Fuel scammers in Scancam sights

11/05/2015 - 16:09

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The Perth businessman who brought Dippin’ Dots ice cream and Mad Mex restaurants to Western Australia is preparing to launch a high-tech solution to the growing problem of fuel theft.

STOP THIEF: Eoin Byrne is aiming for a major roll out of his anti-fuel theft device. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The Perth businessman who brought Dippin’ Dots ice cream and Mad Mex restaurants to Western Australia is preparing to launch a high-tech solution to the growing problem of fuel theft.

Eoin Byrne told Business News the seeds of the idea for his new product, Scancam, were sown late one night at a suburban petrol station, when he asked the in-store attendant why it had taken so long for the fuel to come out of the pumps.

He was taken aback by the answer.

“When you stand there and wonder why it’s not working, they’re writing your licence plate number down by hand, they’ve got pads of them,” Mr Byrne said

“I thought … you can go into the middle of the Bering Sea and drill down kilometres for dead dinosaur bones and give it to us for $1 a litre, but you can’t automate that; that’s crazy, and a good opportunity.”

Two years ago, Mr Byrne and Anthony Schmidt, the national operations manager of Mad Mex, started working in earnest on Scancam.

They built it using state-of-the-art cameras and scanners from Germany and collaborating with Applabs on the technical specs.

While still in trial mode, the device was named as a finalist in the WA Information Technology and Telecommunications Alliance Incite awards.

Mr Byrne said he was confident the system now being trialled at a BP in Cockburn was ready to be rolled out nationally.

He said Scancam was a streamlined system that used cameras to automatically scan all licence plates and record every car and person that collected fuel.

Using the system, service station attendants can quickly access every car’s information via an iPad, and switch bowsers to pre-pay if Scancam identifies a previous offender, as well as identify and create online reports on thefts that do occur.

Scancam costs $16,000 for the installation and hardware, and will be sold with a monthly licence fee.

Since Scancam trials started in WA last November it has recorded 50 fuel thefts at one site, with the owner of that BP set to install it at his six other sites.

Mr Byrne is also developing loyalty programs for supermarket-linked service stations using Scancam’s technology by offering discounts to regular customers.

“No-one’s done a loyalty using licence-plate recognition for petrol ever, imagine what Woolworths are going to do when we show them we can offer security and loyalty at the bowsers to their customers and it’s up to the retailer what they want to offer,” he said.

Perhaps Scancam’s biggest ambition is its plan to change the way fuel station owners recover lost funds from fuel theft.

“The idea is we want a paradigm shift, we want to change the way they do things,” Mr Byrne said.

“Imagine if we can take (fuel theft) off the police.”

The idea is to put terms and conditions on the bowsers that tell users they are engaging in a contract by taking the fuel and are also agreeing to a failure to pay condition that makes them liable for recovery costs.

“So when you fill your car and drive off we’re going to offer a debt recovery solution,”

Mr Byrne said.

By passing on both the costs for debt collection as well as the costs of fuel not previously paid for to the person accused of fuel theft, Mr Byrne said the service station would no longer be out of pocket.

“Because it’s not the retailer’s fault they don’t pay a cent and get all of their money back,” he said.

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