Cologne, Germany - A discussion panel at this year’s Future Tire Conference sparked heated debate about the adoption of RFID technology in the tire industry.
The gauntlet was laid down by Armin Kraus, director, 4JET Technologies GmbH – a supplier of alternative QR coding technology.
Describing the tire industry as “a living fossil” within the automotive sector, Kraus said: “We have tires that are not really identified uniquely today. We have a barcode that goes under the wheel very early in the life of a tire, so nobody knows what tire is what.”
The 4JET Technologies boss went on to say that the tire industry has promised to introduce standards for RFID since 2009, but “nothing has happened.”
Adding that it had taken the mobile phone industry just 10 years to deliver 3 billion smartphones to nearly everybody, Kraus said: ”We as the tire industry need more than three, four or even five years to just agree on the standards. This is ridiculous.”
Alongside on the panel was Karol Vanko, vice president of tire-manufacturing equipment maker Mesnac which, with Michelin, is coordinating an international working group preparing ISO norms to define exactly how tire RFID tags will look and their technical parameters.
Delivering the standards is not a straightforward process, said Vanko, particularly as it concerns not only tire makers and vehicle manufacturers but also tire distributors, dealers and retreaders, who will all need to be able to read the RFID data.
Other issues, he said, include: concerns among many tire makers that incorporating RFID tags could compromise product safety; the need for agreement on where to position the tags on the tire; and how the tags should be tested.
But, fellow panelist Jos Uijlenbroek of Dutch-based Ferm RFID Solutions was highly sceptical, insisting that standardisation work should be done by independent bodies.
“This looks like a lobby for a wider use of a certain programme,” said Uijlenbroek. “In my opinion, it should not be prepared by a supplier. From a commercial point of view, it is the choice of the tire producer to procure their RFID. We should be careful not to lock certain kinds of readers or technologies by these measures.”
In response, Vanko said that while Michelin is coordinating, the committee team is made of 50 people, including representatives from all major tire producers.
Likewise, Marco Spinetto, strategic innovation, R&D at Pirelli Tyre SpA and chairman of the Italian technical group following this issue, insisted that the committee was an open and transparent group.
“Anybody who has an interest, can participate through their national ISO body, so we are not talking about lobbying activities,” Spinetto declared from the conference floor.
The next meeting of the RFID standards committee was due to take place in Marseilles in September, when drafts for the first two of four ISO norms – on RFID and coding – are to be issued. The other two standards, for tag-positioning and testing, will also be discussed by the committee.
After the first two draft standards are drawn up, they will have six months for technical voting, according to Spinetto, so that the first two ISO standards could be issued next year.
According to the Mesnac VP, suppliers will manufacture their tags based on the two new standards so that the tire manufacturers can then select products based on differences in manufacturing and price.
“RFID standards are coming,” said Vanko. “This is a very clear message for everybody, including producers and users.
In terms of timescale, Vanko said it was down to the tire makers: “Some of them will be quick [to adopt the technology] and some of them will be very careful. We could be talking months or years, we don’t know.”
Last word, though, to 4Jet leader Kraus who reiterated: “Things are happening much too slowly. Car makers are losing patience so they are they are going ahead with their own standards. They don’t want to wait for the tire industry having nitty-gritty conflicts over who is going to lead.”
Article published in the Sept/Oct print issue of European Rubber Journal magazine.