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Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 10:38 AM

Greetings all,

I am in the process of building a smart phone application that I will need to be able to activate 1 of 4 separate 24VAC relays for 3 seconds after the application authenticates the action via a cloud database. What type of hardware should I use to ensure reliable and consistent use? Am I over simplifying the process and need to do more research?

Any and all help is appreciated.

John

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#1

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 10:52 AM

Application already available... wait, "...after the application authenticates the action via a cloud database." Don't know about that. More investigation on your part.

Information within this thread should get you started.

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#2
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 11:13 AM

Thanks for the response. I should offer some additional clarity as to how my application will be used. This will be a business to consumer application where the customer will download the application and "purchase" monthly car wash packages. When they arrive at my facility, the application will authenticate their location and allow them to redeem their daily wash. When that occurs, the database will validate their request and a signal will need to be sent to my equipment (3 second closing of a 24vac relay) and the rest is history as they say.

Does that make sense? I'm looking for that intermediary step that will send the physical signal to the relay to close it for 3 seconds and therefore activate the wash cycle.

Thanks!

John

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#4
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 11:27 AM

Wouldn't it be easier for your eqpt. to operate the relays, rather than signals from the customers' phones?

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#3
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 11:23 AM

Okay, I'm with ya. The info in the first comment won't really work very well.

Sounds like a good idea, but out of my area. We have some members who can probably steer you the right direction.

Can you tell us, is this something you are developing for a specific customer (or your own use), or an application intended for wider distribution?

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#5
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 11:31 AM

Thanks for the reply. This is for my own use at this point in time. I haven't really thought of the far reaching capabilities beyond my own use as that is where my primary focus is right now. I do know that a few colleagues in my industry are interested in this type of thing, but monetizing it really isn't up my ally at this point in time. We'll see...I have to get it to work first.

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#6

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 12:36 PM

I think you're making it more complicated than it has to be...You sell them x amount of car washes, give them a code to punch into the keyboard at the car wash...that's it...

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#7
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 12:46 PM

Thank you for the response. The first challenge is that the wash is unattended and there isn't anyone available to sell codes (hence the need for the application). The second challenge is that my payment kiosk is somewhat dated and this will allow me a cost effective way of offering new services without the $20k cash outlay for new equipment. John

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#8

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 2:17 PM

There are Web-enabled PLCs or similar microcontrollers that can control the car wash functions and communicate with any device having Web access. Some brands might include Red Lion and Galil (no connection or endorsement, just examples).

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#9

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 2:29 PM

I was doing some additional research online and came across this site which would work really well I think: http://www.controlbyweb.com/webrelay-quad/

Thoughts?

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#10
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 2:54 PM

That's similar to what I had described, and even down to a smaller component level. This looks ideal for the small number of I/O you need. I think you should get in touch with these or similar guys. Good luck with your project!

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#12
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 2:59 PM

Thanks! I gave them a call and it appears if the application can be built properly, it just has to receive the XML code from the application to activate the proper relay. Thanks for the help!

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#11
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 2:59 PM

What about humidity? Is the control room pretty dry?

One thing to consider (or worry about) is the consequence of failure. You get this setup working, get some customers using it, good deal. Then something gives up the ghost and it stops working, even for a few days. We all know the fickle nature of customers.

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#13
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 3:02 PM

Valid point made. I use all weatherproof enclosures and conduit to ensure equipment stays dry and functional.

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#21
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 9:32 AM

BGCW, you said "I use all weatherproof enclosures and conduit to ensure equipment stays dry and functional."

A weatherproof enclosure can and will trap the 99% humidity inside the box...

Over the years I have done, oh I don't know, maybe a hundred inbay and tunnel car wash facilities. The chemicals, humidity, and heat common to every carwash are the enemy of the building itself; it is an operating envelope that is unfriendly, to say the least. The controls for car washes are designed mission specifically to perform under these harsh conditions.

[edit] In your comment #20... one wash per day? Huh? I wash my Chick Magnet about two times a year... Of course, maybe that is why it doesn't seem to attract very many chicks!

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#22
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 9:38 AM

Thanks for the response. I agree that it can get somewhat humid in the equipment room, but I have a good HVAC unit which does a good job at regulating the environment. My statement was directed more towards direct water spray from a busted high pressure line or a similar situation.

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#14
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 3:04 PM

It looks good. I see you're in Mich. though. -4° F is the max low temp for the unit.

I don't know if that would be a problem.

You may also want to look into card readers. You could issue your customers' cards, and install a small reader/swipe to activate the unit. When you receive payment from your customers, all you would have to do is go online and top up their cards for X amount of washes.................I kow it could be done, but I don't know if it would be easier/cheaper.

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#15
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 3:11 PM

Thanks for the input. The unit will be indoors in a climate controlled environment, but as always, more input helps to alleviate any potential future issues.

I have investigated card readers, but again, I was trying to focus on convenience and a younger market segment that doesn't relate to car care as much as the older generations do. My kiosk will still accept cash, coin and credit cards but I wanted an option for additional revenue without having to tie the customer down to "just another loyalty card" or something similar. I'm 30 years old and most people my age never go any where without a smartphone of some type. For the some what limited financial exposure, I'm eager to see how well it is received.

Thanks for all the great discussion. One more question, I have posted the project on www.freelancer.com but would be interested if anyone had any other ideas as to where I could source a mobile phone application developer.

John

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#16
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 3:40 PM

Interesting project. I think I may have stumbled across something that could be fairly easy to use for what you want................just a little modification so you can use it with multiple customers. Just remember though................if they figure out how to hack it, you're going to be losing money.

All a door opener is, is a circuit. It's also coded.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/apple/open-your-garage-door-with-your-iphone/12008

If it worked, 14 bucks a year is peanuts.

http://www.liftmaster.com/lmcv2/pages/productmodeldetail.aspx?modelId=9570

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#26
In reply to #15

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 10:58 AM

I would bet that you could easily find a hungry computer graduate student who would gladly do a mountain of work for a reasonable price!

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#27
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 11:13 AM

I have actually decided to go through and simplify the process even more to help mitigate the cost. Before I develop a 30 mb app, let's start with something that will generate some revenue. Do you know of any hungry students?

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#28
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 11:37 AM

Try posting an ad under Gigs, on craigslist..........there is a computer section. The hungry students/programmers will find you.

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#17

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/02/2012 10:32 PM

Here is a thought: why bother with all the technical connections? Why not just have your app retrieve one of the 'pass codes', which gets generated at the POS when the customer purchases a 'lot' of washes. All the app needs to do is deliver that pass code to them, and they key it in themselves to open your gate.

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#18
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 8:35 AM

There currently is not a way to generate pass codes with my system. I could go that route, but wouldn't see expedited ROI I will see with the application. I can currently sell paper tokens, but there isn't a way to automate it though. Thanks for the input!

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#19
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 9:05 AM

The more I think about this, the less I think it's going to be easy or cheap.

First of all, you are going to need an app that works the same across multiple platforms and phones.

I'm also thinking that somehow, the device that activates the relay is going to have to be web enabled.

You're also going to have to find a way to change up the codes for multiple customers at different times, so they can activate the system when they're paid up, but locked out if they run out of washes.

I'm not an expert by any means, but it sounds complicated to me.

Sounds crazy, but I think what you may need, instead of an app, is the ability for your customers to dial a phone # and then punch in a code on their phones, to start the machine. Kind of like the way the terrorists set off the IEDs with cell phones. Same concept, but you would be starting the wash cycle instead of blowing something up.

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#20
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 9:26 AM

I agree that in concept it doesn't seem that difficult, but as soon as you start digging deep, there are a lot of things that need to be accounted for. First off, the relay system that I am going to use is controlled via a web portal. I have posted the job on freelancer.com for building the application on the relay platform and have the average bid at about $1,300. From what I have researched, that is a fairly accurate number for the build.

I have not diluted myself to the fact that this project will be ongoing and will require more attention than just a "set it and forget it".

The primary focus that I have for this application is to allow people to purchase monthly wash plans for say $40/month for our ultimate wash package and allow them one wash per day during that month.

If you are interested in looking at the posting, it is located here:

http://www.freelancer.com/projects/Mobile-Phone-iPhone/Application-Development-for-Automatic.html

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#23
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 9:57 AM

Here's a non technical question:

One wash a day sounds excessive. How are you going to prevent people from sharing the code(s) with their friends, girl friends, cousins, etc.?

This sure would be a waste of time, if you ended up with giant water/soap bills, and a zero increase in overall revenue.

They'll figure out a way to get that one wash a day. It just won't be the same car that's getting washed. An ultimate wash for a buck and change sounds like a pretty good deal. I think it's $7 at the place up the road from me.

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#24
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 10:18 AM

One wash a day sounds excessive. How are you going to prevent people from sharing the code(s) with their friends, girl friends, cousins, etc.?

Within the application, there will be GPS identifiers and the customer will also scan a QR code with their phone to verify that they are on-site which will then authenticate with their phone number and our cloud database.

They'll figure out a way to get that one wash a day. It just won't be the same car that's getting washed. An ultimate wash for a buck and change sounds like a pretty good deal. I think it's $7 at the place up the road from me.

There is no denying that abuse of the system may be an issue. With the previously mentioned safeguards, yes, a person may hop from vehicle to vehicle with their cell phone but it is a risk I am willing to take at least on a preliminary basis. The market research (specific to car washing) I have done states that once a customer enrolls in the platform, they will visit between 8 and 12 times per month in the first 2 months. After the "honeymoon" period the customer gets back into their regular routines and ends up washing on average of 3-4 times per month (once a week).

My overall goal is to mitigate finicky washing habits as well as poor weather patterns. With receivables coming in every month, I have very little to worry about if we have a rainy spring, make sense?

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#25
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 10:55 AM

Sort of. Although you're talking to a guy whose vehicles only get washed when it rains. It's not a pastime I ever got interested in.

Have faith. I'm sure there are people here that can get you on the right track. It's over my head.

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#29
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 1:43 PM

"How are you going to prevent people from sharing the code(s) with their friends, girl friends, cousins, etc.?"

Is this a big deal? I guess, from my point of view, if I sign up for your service and I purchase the one wash a day plan and choose to let the girfriend wash her car in lieu of my own, does that matter?

I still think this is a good idea. I'm hoping you can get this to work.

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#30
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 1:57 PM

Is this a big deal? I guess, from my point of view, if I sign up for your service and I purchase the one wash a day plan and choose to let the girfriend wash her car in lieu of my own, does that matter?
No it isn't a huge deal, but from my perspective, the real gains are the people who purchase the platform and only wash 3-4 times per month. I have worked out the numbers and can live with someone washing every day, but doubt I will have more than 10-15% that would be in that group.
I want to ensure that there isn't rampant abuse of the program and that I can still make money...always in search of that fine line

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#32
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 2:18 PM

"I want to ensure that there isn't rampant abuse of the program ..."

Abuse? What, people take advantage of you?

Yeah, as I think about it, there is certainly a sector of society that would do just that. I can see a guy with three kids, wife, and parents. Dad washes his car on Tuesdays, mom on Saturdays, Cindy on Mondays... instead of doing the right thing and buying 7 wash programs... they don't see it as stealing, but that's what it is.

Hey, when you get this going I might bring the Chick Magnet over and try it out!

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#33
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 2:23 PM

Phase 2 of the application will be tying in the additional cars in a household under a package deal, but I want to work the bugs out of the system before I get too complicated.

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#34
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 2:43 PM

I'm not trying to write your business plan, but I'd assume that all of the washes will be used......................somehow.

Maybe shoot for one wash a week, instead of one per day. Package would be a discount rate for 52 washes.......................they could use them up in a month, or a year, or however they want.

That would save you a lot of trouble on tracking them.

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#35
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 3:09 PM

I am only going to use my top wash package. I am not in search of the bottom of the barrel dollar store deal hunters. I want customers who are paying for a quality wash and expecting that. My main goal for the monthly packages is residual income outside of external factors whether it be weather, economy etc.

All that being said, I like that idea and plan to implement that feature in the future for the "commitment-adverse" clientele.

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#36
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 4:04 PM

Going off topic again, but if you hire someone to write an app for you, make sure that you have, and keep ownership of it, as in, put it in the contract. If it works out, you may end up selling it to lots of other people that own car washes.

I'm just here to complicate things even further.

http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ61.pdf

Keep us posted.

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#37
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 5:51 PM

"I want to ensure that there isn't rampant abuse of the program ..." if & when you find a student (or whatever) - suggest that they investigate ANR (Automatic Numberplate Recognition) - but that's another story.

To expand a bit on my #4 (which seems to be the only post to which you haven't replied) - presumably you will have to have some kind of - let's call it a 'control PC' for want of a better name - at the car-wash site, to monitor the system. It would make a lot more sense (to me) to have this machine linked to the relays.

The database lives in the 'cloud' if you like, and receives messages from the clients' phones. This cloudy database - and the messages - are accessed by the control PC. When a valid demand arrives, the control PC (equiped with an off-the-shelf digital I/O board or whatever) turns on the appropriate relay for 3sec. If the request was not valid, the control PC could return a message to the client's phone, such as "DECLINED - QUOTA EXCEEDED", "SORRY - OUT OF ORDER", or (if ANR is used) "YOUR VEHICLE IS NOT REGISTERED AT THIS FACILITY".

My big conceptual problem is (assuming a single installation) why the database should live in the clouds?

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#38
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 10:23 PM

If & when you find a student (or whatever) - suggest that they investigate ANR (Automatic Numberplate Recognition) - but that's another story.
That would be perfect for a phase 2 application. It would mitigate abuse completely. Great suggestion!
My big conceptual problem is (assuming a single installation) why the database should live in the clouds?
The more I think about it...I am getting in line with your thought process and using a computer for the database and bypass the cloud completely. What are the pros and cons to each approach?

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#39
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Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/04/2012 4:56 AM

"What are the pros and cons to each approach?" - I honestly don't know.

The only pro I could see for the cloud approach in this application would be maintaining the integrity of the database (in the event of a disk crash), but this could be achieved simply by backing it up in the clouds (or using a RAID etc.).

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/04/2012 8:36 AM

Off site storage whether it be in the cloud or through some other method would probably be best. Thanks for the feedback.

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#31
In reply to #29

Re: Using a Mobile App to Close a 24VAC Relay?

05/03/2012 2:09 PM

Yeah, it is a good idea. I wasn't taking into account the GPS locator aspect.

Never hurts to explore the "worst case scenario" case though.

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