A chance drop-in visit to a restaurant in Caledonia, Ont., led to a General Motors dealership adopting a new high-tech countermeasure in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
Mark Searles, general manager of Dennis Searles Chevrolet Ltd., said he walked into the Argyle Street Grill in downtown Caledonia, about 90 kilometres west of Toronto, a week before Christmas and encountered an electronic gadget that greeted him, took his temperature and checked whether he was wearing a mask.
“I went over to pick up a prime rib to go, and I could see my image in the machine.”
Intrigued, Searles discovered that the vendors of the machine were in the restaurant, testing to ensure it was properly set up. Two days later, Searles had his own Janus scanner at the main entrance of his father’s dealership.
Customers told him right away how much they appreciated the extra safety measure, he said. “What this thing will do is pretty amazing.”
Janus is an affordable alternative to the expensive scanners found in large facilities, such as airports, said Vince Poloniato, CEO of Solutions Into Motion, the Brantford, Ont., company that is importing Janus from South Korea. The plug-andplay device, equipped with customizable messages, was installed at Searles Chevrolet in less than 48 hours and cost roughly $2,000, plus tax.
“The magic is that it makes it affordable for small businesses that don’t have full IT departments,” Poloniato said. “There are North American versions [of this technology], but nothing under $10,000.”
It’s still difficult for a small dealership — new-car sales of about 400 a year — to control how customers enter the building. With a total staff of 24 and just two sales employees, the Searles dealership relied on a motion sensor to signal someone’s arrival.
“I’ve only got one door for the customers,” Searles said. “But if a customer goes by quickly, the motion sensor misses them.”
MORE THAN A SENSOR
Janus misses no one, Poloniato said. It sits on a pedestal and greets the customer as he or she enters. If the customer isn’t wearing a mask or it is being improperly worn, Janus says, “Please wear a mask.” If the person’s temperature is higher than 37.3 Celsius, Janus says, “Please wait for assistance,” while a staff person comes to check on the customer.
“The thing works slick,” Searles said.
The device can also provide a COVID checklist, set a calendar, be useful in contact tracing and decide whether to unlock a door, Poloniato said. Solutions Into Motion’s core business is GPS tracking for business, said Poloniato. In July, he decided to try out Janus after he learned about the technology. Searles Chevrolet is the first auto dealership to install the device, but interest is coming from a broad spectrum of businesses, Poloniato said. The device is especially important to Searles because his father and dealer principal, Dennis Searles, is 80 years old, putting him in a high-risk health category. The dealership has not had one incidence of COVID19 among staff, the younger Searles said, and “I don’t want any.”
‘DOING EVERYTHING I CAN’