Commercial Business

AG Tire Talk: An Overview of Ag Tire Sensors and RFID Tags

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RFID tags and tire sensors are yet another tool to track inflation pressure in ag tires. Manufacturers say tire dealers need to prepare to add this information into their tire discussions with farmers and producers.

| Photo Credit: Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America


Modern Tire Dealer has partnered with AG Tire Talk to provide answers to insightful questions that farm tire dealers have about farm tire technology. This is the next installment in our ongoing series, which is designed to help farm tire dealers better connect with their customers. A trending question, followed by answers, will appear in our Commercial Tire Dealer section every other month. For complete answers, click on www.agtiretalk.com.


QUESTION: Do you foresee tire sensors and RFID tags growing in popularity on ag tires? What benefits will the farmer/operator receive and why should tire dealers prepare for these next-generation product offerings?

 

Dave Paulk, manager, field technical services, BKT USA: With tire pressure inflation systems starting to be used by tractor and equipment manufacturers, it’s only a matter of time before tire sensors and/or RFID tags become more prevalent. Tire sensor technology has been used on over-the-road trucks, trailers, cars and pickups and RFID tags have been used on OTR tires and over-the-road trucks/trailers for some time now.

Ag tractors are being used more on the highways in many different applications that require higher speeds. Many are larger with higher horsepower pulling heavier equipment and are running faster.

Tire sensors can be built into the tire or added to the inside of the tire via the aftermarket. Running air pressures too low for the load and high heat are killers of tires. Low air pressure can cause excessive heat build-up in a tire and destroy the tire’s casing.

Sensors are programmed to a minimum air pressure and/or high heat setting and generally are good for alerting the operator to changes in either. This information is sent to a console in the vehicle to warn the driver. The result of not taking preventive action can lead to downtime and the cost of a new tire.

RFID tags work much the same way. But they can generally deliver more information to a receiver outside of the vehicle. As the name indicates, RFID uses a radio frequency to communicate with a receiver to gather information about the tire.

There are two types of RFID tags — active and passive. Active RFID tags have a battery and passive tags do not. Most RFID tags are embedded in the tire. Data can be collected and analyzed for a fleet of vehicles. This can be used to gather information on air pressure, temperature of the tire and location of the tire. If air pressure drops or the tire begins heating up, an alert can be sent to warn of an impending failure. These alerts can go to a receiver in the vehicle, remote receiver and/or a cell phone.

Most tire dealers have had to deal with sensors on cars and pickups for several years now and have the equipment to reset sensors in these vehicles. Since many tire dealers have some experience dealing with sensors, it shouldn’t be too difficult, but with new technology, there will always be a learning curve.

Overall, tire sensors and RFID tags are designed to give information that can help with preventive maintenance costs and provide benefits that can help the farmer save money on fuel, downtime and tire costs.

Greg Gilland, vice president, global agriculture, Maxam Tire North America: The key to achieving the best value and performance of a tire is to employ the ideal air pressure based on the actual load. In the agricultural world, there is an indisputable link between the impact of ground pressure and the resulting yield of a planted crop. Tires play a key role in soil compaction and ground pressure as they are the primary tool that creates contact between the machinery and the soil.

Due to limited resources, most farmers will set their tire inflation pressures based on the heaviest implement or axle load they are required to tow or carry and subsequently, this usually never gets adjusted for other working conditions. Compressed air within a tire accounts for over 80% of the carrying capacity of that tire. Therefore, any technology or tool that improves the impact on ground pressure and overall tire functionality will inevitably result in increased crop yields — delivering a greater value to farmers and growers.

There are three types of evolving technologies that can help the ag industry continue to improve and enhance tire performance results:

  • RFID technology
  • Tire sensor technology
  • On-board tire inflation systems

RFID, in essence, is a chip or tag that is embedded inside a tire that allows an exchange of data with a portable or fixed reader, which employs a radio frequency signal to passively read the information on the tag or chip. The benefit of this technology in the ag world is that technical information could be embedded in the selected tire’s RFID tag. This tag would identify the tire’s brand, size, original tread depth, type, wheel position and maximum load limits. It would instantly identify all the tire information needed to determine the working parameters for active tire management over time.

Tire sensor technology moves us another step towards enhancing the performance of tires. A tire sensor is either passive (responds when queried) or active (constantly sending a signal) — placed inside the tire, preferably on or adjacent to the inner liner. It can also be mounted on the valve stem of the rim or wheel that can actively communicate not only the data provided by an RFID tag, but also the actual air pressure and temperature of the tire.

As there is a direct link between the machine axle load, the required air pressure to carry the load and the corresponding temperature caused by the work in progress, the data or tire pressure information can trigger a management decision by the operator. Air inflation pressure feedback provides management options that could include speeding up, slowing down, stopping the machinery or conducting a maintenance check to adjust air pressures. Sensor technology gives the ability to use air pressure data to ensure optimal inflation for the tire’s load — thus increasing tire life, reducing ground pressure and achieving the benefits of greater crop yields.

The growing use of on-board tire inflation systems moves the above technology to the next level by incorporating both passive RFID tag technology and active tire sensor technology feedback into a tire pressure adjustment mechanism that is an integral part of the ag machinery.

On-board systems would include an air pressure system supplied by the machinery that is connected to the tires — with the capability to inflate or deflate the tires as needed based on the operators’ working requirements or load needs.  On-board tire inflation systems receive data from the RFID or sensor tag located by wheel position on the machinery and in real-time provide the operator with the capability to adjust tire inflation pressure on the go or as needed, without having to stop the machinery. Whether working in the field at slow speeds or transporting the machinery from field to field at higher speeds, the ability to adjust air pressures as needed can ensure reduced ground compaction, improved tire wear, improved fuel economy, greater productivity and greater crop yields.

Each of the above technologies provides a tangible benefit that can deliver improved results to any farmer or grower. Maxam recommends using all the above technologies if usage parameters are aligned with the selected machinery’s tires specifications, axle loads, load-per-tire and soil conditions.

Tire dealers and distributors will have to adapt to the technological solutions selected by each tire manufacturer. Some tire manufacturers will develop in-house tools — and perhaps all the above technologies — as part of their offerings. Some tire manufacturers may adopt off-the-shelf solutions available and offer them as part of an integrated package.

In addition, some of the original equipment manufacturers are evaluating on-board tire inflation systems as part of optional machinery package enhancements in their equipment offerings, as they recognize the value and impact of tires on the total cost of ownership of their vehicles.

In each case, tire dealers and distributors will need to understand how these tools will integrate with the tire and be ready to provide some technical support for proper system implementation or use.

David Graden, operational market manager, agriculture, Michelin North America Inc.: As producers become more and more educated on the benefits of proper inflation pressures, soil preservation and an increased awareness of their overall efficiency, we will see a growing need for tire sensors and RFID tags in and on ag tires.

For ag tire dealers, RFID tags could be very useful in inventory management and tracking. As for producers, this technology could easily be used to track machinery, speeds and maintenance schedules. Tire sensors like pressure monitoring sensors, distance measuring devices inside the tire, etc., could be a huge benefit to the end user.

Technology such as this could measure the dynamic weight changes and precisely adjust air pressures, which would benefit tractive capacities, flotation, fuel economy in the field and overall machine efficiency. Furthermore, if this technology is tied to machine speed, air pressures could adjust up and significantly improve fuel economy and stability on the road too.

As these technologies hit the market, tire dealers need to be knowledgeable enough to maintain, install and troubleshoot them all.

Today, we understand that tire dealers are the first stop for tire recommendations, with tire manufacturers and online research being second. This technology is coming fast and we all need to be educated and prepared to move forward quickly.

Blaine Cox, national product manager — agriculture, golf and turf, Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America, Inc.: When it comes to how an operator can influence tire performance and tire life, nothing even comes close to inflation pressure. Tire sensors and RFID signaling technology seem to be ramping up — first in cars and trucks and more recently in farm equipment.

They’re powerful tools because they make it easy to keep track of inflation pressure and just as importantly, to spot a problem before it turns into a crisis. And those technologies are a perfect fit for central tire inflation systems, which can automate the entire process of optimizing inflation pressure on the go.

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