What’s that car button for? Local dealership adds IT desk for customers

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:53 PM

When someone bought a new car in the 1990s, they could take the keys and go. Now as cars become more like computers, Lexus of Dayton says car owners need ongoing help from IT staff so they can understand the advanced software that comes with their new vehicle.

A recent $3.5 million remodel of the Washington Twp. dealership includes an IT work station for car owners to get help from full-time staff who help car owners understand everything from working the navigation system to connecting their phone’s blue tooth to customizing a luxury car’s advance climate control settings.

Dealerships across the state are facing the same changes as car buyers increasingly need ongoing tech support to understand all the software that comes with their new vehicle.

“Twenty years ago, when a consumer went into a dealership, the delivery process was ‘here are the keys, gas on the right, break on the left, have fun.’ Today there’s so much technology in these vehicles … you just can’t cover it all at once,” said Zach Doran, president of the Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.

The dealership’s evolution to needing full-time IT staff reflects how today’s car buyers sometimes need ongoing tech help with their vehicles in the same way they might need help with their laptops or phones.

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“This past week we’ve had guests who picked up a car and they’ve been back five times,” said Colin Frake, technology specialist with Lexus of Dayton.

Doran said some dealerships even host classes for car owners to stop by and learn all the safety and convenience technology in their cars.

For Lexus of Dayton, this region is different than some other Lexus markets. People in the Dayton region who have grown their wealth to the point where they are buying a luxury car are often older than people in other markets and typically less technology adept, officials with the dealership said.

Some high tech features that are popular in other markets — like the ability to have the Lexus access mobile apps like Pandora — are features that Frake said most customers he works with have little interest in.

General Manager Jeff Pizza said since the brand began, its gone from heated seats, to heated and cooled seats, to software that’s a “climate concierge” that once the software is programmed you theoretically never have to think about it again as it reacts to your body temperature and ambient temperature in the vehicle and constantly maintains a comfortable level for you and the seat.

“Now its gone to the next level where in our 2018 LS 500, it will now involve a Shiatsu massage and 28 way adjustable seats, and all of this is controlled by software,” Pizza said.

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Frake said when he’s hiring someone for an IT position he asks them to describe how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and he sees how they think and explain a topic what might seem like a simple topic. It takes a specific skill set to walk a customer through an IT problem on their car if they aren’t tech savvy enough to describe the problem technology.

Some might need a tutorial of their cellphone first and then get a walk through how the car’s technology can interact with their phone. Frake said he’s talked with customers who bought cars who don’t have email addresses or just have flip phones that aren’t compatible with all the luxury car’s advanced technology.

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“You’ll have people who obviously aren’t unintelligent, but aren’t generationally familiar with how to describe what their issue is,” said Frake.

As the software has gotten more advance, the paper car manuals have grown to 600 to 800 pages for most of their cars with one manual more than 1,000 pages, though most car buyers don’t want the actual manual and some cars like the LC 500 have animated in-car video tutorials that can play on the dashboard so car owners can access those tutorials when they need it.

“Every time they release a new car I have to go through a process of learning and figuring out what the majority of guests are going to gravitate toward and also pick up other stuff for the one or two who will want to know ‘Oh what does all this do,’” said Frake.

Roosters looking to add four new restaurants

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 2:50 PM
Updated: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 7:48 AM

            Staff Photo by Teesha McClam
            Teesha McClam
Staff Photo by Teesha McClam(Teesha McClam)

Roosters is on the hunt for more sites in the Dayton area.

Dan Ponton, president and CEO of the chicken chain, said even though many other casual dining chains are scaling back and closing stores, Roosters is on a growth streak and seeking to open three or four more stores in the area.

The Dayton Daily News reported first the restaurant was replacing its Dayton Mall area store with a larger Miami Twp. location.

The restaurant chain, based in Dublin, has been scooping up vacant buildings once home to brands like Ponderosas, Bob Evans and Denny’s.

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“But for us, we are able to buy their properties and go in and actually employ more people than they were employing anyways,” Ponton said.

Ponton said as he shops for the right location for the next restaurants, he has plenty of places to chose from.

“I used to get a call on buildings maybe once a month and now I’m getting two calls a week on what’s available,” he said.

It’s been a challenging environment for casual dining chains. By August, publicly traded chains announced the closure of more than 350 stores in the U.S. just this year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News.

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The casual dining industry has been squeezed by flat consumer spending, a highly competitive landscape and the rise of fast casual competitors.

But Ponton said for his business, this has left prime, vacant restaurant real estate at a good price for Roosters to buy.

He said Roosters has advantages despite the challenging overall environment because of aspects like its low menu prices and its low corporate overhead, with the company having no headquarters.

“Our world headquarters is my basement,” he said.

Roosters just bought the former Caddy’s Tap House at 9400 Springboro Pike for $1.7 million and plans to move its 103 N. Springboro Pike store near the Dayton Mall into the larger space.

Besides growing into a 8,500-square-foot space, the new restaurant location will let Roosters have a patio area with outdoor seating.

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Renovations should start in early 2018 with a build out complete sometime after March.

Ponton estimated Roosters might spend about $1 million on the renovation work to prepare the new store for opening.

Each store employs about 100 people, depending on the size of the location. Roosters has about 38 stores, with most in the Dayton area corporately owned and franchising in other markets.

Including Xenia and Springfield, there are six Roosters stores in the region and Ponton said he’s actively looking for the additional locations. He’s also looking to add more stores in the Columbus market.

“We’re very happy with all our locations, but we just want more,” he said.

Drone strikes could cause more damage to planes than birds, study says

Published: Sunday, December 10, 2017 @ 12:28 PM

            The campus of the University of Dayton Research Institute, where part of the research on drone strikes was conducted in a recent Federal Aviation Administration study. CONTRIBUTED
The campus of the University of Dayton Research Institute, where part of the research on drone strikes was conducted in a recent Federal Aviation Administration study. CONTRIBUTED

A Federal Aviation Administration study found small drones could potentially cause more damage to an aircraft than a bird strike, researchers say.

The FAA’s Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence – also known as ASSURE— worked with researchers across the country on the study.

The research found heavier, stiffer components, such as a drone motor, battery or a camera, could cause more structural damage to an aircraft than birds of the same weight and size, said Kiran D’Souza, an Ohio State University assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Researchers investigated what would happen if a drone hit the body of an aircraft or was ingested into an aircraft engine, D’Souza said in an interview with this news outlet.

The experiments were a mixture of computer simulations and lab tests, he said. For example, at the University of Dayton Research Institute, parts of drones were fired into aluminum panels to simulate an aircraft, he said.

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The study showed the need to develop sense and avoidance technology to avoid mid-air collisions, D’Souza said.

OSU and ASSURE members Mississippi State University, Montana State University and Wichita State University were the primary researchers on the study.

While the effect of bird strikes on airplanes is well documented, little is known about the effects of small unmanned drones with stronger materials hitting aircraft, according to Marty Rodgers, ASSURE director and a Mississippi State researcher.

“The results of this work are critical to the safety of commercial air travel here in the United States and around the world,” he said in a statement.

Researchers evaluated the potential impact of drones weighing 2.7 pounds to 8 pounds on a single-aisle commercial jet and on a business jet, according to OSU.

“Even small unmanned aircraft systems can do significant damage to engines,” D’Souza said in a statement.

In future tests, researchers will focus on collisions with private planes, helicopters and commercial turbofan engines, ASSURE said.

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Studies were expected to continue through 2021.

While the research studied the potential for damage to an aircraft, it did not estimate the probability of a collision between an unmanned drone and a plane, D’Souza said.

The FAA has reported a rising number of pilot sightings of small drones as the popularity of the small unmanned vehicles has soared.

Drone users are required to operate by altitude and space restrictions.

Sale of Premier Health’s insurance line falls apart

Published: Saturday, December 09, 2017 @ 2:52 PM

Staff Writer
FILE(Staff Writer)

Premier Health’s plan to sell its health insurance business has been dropped.

The Dayton-based hospital and doctor network had been planning to sell the insurance line that it launched about two years ago to Evolent Health, a Virginia-based health care consultant business.

On Friday, Evolent Health said in a statement that the “two parties were unable to reach terms on the related party agreements” and its plan to buy the insurance business was terminated.

Premier said in a statement that it and Evolent were “required by law to announce their intent to enter into an acquisition agreement early on in the process. Sometimes these acquisitions come to fruition during that process, and sometimes they don’t. We look forward to working with Evolent on our value-based health strategy.”

The insurance division, Premier Health Plan, sold Medicare Advantage plans and commercial insurance plans.

It was launched during a difficult time for start-up health insurance businesses and sustained more than $40 million in losses in two years, according to an independent analyst.

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Evolent has partnered with Premier on the health insurance plan since its launch and stated it will continue to provide services and support for the employee self-insured, Medicare Advantage and commercial large group health plans that Premier will continue to own and operate.

“Premier and Evolent look forward to continuing to collaborate on value-based services covered by their present agreement as Premier continues to explore strategic options for its health plan business,” the press release stated.

Click here to read more on Premier’s original plan to sell its insurance business to Evolent.

Amazon Prime: What holiday shoppers need to know

Published: Friday, December 08, 2017 @ 11:09 AM

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Amazon

While Amazon is not doing drone deliveries as part of the package just yet, Amazon Prime is an alluring online service for shoppers. It's tough to compare it to other companies, because who else offers a single package that includes free shipping, videos, music, Kindle reading and photo storage?

Still, the multitude of features and perks doesn't mean the yearly outlay will pay off for every shopper. Here's a quick-hit list of the benefits of investing in a Prime account, along with areas to consider carefully if you’re thinking of joining Prime.

Cost: For $99 a year, consumers receive free two-day shipping for eligible purchases, unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows with Prime Video and book-borrowing privileges from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library for $99 a year. Those who only shop heavily a few months a year might want to consider the same benefits for $10.99 a month, which adds about $32 to the annual price if you keep it for 12 months.

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 Cost-benefit ratio: If you typically have a total order required for free standard shipping from Amazon, or constantly need (or want) items within two days, the savings in shipping and time-opportunity cost can quickly offset your investment. A free trial membership available through the Amazon website will also give you an idea of how many of the items you need or like that qualify for Prime and how often you might use the service. Just be careful to cancel the membership after the free trial period if you don’t want it, since a credit card is required.
More Amazon Prime shipping benefits: To truly maximize the shipping benefits of a Prime membership, you must live in one of the more than 7,000 cities and towns that receive free same-day or one-day shipping on more than a million qualifying items (and orders over $35). To see if you qualify, check out your zip code on the Amazon website.

Tapping those shipping benefits is a matter of looking for the Prime FREE Same-Day or Prime FREE One-Day logo when you're shopping on the site, or using that filter in search. At check-out, make sure to choose the same-day or one-day option.

You also have to order in the morning, typically before noon, to receive items by 9 p.m. that day or order in the afternoon for qualified free one-day shipping to arrive the next day by 9 p.m.

Prime Early Access: Bargain hunters and those who genuinely enjoy online shopping will revel in the Amazon Prime member benefit of a 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com.
Sharing benefits with household members: If you're a happy shopping family, Prime membership costs can be divided. Prime members can allow others adults in their Amazon Household to share Prime benefits at no extra cost by linking their regular Amazon account to the Household service and agreeing to share payments. Shared benefits include shipping, video, vault for photo storage, other digital benefits and exclusive offers.
More must-know facts about Amazon Prime benefits and features:

  • Large items sold or fulfilled by Amazon don't qualify for free two-day shipping though large item shipping is still free.
  • If you're expecting the two-day delivery on time, you must carefully note both the order cut-off time on each item's detail page and the proper shipping selection at checkout.
  • Saturdays and Sundays are not considered business days in calculating free two-day shipping for Prime. The shipping methods apply to business days only, not weekends or holidays.
  • Orders that cost more than $1,300 may require a signature for delivery.
This Christmas: An Amazon Prime membership makes a great gift for a family or couple just getting started with establishing a household, or who could really use the entertainment options along with the speedy shipping.

To purchase other gifts for guaranteed Christmas delivery from Amazon via Prime, be aware that gift orders on Amazon.com must be completed online by Dec. 18 to be shipped with free standard shipping and by Dec. 22 for the free Prime two-day shipping. The select cities that offer free one-day shipping for Prime orders require orders complete by 9:30 a.m. local time on Dec. 24.
Oh, and about those drones. Amazon does have a separate Prime Air delivery service in the works. It would deliver packages up to five pounds in under 30 minutes using small drones. As of Dec. 7, 2017, Amazon said it would start offering Prime Air as an option "when and where we have the regulatory support needed to safely realize our vision. We’re excited about this technology and one day using it to deliver packages to customers around the world."