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German tech expert says ‘internet of tires’ is coming

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One of 4JET’s QR codes on a tire sidewall. © 4JET

We’re used to hearing about the “internet of things” — the idea that everyday objects in your home or business can be connected to the internet to make them easier or more convenient to use.

But what about the “internet of tires”? It’s a term that’s starting to gain traction in the industry, with major tire and auto brands including Pirelli and BMW starting to embrace not just the term but the technology behind it.

So, what is the ‘internet of tires’?

According to Germany-based engineering company 4JET Technologies, within the next few years the majority of tires will carry technology (specifically, QR or DMC codes and a radio frequency identification transponder, or RFID) to create tire connectivity that will allow manufacturers and dealers to trace a tire throughout its life cycle — from inside the factory during the production process, through the sales and on-road periods, to the post-tire-life recycling stage.

4JET chief executive Jörg Jetter said: “Today the “internet of tires” or “Tire Industry 4.0” may just sound like buzzwords, but clearly tire makers are increasingly integrating retail and lifecycle solutions in their business models.

“While some tire makers lean toward using low-cost human-visible QR/DMC codes, others may prefer RFID technology to enable tire connectivity. At the end of the day we believe high-value components such as tires will likely carry both technologies to assure seamless connectivity and traceability.”

What’s the point of ‘intelligent tires’?

4JET managing director Dr. Armin Kraus said the possibilities offered by “connected” or “intelligent tires” are exciting for the industry.

“Sensors within the tire are capable of measuring pressure, temperature, location and acceleration in three dimensions, all this, of course, ‘on the fly’, during operating the tire,” he said.

“Data from the sensors can be used to deduce astonishing details of the tire condition like inflation, the actual grip or slippage, the remaining tread depth or even information on the road condition. All of these parameters are highly relevant for driving safety, and some even have the potential to strongly improve the vehicle control system.”

Manufacturers are already adopting the tech

Tire makers are already embracing the technology to create the internet of tires. Kumho is putting passive RFID chips in a significant share of its passenger tires and Michelin is doing the same in its truck and bus radials. Those tires are connectable, but not yet connected.

Pirelli is selling chipped truck tires to fleets so fleet managers connect to tires remotely — from a cell phone or computer — and quickly know which units need inflating, retreading or replacing. In May last year, Traction News reported that BMW had demanded connective technology be standard for its 1 Series and 3 Series vehicle releases in 2018 and 2019. Audi is set to follow suit.

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One of 4JET’s QR Codes on a tire sidewall

When will the ‘internet of tires’ be a reality?

Kraus predicts the “internet of tires” era will create completely new business models — and could even lead to the fall of traditional bricks-and-mortar tire shops. However, he notes while there is a lot of potential and “marketing noise”, there are very few real-life instances of the technology being used so far.

“Laser engraved QR Codes on tires have certainly less enthusing potential for tire engineers than RFID-based sensor technology does,” he said. “However, OEMs seem to be convinced by the technology — it opens an alternative, stepwise approach to the internet of tires.”

It’s a theme he will explore more fully when he speaks at the Tire Technology Expo 2017 in Germany next month. Both he and Jetter are listed to present papers. Jetter’s presentation will introduce the different applications and uses of QR codes and transponders.

4JET Technologies will also have a booth at the Expo. If you are attending, you can find them at booth #6058.

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