The last year has seen a number of announcements by tire and wheel manufacturers in what is a busy corner of the automotive industry.
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The last year has seen a number of announcements by tire and wheel manufacturers in what is a busy corner of the automotive industry. A recap of some of the developments by major players include:
- Continental: In December 2020, Continental launched its ContiConnect Live solution, building on its ContiConnect Yard solution requiring stationary checkpoints in fleet yards. Sensors embedded within the tire send pressure and temperature data via Bluetooth to a telematics unit integrated within the car, and from there to the Continental cloud backend (along with GPS data from the telematics unit reporting the position of the car). The solution is available in some Western and Northern European countries, with plans for wider deployments.
- Bridgestone: In June 2020, Bridgestone announced a collaboration with Microsoft as part of the former’s connected vehicle program. The two partners created a Tire Damage Monitoring System (TDMS, rather than simply a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)) to give real-time alerts on location and condition of tires. The solution is available on certain OEM brands where cars are using the Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform (MCVP). Bridgestone is also working with UnaBiz on a tire-as-a-service model using asset tracking devices in the tires.
- Goodyear: In February 2020, Goodyear launched its Total Tire Management system. This system builds on Goodyear’s connected tire products (e.g., TPMS Plus for real-time location and condition monitoring, CheckPoint, Optix), which offer tire monitoring and insights, with Goodyear offering a suite of services for managing everything to do with an enterprise fleet’s tires, in a kind of 4PL play.
- Pirelli: At the end of 2019, Pirelli launched its Cyber Tire, transmitting information about the conditions of the wheel to drivers and fleet managers via 5G connectivity (from an onboard telematics unit), as well as conditions of the road to other drivers.
- Maxion: At the end of 2019, Maxion partnered with ZF Openmatics to use its Bluetooth 9-axis sensor to collect data on humidity, tire temperature, air pressure, vehicle load, wheel position, speed, and vibration. Data is transmitted to an onboard telematics unit, and then to the ZF cloud along with the vehicle’s location from GPS on the telematics unit. The solution currently is targeting commercial and industrial vehicles.
Evolution of the Tire OEM
TPMS have been a standard requirement in newly manufactured passenger vehicles since 2012 in Europe, and since 2008 in the United States. The legislation, however, does not extend to commercial or industrial vehicles, partly because of the lack of protocol standardization between vehicle and trailer units. As such, adoption is more industry-led in the trucking sphere because of the potential benefits and savings to fleet managers, and this is where much of the activity in the connected wheel space is happening. OEMs are looking to offer competitive advantages through the range of products and services they offer, with three primary visibility trends on the IoT front:
- An increased focus on sensorization beyond pressure monitoring. Temperature, humidity, and multiple other conditions can be monitored. In addition, location monitoring through GPS installed in the telematics/gateway unit turns this into an asset tracking application for tire OEMs. Understanding the location of assets goes beyond theft prevention, and towards enabling entirely new business models.
- A focus on real-time tracking and monitoring, and on backhaul of data beyond the vehicle into a cloud. Existing tire monitoring systems transmit data to the vehicle cabin or use scanning within the fleet yard when a vehicle comes for servicing. Examples include ContiConnect Yard, Goodyear CheckPoint, or Bridgestone Tirematics, all versions of in-yard scanning of wheels. A shift towards real-time monitoring (e.g., ContiConnect Live, Goodyear TPMS Plus, etc.) allows location-independent tracking of tires, as well as extensive contextual data on the vehicle, giving fleet managers granular visibility of their fleets in the cloud.
- A focus on moving beyond direct sale of these enhanced products towards servitization models as tire OEMs look to diversify and expand their revenue streams by becoming service providers. Automotive OEMs such as Cadillac, BMW, Jaguar, Audi, and others offer limited subscription models for using their vehicles (in the United States primarily), allowing customers not to think about day-to-day running of cars. A tire service model similarly allows managers to outsource everything to do with the tire component of their fleet to a third-party, as well as gathering extensive insights into driver behavior, fuel optimization, delivery routes, and numerous other datapoints for the management of their fleet. Numerous applications beyond the direct stakeholders exist—for instance, in smart city applications, for monitoring road conditions based on received tire data.
These trends will only see wider adoption as more vehicles become connected. One large initial market for adoption will be in commercial or industrial vehicles where more expensive tires (in the multiple US$100 range, as opposed to sub-US$100 on passenger vehicles) can bear a marginally higher cost for technology enablement, and where management of large numbers of vehicles is actually a challenge (as opposed to individual passenger cars). As the technology develops and adoption continues, tire OEMs are also targeting the autonomous driving market, where extensive data from wheels can allow better car decision-making as well as provide more servicing opportunities on vehicles of all sizes.
Shoring Up Logistics and Supply Chains
Tracking and monitoring a tire offers a view into far more than the tire to which a sensor is attached: a tire can give numerous insights into vehicles and fleets, allowing tire OEMs to generate huge value beyond the simple tire by becoming service providers. It is no surprise then to see all major tire OEMs investing significantly in this field and putting out concept wheels and tires crammed full with IoT technology. Enriching the volume and quality of data for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), as well as giving a single pane of glass view into huge numbers of distributed tires and vehicles, allows stakeholders to be more adaptive, preventative, and innovative in their business structures.
One of the foreseeable challenges is in standardization of the technology, in particular because the technology is offered as a competitive advantage rather than as a legal requirement. Different protocols and a broad number of vehicle OEMs, telematics unit suppliers, and tire OEMs will lead to complexity in how service models are managed, requiring each service provider to develop broad regional and global footprints to ensure that they can provide smooth services to fleets operating on their system. It is no surprise to see tire logistics themselves subject to further supply chain tracking, as with Michelin’s Safecube solution built with Sigfox—both for tracking containers transporting tires, as well as the trailers to manage the flow of tires from warehouses to distributors. While significant monetization potential exists for connected tires and service offerings, service providers need to ensure that they have the logistical and operational footprint.
Connected wheels have so far primarily seen adoption in high-value and business-critical use cases. As the technologies become more widespread, this will trickle down further to passenger cars and will allow vehicles to become more autonomous through better decision-making processes in a vehicle’s ADAS. As such, connected wheels are an important step for accelerating the deployment of fully automated vehicles. Tire OEMs wishing to become service providers will need to have a multitude of different offerings for an increasing number of vehicle segments, and develop different monetization approaches for each of them. This will significantly increase the complexity of their own internal logistics operations; as such, building the groundwork for digitized logistics and supply chain operations using IoT is a key requirement to the success of these new models.