Translogik supplies tyre inspection tools for new 'communicating' tyres
Something virtually all the tyre manufacturers currently using RFID (Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Mesnac) have in common is a connection with UK-based sensor firm Transense Technologies plc. Following the announcement that this provider of sensor systems is supplying the tyre probes being used in Michelin's recently launched “communicating tyres” fitted to buses running during the London 2012 Olympics, it is worth taking a closer look at is both companies’ desire to see the wider market adopt this technology.
In order to translate the data transmitted by by Michelin’s tyres, Transense is supplying the iProbe+ RFID/TPMS reading tool through its Translogik Limited trading subsidiary for use by the Stagecoach bus fleet Michelin launched its “communicating tyres” with this June. The iProbe+ itself was developed by Translogik.
However, in addition to the use of its tools Michelin is also a licensee of Transense’s SAW piezo-powered battery-less chip technology. In fact the company signed a licensing agreement back in June 2001. Latching onto this concept more than a decade ago, Michelin became the first automotive aftermarket supplier to partner with the company. They were followed by Honeywell in 2002 and later again in 2004. That said, it should be pointed out that as far as the aforementioned Michelin bus fleet project and the Michelin X InCity tyre is concerned the chips involved are very much Michelin’s technology with Transense providing the iProbe equipment through Translogik.
An open and shared standard – tyremaker and chip firm pitch RFID to whole market
According to Marc Hammer, one of the design engineers responsible for Michelin’s application of RFID chips physically inside the company’s tyres, the French manufacturer has filed around 20 patent families relating to this technology. Most of this is said to be related to the required resilience for the RFID chip to survive the necessary high pressure and high temperature curing process that takes place during manufacture. In addition, because of the multiple “lives” of commercial vehicle tyres these characteristics also include the ability to survive second and even third curings. Obviously Michelin didn’t go into great detail about how its engineers overcame this challenge, but according to Hammer the patented shape of the minute printed circuit board, design of antennae and method of soldering all played a part.
Despite Michelin patenting a number of tyre RFID design aspects and despite the fact that some of the concepts in the overall “communicating” system are licensed from Transense, the companies involved believe it is in their interests and the market as a whole for the RFID technology to become an open standard in the industry.
According to Michelin, the new data chain that is being created around the tyre already complies with the highest global standards. Under the leadership of Dr. Patrick King, Michelin reports that it has worked with “the entire manufacturing sector” to adopt common solutions that are aligned with vehicle manufacturer requirements. As a result a number of standards documents cite the tyre as an example of how RFID technology can be used for vehicles (AIAG B11) or for consumer products in general (ISO 17367). Michelin also reports that it has received a number of awards relating to this technology over the roughly seven years the company has been developing it.
In addition to broad take-up of this standard – and one might speculate that there would be an associated income stream if patents are involved – Michelin predicts that this technology could become a part of civil engineering in the future. “Sensors installed at the entrance to cities, tunnels, toll plazas or elsewhere could in the future be used to check a vehicle’s tyre pressure before authorizing it to continue on its journey. Making it safer for buses, trucks and lighter vehicles to share the road is an innovation that would have a positive impact on everyone’s lives,” company representatives explained.
What is clear is that with the first fleet (Stagecoach in London – see separate article for more on this) checking every tyre on every one of its 286 buses every 21 days, there is plenty of opportunity to test and demonstrate this new technology.