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PetrolPlaza Special: The revolution of cloud-based solutions

PetrolPlaza has sat down with a series of industry experts to discuss one of the industry's hottest topics: how cloud-based solutions are taking fuel stations to the next level.

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Cloud-based solutions, big data and digitalization are shaping the future of the fuel retailing business. From remote control services, to predictive maintenance or mobile payments, all these new trends which are dominating the industry´s discussions are based on those three technological developments.

“Cloud doesn´t represent an evolution, but a revolution. It will change the products our industry has to offer,” says Giovanni Carapelli, VP Global Innovation & Architecture at Gibarco Veerder-Root. “If you are not using this technology you will lose competitiveness fairly quickly, both from a supplier point of view and especially as a retailer.”

Last year the first service station to be completely controlled from the cloud was launched, in partnership with CODAB and LS Retail, at a JET gas station in Hamburg. By using the cloud-based system gas station operators are able to handle forecourt status and fuel transactions remotely and efficiently, while a simple tablet can be used as the main POS equipment at a site.

                   Check our video review on cloud-based solutions and big gata here

The major benefits of switching to an Internet remote system is that you can easily adapt to fast market changes, lower the costs of running the forecourt, and it is more fault-tolerant, according to JET.

“You put all your services and applications on a central server on the cloud and they control all the equipment you have at the gas station,” explains Christian Lester, Technology Director at CODAB.  “You have some hardware components but they are all connected to the cloud, where your services are running.”

For Lester, oil companies have a lot to gain from the cloud as they can make their solutions easier to maintain, run and change if necessary; adding an extra layer of flexibility which is useful for any retailer. 

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The time is now

Only the rapid development of technologies, the Internet, and the whole digital spectrum have allowed for cloud solutions to be not only to be possible but affordable and available for most retailers.

According to Steve Belt, Vice President of Engineering at Wayne Fueling Systems, the reason why cloud solutions are such a key trend right now is that storage and computing costs have dropped massively over the past years, while the uptime and accessibility has vastly improved, making connexions faster and more reliable.

“Before, it was really expensive to get into the cloud. Now you can get the equipment as part of a program, much like Adobe, where the use of that equipment and information that you get is what you are paying for,” says Belt. “So you don´t have to pay a lot of capital up front, it becomes a much more affordable operating expense. That was a huge barrier for people.”   

What about security?

Many professionals from the fuel retailing industry remain sceptical about exposing their business and data on the Internet. Although all the specialized companies have made a big effort to convince businesses about the high levels of security that are available today, some still feel uneasy about exposing themselves on the cloud.  

 “Opening the gates of any gas station, also opens up to any potential attacks. You can count that they will try. So for us it has been a top priority to build the best possible security from each single device to a secure cloud,” says Caparelli.

Industry experts emphasise that today´s technology allows for an almost impenetrable level of security based on encryption, recognition, tokenization and other types of control.

Steve Belt explains how the security of cloud-connected Wayne dispensers works: “Starting inside the dispenser, from one device to the other, the data that moves is encrypted. Those devices also authenticate each other. From the dispenser to the gateway you have further encryption and recognition. Then there are multiples layers of encryption when you send the information up to the cloud. It is very secure; people should not worry about that.”

Regarding payments, instruments like tokenization allow for a certain transaction to have a single digital entity that is created, and is only valid for that precise moment, explains Mario Vila Nova, CTO at Petrotec. 

Written by Oscar Smith Diamante

The following companies have participated in PetrolPlaza´s Cloud-Based Solutions Special: Bever Innovations, LOMOSOFT GmbH, Tokheim, Leighton O´Brien, Hectronic GmbH, Faschang Service & Management GmbHScheidt & Bachmann GmbHICASA XPetroFranke Coffee Systems as product news; Finnpos Systems OyFaschang Service & Management GmbH with case studies; and LS Retail ehf on the buyer´s guide. 

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