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Michelin Shrinks Its eTire Pressure Monitor

The company's new UHF RFID tag and sensor module can be attached to a truck tire's inside wall without affecting vehicle or tag performance at higher speeds.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 08, 2007Residents of most towns and cities depend on garbage collection, school, public transportation and other basic services, but to provide these services, agencies and companies must first ensure their vehicles are up to the job. A school bus driver who discovers a flat tire in the morning might not be able to start his route on time. The same is true for garbage collectors and parcel delivery drivers.

Five years ago, Michelin North America rolled out a system by which mechanics of fleet trucks could automatically check the air pressure in a vehicle's wheels after it was returned to its terminal or garage upon completion of a route. The eTire pressure and asset-monitoring system used passive RFID tags linked to pressure and temperature sensors. These sensors, mounted inside each tire, could be read either by antennas mounted low to the ground near the garage entrance, or by handheld readers carried by mechanics.

The eTire II features a lighter shirt-button-sized RFID tag and sensor module designed to function correctly at higher speeds without causing any tire imbalance.

Keeping truck tires at optimal pressure is important not only to keep fleets of trucks on roadways, but also because trucks use more fuel when their tires are underinflated. For a large fleet of trucks driven daily, the energy savings achieved through monitoring tire pressure can add up quickly.

The sensor module used in the original eTire platform, introduced in 2002, contained a passive, low-frequency RFID tag utilizing a proprietary air interface. Provided by Texas Instruments (TI), the tag was physically integrated with a capacitive Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) device to sense pressure and temperature. It was bulky—about the size of five or six credit cards stacked together—so Michelin recommend that trucks with the modules glued to their inside tire walls drive no faster than 50 miles an hour. At speeds higher than 50, Michelin warned, the sensor module might stop functioning properly, and the weight of the sensor module might cause wheels to rotate in an imbalanced manner.

Michelin is now rolling out a second-generation eTire platform, the eTire II, which features a significantly lighter shirt-button-sized RFID tag and sensor module designed to function correctly at higher speeds without causing any tire imbalance. This second-generation eTire sensor module incorporates temperature and pressure sensors made by Honeywell Sensing & Control's business unit, which employ surface acoustic wave (SAW) technology. It also contains an ultra-high frequency RFID inlay compliant with the ISO 18000-6b standard.

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