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Michelin focuses on RFID at Clemson tire conference

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During this week's Clemson University Tire Industry Conference in South Carolina, electronic experts from Michelin North America Inc. are highlighting the practical aspects of installing radio frequency identification (RFID) tags into tires.

"Today, we are delivering on our promise to produce the most advanced and best performing tires on and off the road," said George O'Brien, North American electronics research director for Michelin Americas Research and Development Corp. "With this new technology, we will not only enhance the capability of the tire through the use of electronics, but improve the way the entire vehicle performs as a result."

Michelin says its RFID tag is the world's first rewriteable, cured-in transponder that lasts for the life of a passenger car or light truck tire and can store vital tire identification information. The RFID transponder is embedded into the tire during manufacturing. It allows the tire's identification number to be associated with a vehicle identification number (VIN), making tires uniquely identifiable with an individual vehicle.

The tag tells when and where the tire was made, maximum inflation pressure, tire size, etc., according to the company. The information can be obtained using a small hand-held reader that scans the tag much like a bar code on a package at a grocery store.

The transponder consists of a small antenna and an integrated circuit that has a higher data capacity than a bar code. The integrated circuit, which is about the size of a match head, can be encoded and decoded with a simple hand-held device and unlike a bar code. It remains unaffected by soil or deterioration over time.

The information on the circuit can be modified to reflect new data.

There are three main uses for tire electronics, says Michelin. They are:

* identification, such as Michelin's current RFID tag;

* operating conditions which include tire pressure monitoring systems, such as the company's eTire System for commercial trucks;

* vehicle performance, where a tire can actually sense road conditions and adjust vehicle performance through communication between the tire and the vehicle's operating systems.

"The possibilities really become endless when you start looking at the different benefits such technology can bring whether it's a tire or another product," says O'Brien.

Outside of storing valuable information, RFID technology also can provide added logistics benefits, providing companies with improved shipping performance through the reduction of manual inspections, saving numerous work hours and improving efficiency. In addition, RFID can reduce the time needed to process returns while increasing shipping accuracy and reducing lost sales.

Michelin has licensed the technology to a variety of global electronics suppliers to ensure availability including Sharp and AWID.

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