AKRON (Feb. 14, 2001) — Beta or VHS? Eight-track or cassette? Chocolate, vanilla or strawberry?
Some decisions are harder to make than others, and some standards are harder to agree upon than others.
In the world of technology, such dilemmas can lead to lengthy delays in new product development and commercialization.
For the better part of the last decade, several major tire makers and at least one producer of tire-related products have been working on computer chips that will monitor the temperature and pressure of very large tires used in mines and some construction projects.
Most of the systems have similar characteristics:
* A computer chip sensor mounted inside of a tire that periodically measures tire pressure and temperature;
* An ability to transmit those measurements to a receiver;
* The ability to download the data received to a computer; and
* The ability to have that data monitored by a dispatcher or control center.
When they are widely commercialized, the chip systems have the potential to save mine operators huge sums of money by warning when tire temperature or air pressure reaches a level that could cause tire damage or failure.
Such failures are costly, not only because the tires can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $40,000 each, but also because of vehicle downtime and resulting lost productivity.
Almost all involved in the development of this technology agree that standardization is a good idea, but there is none yet.
"Michelin would enjoy standardization, but how do you achieve it?" asked Pat Hicks, manager of earthmover management systems.
"We need to get a standardized technology so common readings are possible," said Morry Jones of Fuller Brothers, a maker of tire-related products.
A spokesman for Continental Tire North America Inc. said that original equipment manufacturers, such as Caterpillar and Terex, need to drive the development of common technology.
Mr. Hicks at Michelin identified what he sees as an obstacle to standardization, namely that "no one wants to talk about their system while it is under development."
He and Jeffrey P. Asay, marketing manager, technology services Bridgestone/Firestone Off Road Tire Co., both noted that an effort to develop standards was begun through the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) about one year ago. "The group concluded that such an effort was premature until the various technologies under development proved reliable," Mr. Asay said.