredible opportunity and approached Anthony Schmidt with his idea. The pair joined forces and Scancam Industries was born.
With the Scancam solution, the problem is tackled on a number of fronts – firstly, the system acts as a deterrent, then prevents any known offender from re offending by denying post-paid access to fuel. It solves the reporting issues caused by the clunky faxes and inaccuracies in attendant reporting in addition to recovering debts on behalf of the retailer and returning recovered funds directly to their bank account.
“CCTV is no longer a deterrent,” Anthony said. “So we came up with the idea to actually display the licence plates of cars filling up at the bowser on a screen up the front, just at the main doors of the service station.”
Smart cameras capture licence plate details and interact with databases to provide immediate alerts if a potential customer has a history of fuel theft. Results are delivered to the attendant’s tablet, allowing them to keep the bowser closed and ask the motorist to pay before filling up. If a customer does drive off without paying, the system provides an automated process to lodge civil proceedings.Any reduction in the incidence of theft also helps the stations because much of the profit comes from incidental purchases within the service station store.
“The day we put that up the store didn’t experience a drive off for two weeks, which is unheard of – they never went two weeks without a drive-off.” Anthony said “We’ve got the deterrents, we’ve got the alert, the database checks, and now we’ve got the debt recovery. Put all those things together and we’ve got a very compelling business case, which means people are knocking down the door at the moment. “
Once the pair had an app and a working prototype, Eoin and Anthony wanted to explore better functionality and technology, and reached out to Ignia to discuss their options and big ideas for future applications.
Building on a great idea
Already aware that a perfected Scancam would have a world-wide market, the pair made the decision to only use the very best of equipment.
“No shortcuts, no cost-cutting,” said Anthony.
“Once we had a working prototype, we decided we had to build something on an enterprise scalable level that would support multiple time zones, regions, countries and around 50,000 devices. We wanted to build a big business using this platform, and that’s where Ignia and Microsoft Azure came in.”
Eoin recalled the conversation with Ignia, “We went through what the platform offered in detail, and we were quickly won over with the scalability, level of support, the capacity to collect data and being able to incorporate other features.”
The existing system was changed from Amazon to Microsoft Azure within two weeks. “We love the platform and are now adding features,” Eoin said. “We’ve gone from 100 per cent non-Microsoft to completely converted.”
Ignia Director, Josh Boys, described the project, “We’ve ported Scancam’s website, moving from Google to run their business on Office 365, with the whole app in Azure. Everything has been architected efficiently to ensure Scancam have the opportunity to scale. We’re also porting them from iOS to Xamarin to provide consistency between their front- and back-end coding.”
Further, Scancam has partnered with a major debt collection agency, which typically commences debt recovery proceedings within four days of the drive-off. Current indications are that 82 per cent of debts are recovered after the issue of the first letter of demand. “Even if the petrol station recoups only 25 per cent of the debt, then they are ahead and the cost of the system is neutralised,” Anthony said.
The combination of deterrents, alerts, database checks and debt recovery has created a very clever solution to a previously uncontrolled problem. The Internet of Things is opening an even more exciting future for the company, with plans to have bowser screens which personally greet customers based on their licence plate. In addition, the team envisages service stations offering loyalty rewards for regular customers and selling media space on the screens.
On the technical side, work has begun on using devices running Windows IoT Core to run some functions.
Azure Machine Learning will be added to not only analyse and detect patterns on fuel theft, but to analyse and optimise how the entire Scancam platform is running as well.
“The list of applications we can use is long, and it’s opening up more avenues for potential business streams, providing more substance, strength and capability to our existing platform,” Anthony said. “We have a great selling point; the first question everyone asks is what happens if my internet drops out, and we say no problem, it continues to run, we’ve got it covered locally until you’re restored.”
After working with Ignia to migrate the solution to Azure, Scancam went live in Australia in October 2015. The company has experienced rapid demand and growth, and now has its sights set on launching in Britain in early 2016.
“A solution like this has never been offered before to the retail industry in Australia and as far as we can see around the world, because there are massive drive-off problems in other markets globally, which is where we’ve set our sights on down the track,” said Eoin. “With careful, clever architecture through Azure, we’ve received enormous economies of scale with little increase to costs.”