On the right wavelength

Transense Technologies, developer of a new tyre pressure monitoring system, received a boost when industry giant Michelin extended its licensing agreement with the UK company.

Michelin – which already has a licence to use Transense’s system for attached-to-tyre monitoring applications – widened the scope of the arrangement to cover the Oxfordshire company’s patented interrogation electronics.

Transense is developing systems that use surface acoustic wave (SAW) technology to monitor changes in tyre pressure. SAWsensors bounce acoustic waves off the surface they are monitoring, detecting subtle changes in the frequency of the returning wave to measure the strain the material is under.

Transense licenses the technology to industry partners such as Michelin, Honeywell, Tai-Saw and TT electronics, allowing them to incorporate it into their own systems and receiving royaltypayments in return.

‘It is now Michelin’s right to either make or have made SAW interrogation systems comprising discrete components,’ said Transense chief executive James Perry.

The company claimed Michelin’s move was further evidence that products based on its technology are nearing market-readiness. ‘It is inevitable that as our technology reaches the stage of volume production and sales, licensees will be trying to manoeuvre themselves into a position where they can be masters of their own destinies,’ said Perry.

Tyre pressure monitoring has shot up the agenda for the automotive industry in the face of demands from safety regulators to find new ways to alert drivers when their tyres reach a dangerous level.Transense claims its sensors fit the bill because they are small, light and cost-effective to manufacture. Because they are battery free, they can be embedded in the wheels of vehicles without the need for a separate power supply.

An RF link relays the information from the sensor back to thevehicle’s electronic systems for analysis.

Transense expects the first SAW tyre pressure systems to appear in the commercial vehicle sector at the end of this year, with royalties beginning to flow from 2005 onwards.

Alongside tyre pressure monitoring, Transense is also developing SAW technology for application to other automotive systems such as power steering and powertrain.

Announcing its interim financial results, Transense said it had started 13 new feasibility studies in the power steering and powertrain fields during the first half of 2004.The company claimed the major automotive OEMs were offering it ‘excellent support’ for its development programmes.