January 15, 2003

Michelin develops in-tire I.D. transponder

Detroit, Michigan – Michelin engineers have developed a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder that is manufactured into the tire and stores vital tire identification information. With this technology, the tire identification number can now be associated with the vehicle identification number (VIN) making the tires uniquely identifiable with an individual vehicle, telling when and where the tire was made, maximum inflation pressure, tire size, etc.

“This innovation has attractive implications for tire makers, for vehicle makers and for consumers,” said Tom Chubb, vice president of new product development for Michelin Automotive Industries Division. “For vehicle and tire makers it means a simple and innovative way to comply with federal record keeping standards, including those of the new TREAD (Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act. For consumers it means convenience and confidence.”

The transponder consists of an antenna and an integrated circuit that has a higher data capacity than a bar code, yet the integrated circuit is only about the size of a match head. It can be encoded and decoded with a simple hand-held device and unlike a bar code, remains unaffected by soil or deterioration over time. The information on the circuit can also be modified to reflect new data, such as the VIN number of the vehicle on which it is mounted. The integrated circuits are manufactured by Fairchild Semiconductor(TM) and Philips. As part of the supply arrangement, Philips provides its brand new I.CODE HSL IC. Both ICs are under license from Intermec Technologies Corporation.

Michelin’s unique contribution to this RFID system was its modification of the antenna attached to the electronic device and the proprietary treatment of the device that makes it possible to vulcanize the assembly into the tire.

While some other tire makers have demonstrated similar technology, Michelin’s RFID tag is the first to meet the Automotive Industry Action Group’s B-11 standard for North America, as a “cured into the tire” solution. Operating at ultra high frequency (UHF), the Michelin RFID tag can be interrogated by a reader, hand-held or mounted, some 24 inches or more (at or beyond 60cm) away from the transponder. Once collected, the information can be stored in a database for accurate and easy retrieval.

Fleet testing of the technology is currently under way. Michelin is believed to be the only tire maker to industrialize this kind of radio frequency technology in tires. Even with this kind of market place advantage, Michelin says it will gladly make the technology available to the entire industry.

“No more getting down on your hands and knees to read tire information off the sidewall,” said Terry Gettys, president of Michelin North Americas Research and Development Corporation. “But that’s only the convenience factor. The real benefit of this technology, especially in light of the TREAD Act, is how it can enhance the industry’s ability to access information about tires and vehicles.”

Michelin says the RFID technology will most likely be introduced through the original equipment market, but could soon be feasible for replacement tires as well.

“We see great promise in this technology,” said Gettys. “In future generations, the electronics in tires will be able to communicate with the vehicle’s computers, giving information about tire air pressure, even ride characteristics like suspension stiffness and ride comfort for a given road surface.”

Michelin says the cost of this technology will be affordable and value driven. Like any innovation, the cost per unit will go down as it becomes more and more industrialized. Original equipment manufacturers are already interested. At least one international OEM is working with Michelin to bring RFID to market as an option in model year 2005.

“We believe this technology is a breakthrough in information reporting that should be shared and advanced throughout the industry,” Gettys said. “The sooner RFID is widely available, the sooner it will begin benefiting the industry and consumers.”

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