BETHESDA, Md. — Two years ago the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) hit the reset button with the launch of a third generation of its i•SHOP technology standard for auto service shops.
Today, the AAIA is expecting more diagnostic and shop management system providers to build equipment that's compliant with version 3 of i•SHOP and for more repair centers to adopt the standard.
i•SHOP is a set of computer interface standards that allow service equipment, management software and information servers to share data about customers' vehicles and the work performed—all without re-keying the information from machine to machine.
The third generation differs from the previous ones in that it is a Web-based system that can integrate handheld scan tools and devices embedded with processors, not just Windows-based personal computers, according to Scott Luckett, AAIA vice president of technology standards.
“If the device…understands Web protocols—and every piece of technology in the shop does today—it doesn't matter whether it's a handheld tool or a big-box cabinet, it can play on the i•SHOP network,” Mr. Luckett said.
The result is wireless workflow with no paper and no wasteful data entry, he said. For example, an alignment machine in the back of a service shop can pull data on open work orders listing alignment jobs from the shop management system, including vehicle make, model, odometer reading and customer name and contact information. The machine can even check its database for proper factory specifications.
At the 2009 Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX) last November in Las Vegas, the AAIA demonstrated an i•SHOP environment using Garage Operator shop management software, Alldata L.L.C.'s repair and diagnostic system and a Hunter Engineering Co. alignment machine.
Mr. Luckett noted the demonstration included a Smart car with a wireless transmitter connected to its OBD circuit. The WiFi connection allowed the vehicle to communicate its vehicle identification number and trouble code to the shop management system, he said.
“Shop management handed that information to Alldata through the i•SHOP methods, and Alldata immediately recognized this is a Smart (car) for two, this is a Daimler product and this trouble code means the gas cap is probably loose,” Mr. Luckett explained.
A video of the i•SHOP demonstration is available here.
Mr. Luckett said he believes large multi-store service chains will “jump on board” with i•SHOP 3 based on interest expressed in the technology by such operations at AAPEX. He declined to name who may be close to adopting it.
“If you have one or two shops, this is great this is cool, but if you have 100 to 200, this is game changing,” he said.
So far, companies that have developed i•SHOP 3-compliant products are Garage Operator Inc., Progressive Automotive Systems Inc.'s R.O.Writer shop management software, Alldata and Hunter. Mr. Luckett said he couldn't speculate on how far along other firms are in developing compliant products, but he noted the AAIA has a list of 20 companies that are in the i•SHOP 3 development process.
The technology behind i•SHOP 3 is stable, he said, and there won't be any major changes to it for several years, so if shop owners want to get on board, now is the time.
“My message to the shop owner is, if you like this (i•SHOP) story, if this is important to you, make it a part of your procurement,” Mr. Luckett said.
“Make it a part of the conversation with your vendors, because from the vendors' perspective, it becomes a higher priority the more customers ask for it.”