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Tire Manufacturers Roll Forward With RFID

Kumho has begun applying tags to all of its Korean-made tires, while Michelin says it is opening up some of its 40 RFID-related patents, in order to accelerate the use of RFID by the tire industry.
By Claire Swedberg

Kumho is not the only tire company employing RFID tags to track its products. Last year, for example, Michelin supplied an RFID-enabled version of its X InCity tires to some of London's buses, with the goal of making it simpler for bus-fleet managers to monitor tire pressure, and thereby improve safety and efficiency (see Michelin Uses RFID to Track Tire Pressure and Tread for London Bus Company). The company continues to introduce RFID tagging for some of its tires, according to Dominique Aimon, Michelin's head of technical communication. Earlier this month—a week after Kumho issued a press release revealing its tagging plans—Michelin announced that it will license, free of charge, any of its patents that would overlap with the adoption of what it calls the "globally recognized single core tire RFID standards," which "include AIAG B11, JAIF B21, ISO- 17367, TMC RP 247, GS1-EPC TDS 1.5."

AIAG B11, for example, specifies the use of a passive UHF tag complying with the ISO 18000-6C and EPC Gen 2 standard, and addresses what sort of data should be encoded on a tag, as well as how it should be encoded (see The Chasm Between RFID Standards and Implementation). The ISO 17367 standard, meanwhile, describes in detail the curing process for UHF RFID tire tags (see Can HF Tags Withstand Rubber Vulcanizing?).

Michelin's stated reason for its offer is to promote the adoption of a single worldwide standard, which it said was a key element to accelerating RFID's deployment. In line with fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing policies, the tire maker reported that it would expect reciprocity—that is, it would license its patents royalty-free, on the condition "that any prospective licensee commits to license any of its current or future patents that would also overlap with the adoption and execution of the standards cited above, under similar conditions."

However, none of the tire manufacturers or RFID technology providers queried for this article indicated that they intend to utilize Michelin's patents.

Altogether, Michelin has been embedding RFID technology using methods for which it has more than 40 patents. The company has created solutions for tracking and tracing tires from the cradle, creating a record of a tire's manufacture location and date. Its patents relate to how a tire's birth certificate and permanent record are stored and shared, as well as the use of sensors.

The company is now identifying which of those patents could prove to be potential obstacles to the adoption of a single, worldwide RFID standard for tracking tires, and is opening those patents at no cost. The first to be targeted, Aimon says, is U.S. patent 20080289736, entitled "Tire Including An Electronic Member, and a Method of Fabricating Such a Tire." Patent 20080289736 relates to the placement position of the tag on a rubber tire, in order to optimize the transmission of data without requiring changes in the tire's fabrication. Moreover, she adds, Michelin has indicated that it is willing to discuss the opening of any of its patents with participants in the tire or RFID industry in the event that there is a patent preventing RFID adoption.

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