RFID Goes To The Races -- In NASCAR Tires
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. screeches into the 2006 racing season with an RFID-enabled, tire leasing program for NASCAR's top performers.
The program gives a green light to auto racing's first deployment of radio frequency identification semiconductor chips and antennas embedded in the rubber.
Aiming to help manage a huge leased inventory, the program is being tested this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Craftsman Truck Series race, said Carole Swartz, a Goodyear spokeswoman. "We had been asked by NASCAR to assist them in trying to cut the amount of private testing teams had been doing on their own," she said. "The way to do it is lease the tires so as the tires are retuned at the end of the race."
Sometimes there are several thousand to retrieve, Swartz said. The racing teams will lease the tires and bring them back after the race for a partial rebate. RFID will assist in the implementation of NASCAR's new controlled testing procedures, which were developed by the body to reduce private team testing next year in an effort to level the playing field for all teams.
The RFID scanning equipment will quickly read the information embedded in the sidewall of the tire. The tire ID is the first piece of data that will be available through the computer chip. Headquartered in Akron, Ohio, Goodyear produces nearly one- half million race tires a year.
The automobile industry for years has used active RFID, which has an internal power source like a battery to continually transmit a signal to a reader. Active RFID applications are typically deployed on the assembly line or track parts through the supply chain and distribution centers. Goodyear expects the application will enhance its own operations from production to quality to warehousing to sales and service.
Goodyear hasn't been limited to test driving RFID for NASCAR. It began exploring RFID technology in 1984 and in 1993. The first field trial took place with more than 3,000 tires. The tire company also worked with Sun Microsystems Inc. at its 17,000-sq.-ft. RFID test center in Dallas for more than a year to understand RFID better and evaluate supply chain applications for its products. The goal was to assess RFID tag and reader capabilities. The tire manufacturer is a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. supplier, and eventually would have to ship products tagged with RFID labels. Tires are not shipped in packages or on pallets, which required a label on each.
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