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How Rtone helped Michelin develop connected tyres
It’s a first in the world of motorsport! For the sixth season of Formula E, Michelin launched MICHELIN Track Connect: ...
It’s a first in the world of motorsport! For the sixth season of Formula E, Michelin launched MICHELIN Track Connect: the first ever smart tyre solution using an integrated sensor. Rtone worked with the Michelin teams to automate data collection from these sensors.
Before this solution was implemented, checks were performed manually. You could watch the operators as they gathered pressure data on the 96 tyres at the starting line. The goal of these months of development? Find a simple solution to automate the collection of encrypted data.
The 2019 Diriyah ePrix was the first real test after several months of work, allowing us to try out a solution that met the criteria of Michelin and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
The FIA set a minimum pressure for cold and hot tyres in the championship rules to make sure races run smoothly. Before, checks were carried out manually by Michelin teams prior to the start of a race. A complex organisation was necessary to carry out these checks in the time allotted before racing.
The idea of automating tyre pressure measurements appeared as an obvious way to simplify the work of the Michelin teams on site.
The objective was to find a way to automate data recording using a compact solution that could be deployed and operational in all countries where races take place.
This solution will make it easier to meet the level of safety required by the FIA, but also to track and process the data within the restrictive time limits.
The solution perfectly meets the needs of the various parties involved in the race.
For Michelin, the Formula E is an incubator to accelerate the development of connected solutions and ensure they become more widely accessible, faster.
Michelin therefore internally designed and developed an integrated sensor in the MICHELIN Pilot Sport tyre. The sensor sends encrypted data to a receiver handled by the Michelin operator. The data encryption guarantees information confidentiality. Once decrypted, the information allows the FIA to check the minimum regulation-required pressure prior to the start of the race and therefore reinforce race safety, all while facilitating the work of promoters and teams participating in the race.
Michelin collaborated with Rtone to develop a base station (the receiver part) and the application for operators. In a relatively short amount of time, we had to get ready for the first race of season 6 in Diriyah, which was scheduled for 22-23 November 2019. Rtone worked on 4 main topics:
1. The mechanical aspect - a compact solution that is easy to handle
The mechanical stakes of the project were to provide a compact system allowing the operator to perform measurements in the field, in the time allotted (a few minutes). Mechanical iteration times are relatively long, by nature. Quick solutions had to be found to prepare the mechanical casing. Rtone built a solution using Peli hard cases (ultra-resistant protection).
The teams integrated all of the elements necessary for measurements into these cases:
- A gateway with a radio acquisition chain to collect the encrypted data from the smart sensors integrated in the tyres,
- The power supply, consisting of a battery and voltage transformers,
- A small on-board Linux computer including a 4G modem - certified for and compatible with all races internationally - and a Bluetooth/WiFi interface to process data and transfer it to the Michelin Cloud.
The result is an on-board system in a compact roller case that allows the operator to easily handle the equipment and take measurements on the starting line.
The iterative approach of Rtone (inspired by Agile methods) made it possible to obtain a satisfactory solution quickly.
Spotlight on the S2-LP component
The S2-LP is a radio transceiver that allows acquisition of the frames sent by the sensors integrated in the tyres.
This is a low-power radio component that operates in unlicensed frequency bands below 1 GHz, available worldwide.
Associated with an antenna, the S2-LP receives the radio signal and decodes it according to the modulation of the signal in order to transform it into data that can be understood by the gateway in the case.
This module provided very satisfactory results.
Following this project, Rtone integrated the ST Partner Program: a partnership dedicated to companies that have developed recognised expertise in the design of solutions using ST components.
2. The radio-frequency acquisition system
Radio-frequency (RF) is a major part of this product. In reality, and from a usage perspective, there is a great advantage in maximising the operator/car distance to simplify operations. The idea was to provide a base station that could take measurements at a distance of 10-15 metres from the cars. So the entire RF system had to be optimised with two goals in mind:
- Maximise sensitivity of the base station,
- Maximise the power/autonomy ratio of the transmitter.
Michelin and Rtone worked together closely to identify the best compromises and select the optimal components in order to reach these performance goals.
Considering the tight deadline we were on, the choice of existing technological hardware bricks was made to concentrate on the following steps: intelligently assembling the selected components and developing software layers suitable for the Formula E application.
Edge technology with the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge application
Given the need to access the data in real time, Edge technology was selected. This technology allows for local processing of data because it occurs directly at the source and eliminates any latency issues.
The development was therefore built around the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge ecosystem. Radio frequency is used to locally transmit the data from the sensors to the gateway in the case. Edge technology ensures the data is then immediately available. Next, the 4G modem sends the data to the Cloud dedicated to monitoring the cars.
3. Low level applications
Once the signal is received, it has to be decrypted in order to format the data it contains on the on-board computer of the base station:
The challenge was to quickly develop a low level software program that runs on Linux and is compatible with Michelin technologies, to fulfil these functions.
Due to time constraints of Formula E operations, it was important to develop a “real time” system to process this data. Again, Michelin and Rtone collaborated closely on these software aspects. It took a series of very short iterations, but also cross testing in order to achieve stable and reliable software in time for the Diriyah race.
The use of continuous integration tools and automated tests facilitated development work. While simulators were a great help, Rtone wanted to take things a step further and developed a series of tests that integrated the equipment in sets of automated tests.
4. Business applications
Once the data is formatted, operators need to view the results in the easiest way possible. They only have a few minutes to check 24 cars (i.e. 96 tyres).
Rtone developed a software interface that provides access to the data, generates measurement reports to be sent to the FIA and can be used to configure the receiver.
With support from Rtone, Michelin was able to deliver an automatic and reliable solution for checking tyre pressure during the first race of Formula E’s 6th season. Given the constraints and all that was at stake for this project, the challenge was considerable! This project was a building block for the future of connectivity in Michelin tyres.
The MICHELIN Track Connect smart solution also has a version for “track days” amateur drivers, in order to enrich their experience on the race track. It has been commercially available for a few months now in Europe, North America and China and is compatible with tyres from the Ultra-High Performance MICHELIN Pilot Sport Cup 2 Connect series. It includes an easy-to-use, high-performance smartphone application.
If you want to bring your IoT ideas to life, Rtone is here to support you. You can also download our white paper, “The 5 keys to success in IoT”.