IOT or the Internet of Things permeates every surface and object by embedding intelligent functionality with layers of power, communication, computing and sensing. For UK’s innovative SME, Silent Sensors, the goal is a niche IOT, let’s call it the Internet of Tyres, making a full set of IOT components for the Intelligent Tyre.
Tyres are essential to our modern economies – without them they would literally grind to a halt. The Intelligent Tyre takes us beyond the physical use of a tyre, to its careful management, from making it to recycling it. And in the future, the Intelligent Tyre will become the finger-tips of the Autonomous Vehicle.
The Intelligent Tyre is traceable, wherever it may be. It creates a complete sensory audit trail, stored in the Cloud. Sensors embedded in the tyre can measure many parameters, including pressure, internal temperature, surface temperature, tread depth, road condition, axle load and wheel alignment. When we combine passive RFID tracking with active Bluetooth sensing, we create a high value system that maximises performance, safety and end-of-life value. As production costs drop, more and more performance data will be generated and used: to reduce costs, avoid accidents, and protect the environment.
What will make the Intelligent Tyre work is a something called Energy Harvesting. This is a clever way of generating and storing energy from the environment that costs little or nothing. Think of mills – they harvest energy from wind and water. Well, rolling tyres are a source of power too. New materials can harvest this – to power sensors, radios and microcontrollers that are embedded in the tyre itself, for its lifetime.
Silent Sensors will conceive, design and print digital, electronic, self-powered IOT components, using a roll-to-roll process pioneered by CPI, that enables one-to-one matching of components with tyres. This lets tyre makers incorporate tags and sensors into their own tyre manufacturing process, which significantly lowers the costs of installation, use and maintenance.
Joining forces, the Centre for Process Innovation and Silent Sensors have already solved how to manufacture tags and sensors using advanced additive printing technologies and novel materials. This is leading to an exciting range of features and product including NFC, UHF, Energy Harvesting substrates for tyre sensors and tags. This is the way we will help make the Intelligent Tyre, for motorbikes all the way up to mining trucks.
By the way, a spin-off from this R&D are sensors that can be used in road surfaces for weigh bridges and embedded in movable assets, buildings, bridges and pipes.
In our age of climate change, the 4 R’s of what is called the Circular Economy are key: Repair, ReUse, ReCycle and ReMake. All of these have one purpose: maximise the value of the asset during and after its lifetime. The same applies to tyres, especially when you think of what they are made of and their impact on the environment. The Intelligent Tyre’s traceability and logged history will help all of us reduce the impact of using tyres. To give you an idea, re-treading tyres that have been maintained properly (so they can be re-treaded) costs 20% less energy, 20% less water and 20% less raw materials. And think, there will be over 3bn tyres on road by 2022.
So, the Intelligent Tyre is something we can all use knowing it works for us, as people, as companies, as societies.
Engaging with the Centre for Process Innovation, their open access capability and expertise in additive printing, Silent Sensors can bring the IOT component of this new product to market, the Internet of Tyres, with benefits for all stakeholders.
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