May 4, 2012

Sunrise Control and Gate Integration

by Justin

Lights! Camera! Action!

No, this post isn’t about Hollywood, but as I was recently visiting one of our parks, it occurred to me that their gate served as a sort of clapperboard — signaling the start of the scene, that the fun was about to commence as the gate raised and then lowered again. No, this post isn’t about having fun at campgrounds, either, but it is about gates!

Perhaps one of our most oft-requested features has always been gate control / integration. I’m excited to report that we’ve recently completed our first Beta test period on our new “Sunrise Control: Gate” module and I want to tell you more about it.

The campground where we’ve been busy implementing this new gate integration began with their existing gate system, provided by a well-known third party gate / security vendor. Amano McGann provides a fairly sophisticated gate control software and hardware package. It provides various hardware readers — proximity, RF, barcode, keypad, biometric, etc. It also provides the software to manage guest information, stay length, checkin/checkout times, etc. It is a very nice fit for campgrounds, but up until now it lacked the intelligence to “know” who was coming in and when.

What it does

Sunrise assigns a unique (for any given date) 5-digit (length can be set) code for each reservation automatically upon creation (only for sites defined as requiring a gate code). Sunrise then daily sends that day’s checkins over to the gate system. Any reservations booked day-of are sent immediately to the gate system, as are any day-of cancellations.

Additional access codes can be generated / cancelled directly within the “Reservation details” view within Sunrise Panorama, leaving the user in control of whether a reservation truly requires additional access codes. (For additional vehicles, visitors, etc.)

We also wired our “Car Tag” report into the reservation confirmation and reminder email templates so that these car tags now show the generated access codes, one page for each code / vehicle. This functionality can be customized to only send car tags / access codes when a given reservation is “current”, paid-in-full or deposit-paid.

All of this automation has already resulted in a drastic reduction in time / labor for our beta site. Their previous process involved the issuance of individual “prox” cards, attached physically to printed car tags. This of course required assembling and distributing these packets. The cost of these cards was quite significant (not to mention printing costs) and the campground was forced to accept a certain percentage loss of these cards.

In the end, both the campground and their guests are benefiting from increased convenience and reduced costs. Customers now print their car tags before leaving home, proceed directly to the gate, enter their codes on the keypad and proceed to their site. First-time guests are still encouraged to stop in at the office for orientation and welcoming.

How we do it

In this case, this new gate feature of our Sunrise Control module is primarily software-based. Having a full-featured gate system allowed us to really focus on the business processes of streamlining a guest’s checkin/checkout process. Because Sunrise is “cloud-based”, hosted, software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, architecting a robust solution to interface with an inherently site-local gate system was a necessity. In our case, this turns out not to be difficult, given the nature of our existing Sunrise Kiosk / Sunrise Control products. We chose to utilize the same reliable technologies – Java, Groovy and JMS.

JMS is a message-oriented middleware API for Java and the important thing is that it allows us to pass messages securely between multiple clients. Beyond simply using JMS, there are several additional failsafe mechanisms in place to ensure that messages pass successfully and reliably to and from our on-site Sunrise Control client.

Our access code generator can be configured to guarantee uniqueness for a given date range, set to a given length, generate either numeric or alphanumeric codes. A set, non-changing code can be set, as well — useful for gate systems for which we don’t directly communicate with. Separate code generation schemes can be set for unique site groups. For example, assign separate codes for your cabins / yurts corresponding to combination locks on each rental. Stack schemes on top of one another, so a cabin rental issues a main gate access code in addition to a cabin code. Exclude your “storage” sites from code generation, so that storage site reservations don’t allow access to park amenities through your gate.

More installations to come!

We’ve been working on this solution for several months now and are preparing to bring it out of “Beta” status in the next several weeks. We’ll be updating our Sunrise Control page to include more details on this latest gate integration option. We our proud of our integration of gate system and campground management / property management software and think you’ll appreciate its benefits. If you’re interested in having this same convenience and cost-savings at your park, please let us know. We’d love to tell you more!

Image Attribution: Shaka from it

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