CES: Sumitomo Sensing Core Is a Sensor-Free Smart Tire

System could detect a range of situations even including detached wheels.

Sumotomo’s CES 2024 booth was designed around promoting the Sensing Core tire system. (Sumitomo)

Sumitomo Rubber Industries first announced its Sensing Core technology in 2017. But it wasn’t until 2024 that the Japanese tire maker used its debut appearance at CES to promote the sensor-free signal analyzer.

Sumitomo’s vice president of technical, David Johansen, speaks at CES 2024. (Sebastian Blanco)

Sumitomo president and CEO Satoru Yamamoto said the company exhibited at CES, “to expand our partner companies and to get more drivers and companies to know about this sensing core technology.”

Sumitomo’s vice president of technical, David Johansen, said 2024 could be a big year for Sensing Core. Johansen told SAE Media that the complete feature set presented at CES will be available later in 2024, and Sumitomo is looking for more partners to add to the “couple of contracts” Sumitomo has already signed.

“This is not something that we want to do stand-alone,” Johansen said. “We need to partner with the vehicle manufacturers or with a fleet to be able to apply this tool. We really want to grow this over the next six years. There are definitely targets for 2030 to have this very widespread. They’re looking at over 150 billion yen [$1B] in sales by 2030, selling the software to the OEMs.”

Built on DWS

Sensing Core is built upon Sumitomo’s Deflation Warning System, which already has 50 million sales to 25 OEMs, including 3.6 million in 2022. The DWS software can detect various tire conditions without needing additional hardware, not even TPMS sensors. In August 2023, Sumitomo and Viaduct, an AI-powered connected vehicle analytics company, announced a partnership to use Sensing Core for predictive failure services.

DWS and Sensing Core both use an indirect tire pressure monitoring system to analyze tire rotation signals and can detect changes in tire air pressure. Sumitomo works with brake manufacturers to install Sensing Core software on the brake ECU. Since Sensing Core is purely software, it can be installed in one of three ways: as a stand-alone system on the vehicle ECU, as a cloud-based system that adds shared information from other vehicles or as a cloud installation that uploads essential signals from the vehicle for analysis.

“We’re actually not installing sensors, directly,” Johansen said. “We’re using our knowledge of tire dynamics and then taking advantage of that, using the vehicle ECUs and the CAN to actually take the data from the vehicle itself that gives us the rotational speed, mu slip and more [and filter it for] a baseline differential.”

Because Sensing Core does not rely on additional physical sensors, Sumitomo can outfit a vehicle with the technology via cloud software, isolated on the vehicle or a combination of both. (Sumitomo)

Newly installed tires need a few minutes of what Johansen called “teaching time,” where the system sets the baseline rotational signal. “Then we’re able to actually look for differences from that, and then translate that into a pressure differential,” he said. “If you look at the tires’ slip and braking force, you can do a mu slip type of curve and identify the slope in that transitionary area. And then, basically, a change in slope will identify a change of grip, so we can use that to detect road conditions or if the tire is worn down.”

While both these problems would show up as slippage, a Sensing Core system samples conditions every 20 milliseconds and can therefore determine between poor road conditions, which show up as transient events, and tire wear, which appear as a more gradual decrease over time, Johansen said.

Software-based data analysis is the key to Sumitomo’s Sensing Core technology that can detect road conditions, tire air pressure and even potential wheel detachment. (Sebastian Blanco)

Another use case: wheel detachment warning

A Sensing Core system can detect other potential problems, Yamamoto said, including torsional force that could cause wheel detachment, the load on the tire and the degree of tire friction occurring on a circuit.

“Detachment is not something that we deal with here in North America, but in left-hand drive countries, because of the crown of the road, when they’re actually braking, they’re going in an opposite force from the direction that the lug nuts are torqued,” Johansen said. “It’s a serious issue in some left-hand drive countries, where the wheel lug nuts get loose, and the whole wheel comes off. So, that’s one of the features that has been a key focus for us in China and in Asia, primarily.”

Sumitomo is focused on different regions for different applications, Johansen said.

“There’s a strong synergy between Sensing Core and electric vehicles and, in the future, towards autonomous vehicles,” he said. “The U.S. is really the third-largest market for that, so right now, we’ve been working with China. We’ve [also] got relationships with car makers in Japan. The U.S. has the largest size of fleet management, and this software can also be used from a maintenance standpoint for the operator of the fleet to be able to track pressures, track wear, take a look at any other conditions that may signal that a vehicle needs to go down for service, something to take care of before it actually becomes a roadside event.”