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New RFID Tire Sensor for Trucks

Crosslink, a company that sells wireless data products for the trucking industry, has developed a temperature-pressure sensor for heavy vehicles.
By Bob Violino
Sep 01, 2003Sept. 2, 2003 - After five years in development with tire company Bridgestone, Crosslink, a Boulder, Colo., company that offers a range of wireless data products for transportation applications, has announced an RFID tire-monitoring system for commercial truck fleets. The company believes this is potentially a multi-million dollar market.

Crosslink’s TireBoss system uses Crosslink's own sensors, RFID tags and readers to monitor tire temperature and pressure on trucks and other heavy equipment vehicles. The system uses 1-inch square 915 MHz passive tags, which have a read range of up to 30 feet. Each tag holds 8 kilobits of data, including a unique serial number, temperature and pressure readings, and the maximum temperature of a tire during its lifetime.

A TireBoss tag is mounted inside each tire. The RFID transponder sends data on the temperature-adjusted pressure of each vehicle's tire to readers placed on the truck or at a depot entrance or exit. Fleet operators can also scan the tags with a handheld reader.

The goal is to ensure tires are kept at the tire manufacturer's recommended cold-fill pressure level. Underinflation and excess heat buildup are believed to be the primary indicators of premature tire failure. In addition, tracking tire temperature can help identify other problems, such as dragging brakes or misaligned wheels. And since the maximum temperature is recorded, a company can discard any tire that has been stressed, instead of retreading it.

The passenger car industry is gearing up to comply with the TREAD Act, which requires that all vehicles, starting with the 2004 model year, have a system that warns the operator when a tire is significantly underinflated. But Crosslink is focusing on the truck market, a decision based on economics rather than technology. "Passenger car deployment will be dictated by Detroit," says Gary Zarlengo, Crosslink's CEO. "They will specify what they want rather than use an already developed system."

Developing a system based on the specifications of the Big Three automakers would be expensive. But Zarlengo believes that fleet operators—who often buy a mixture of trailers and cabs from different vendors—are looking for a tire-monitoring system they can implement themselves to get better performance from their vehicles. "There's definitely pull from fleet operators," says Zarlengo

The cost of tire failure on the road to a fleet operator can be $600 for a road call, plus the cost of the tire, which can be as much as $300. Preventing tire failure also means additional savings through improved fuel economy, decreased maintenance costs and more reliable performance on the road, Zarlengo says.

Crosslink says that its tags can be read within 100 milliseconds. That speed is essential if readings from 18-wheel trucks are to be taken as the vehicle passes static readers. At present, the tag stays inside the tire for the life of the tire. But the company says it's working on reusable tags, as well as a similar system that tracks tires and links them to the truck as part of a larger vehicle-monitoring system.

The TireBoss two-way telemetry system will be available early next year for trucks, buses, tankers, trailers and off-road heavy equipment vehicles over 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating. The tags are expected to be priced at around $30 each. Fixed readers will run about $1,000. On-board and handheld readers will cost about $300 to $400.

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