How are connectivity and artificial intelligence changing TPMS?


Even the humble black, round tire is not immune from the connected technology revolution sweeping the automotive industry.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud services are transforming the way tire manufacturers conceive their products and the future of their businesses, with Tire Pressure Management Systems (TPMS) in particular being transformed.

But how deep do the changes go, and what role is connectivity playing in the transformation of one of the most critical technologies in the tire industry?

According to David Shaw, CEO of Tire Industry Research, TPMS is not just about the sensor technology. “At present, we are witnessing implementations that transmit live tire pressure data to the cloud with AI predictive analysis of tire lifetime, alerting drivers and fleet managers about potential issues. Companies have the challenges of developing and implementing them in trucks and cars to create profitable business models.”

The industry, no doubt, is changing rapidly

Today, vehicular networking is a key application of the IoT that gathers and shares data connecting cars (V-2-V) and road infrastructure (V-2-X), merges automotive and urban networks, and also empowers more intelligent and safe driving. It also has the potential to provide drivers and passengers with various entertainment services, especially once the driver it no-longer required to concentrate on the road.

However, as explained by the Beijing University of Chemical Technology, the popularity of smartphones provides a platform for the development and promotion of intelligent TPMS based on vehicle networking technology. The advantages are that it eliminates the manufacturing of current TPMS electronic terminals, hence saving costs. Intelligent TPMS based on vehicular networking technology offers reliable and stable algorithms.

The two types of TPMS

At present, TPMS takes two different forms: direct and indirect.

In indirect TPMS, tire pressure is monitored by an algorithm, assessing the different speed readings between the wheels through the wheel-speed sensors of a car’s ABS.

“Only when a tire pressure is too high or low, the diameter of the tire will be larger or smaller, resulting in a corresponding change on wheel speed. The monitoring system will compare the wheel speed with the standard data to get a conclusion whether the tire pressure is too high or low.”

Direct TPMS involves measuring the pressure and temperature of the tire directly by using the tire pressure and temperature sensors installed inside the tire itself. Direct TPMS can be implemented with or without a battery. Accurate data and real-time measurements are the obvious advantages, while the larger volume of sensors and their short life span are the downsides.

New tech, new services

As forecasted by the Beijing University, the leading line of research on TPMS is passivity, involving electromagnetic field coupling techniques, SAW technology, and piezoelectric ceramic technology, amongst others.

“Now the selling of TPMS has crashed into a glass ceiling in the automotive aftermarket, because most middle-grade and high-grade cars have been equipped with vehicle-mounted TPMS.”

The TPMS based on vehicular networking technology and cloud services are expected to spice up and broaden the TPMS market.

Further, there is a lot coming from Connected, Autonomous, Shared, and Electric (CASE) trends that yield disruptive changes in personal and commercial mobility. “With the advances in IoT and other technologies, it is now possible to collect information from in-use tires and develop new services.”

Bridgestone Tirematics: a case study

For example, Bridgestone, the Japanese tire giant has developed an IoT solution called Tirematics specifically for commercial fleet operators – amongst them trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles.

“Innovative sensors are attached to each tire and capture pressure and temperature (data) in real time and transmit information to our cloud platform,” explains Naoya Hamahata, Bridgestone’s manager for Digital Solution Development. “When an abnormality is detected, Tirematics immediately issues an alert to the appropriate person, such as the driver, tire technician, or maintenance manager.”

For fleet managers, this means fewer tire inspections and less maintenance work, with a very positive effect on tire-related functional problems, including breakdowns and safety.

Bridgestone started developing Tirematics in August 2016, consisting of tire sensors that initially send data to a local system at a vehicle maintenance site. The system then uses mobile phone networks to send the data to an IoT hub and stores it on Microsoft’s Azure Data Lake. Then, an analytics application analyzes the data in real time, while another one issues an alert if an irregularity is detected by the system.

In May 2017, Bridgestone completed the migration of Tirematics and initiated fleet tests in Japan in association with Hato Bus, a sightseeing bus company. The firm claims it has seen the benefit of being able to respond much faster to tire issues due to the alerts that Tirematics sends via smartphone to its service managers.

“We place the greatest emphasis on tires for the safe operation of our buses,” says executive director of Hato Bus’s Sightseeing Bus Business Division, Yoichi Matsui. “To reduce errors in readings and to give us complete visibility of our tire pressure conditions, we decided to implement a monitoring solution. Looking at the advances of technology and anticipating future mobility trends, we adopted Tirematics.

“Tirematics sends data and alerts directly to our managers. This allows us to respond to problems quickly without having to wait for our drivers to report.”

At present, Bridgestone has deployed Tirematics in around 20 countries, delivering what Bridgestone’s Hamahata describes as “safer, smarter, and more economical mobility for the world.”

In an increasingly smart, connected automotive industry, tire technology is not being left behind. Tire Pressure Management Systems are undergoing an unparalleled transformation, changing the way manufacturers look at tires from simple contact patches with the road to yet another important source of data.

As time goes on, cloud services and live data transmission are expected to spice up and broaden the TPMS market, with the biggest players in the industry already showing how they changing to keep up with these smarter times.

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