Michelin engineers have announced that they have developed a radio frequency identification (RFID) transponder that is manufactured into tires and stores vital tire identification information. According to Michelin, with this technology, the tire identification number can now be associated with the vehicle identification number (VIN) making the tires uniquely identifiable with an individual vehicle, telling when and where the tire was made, maximum inflation pressure, tire size, etc. "This innovation has attractive implications for tire makers, for vehicle makers and for consumers," said Tom Chubb, vice president of new product development for Michelin Automotive Industries Division. "For vehicle and tire makers it means a simple and innovative way to comply with federal record keeping standards, including those of the new TREAD (Transportation, Recall, Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation) Act. For consumers it means convenience and confidence." Michelin says the transponder consists of an antenna and an integrated circuit that has a higher data capacity than a bar code, yet the integrated circuit is only about the size of a match head. It can be encoded and decoded with a hand-held device and unlike a bar code, remains unaffected by soil or deterioration over time. The information on the circuit can also be modified to reflect new data, such as the VIN number of the vehicle on which it is mounted. The integrated circuits are manufactured by Fairchild Semiconductor and Philips. As part of the supply arrangement, Philips provides its brand new I.CODE HSL IC. Both ICs are under license from Intermec Technologies Corporation. Michelin says its contribution to this RFID system was its modification of the antenna attached to the electronic device. According to the company, operating at ultra high frequency (UHF), the Michelin RFID tag can be interrogated by a reader, hand-held or mounted, some 24 inches or more (at or beyond 60cm) away from the transponder. Once collected, the information can be stored in a database for accurate and easy retrieval. Fleet testing of the technology is currently under way. Michelin says it will gladly make the technology available to the entire industry. Michelin says the RFID technology will most likely be introduced through the original equipment market, but could soon be feasible for replacement tires as well.