Saturday, December 2, 2023

SensAiry: A Health Tracker for Cars

SensAiry solves a problem that might seem simple at a superficial level but eventually ends up causing a significant amount of trouble to millions of people. If you were looking at an elevator pitch for SensAiry, it could be this: “It enables people to check their vehicles’ tyre pressure and temperature using a smartphone.”--Dilin Anand

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SensAiry device
SensAiry device

Prabu Surendra, CEO, Tymtix, whose team built SensAiry, says that research has shown that vehicles with under-inflated tyres are three times more likely to be involved in a road accident. “Yet, people do not check the tyre pressure as often as they should. One reason could be to avoid the hassle of going to a service station and waiting in queue to get the tyre pressure back up to the recommended manufacturer specified levels,” he says.

Petrol-heads could be early adopters
If you are a car or bike enthusiast, you will know how important it is to maintain the optimal tyre pressure and temperature to maximise traction. SensAiry eyes and ears, so to say, are a temperature and pressure sensor packed together. The rest of the device focuses on gathering data and comparing it to set thresholds programmed into the firmware to make the decision as to whether there is a problem that the user should know about.

The device uses a coin-cell battery and works on a 2.4GHz frequency, which enables a longer coverage for the device while measuring up to 150psi at almost 10,000rpm.

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Under normal conditions, it collects data and transfers it to the smartphone running SensAiry app, where the user can go through the information presented on it. However, if there is a situation involving, say, a heated-up tyre or a puncture, the device sends out notifications to the driver so that she or he can do what is necessary.

The best part is that, what comes after the device gathers a lot of data.“For example, let’s say there is a very small puncture on a car tyre. Users would not be able to see the tyre pressure variance over a period of a few days, but the app collects data and can alert vehicle owners to these minor punctures that are not obvious to them,” explains Surendra. The product also lets you track multiple vehicles simultaneously.

Essentially, what they have done here is data visualisation and analytics on tyre and pressure data. It is somewhat similar to what the billion-dollar company Jawbone has famously done with their UP series of bands.

Another element that will be included in future models is shock detection. An accelerometer that senses shocks caused due to bumps and road problems will help users better estimate and even elongate the life of the tyre by making sure they are taking care by keeping the tyre properly inflated. It will also help them properly maintain the tyre pressure during dry and rainy months when it is recommended to slightly decrease or increase the pressure to maximise performance.

The accelerometer can also help users judge the performance of the suspension setup. If they have spent a bomb on getting Koni, Bilstein or Tien shocks for their cars, they can use this app to follow up on the installation to track how shock-data changes for the car while running on the same strip before and after suspension upgrade.

What Surendra is more excited about is the potential to use the data flowing in from a large number of SensAiry-enabled vehicles to judge the road conditions of different cities. This idea has the potential to change the way we think about judging road quality in cities.

How it stacks up to the alternatives
There are a lot of alternative tyre pressure-monitoring systems (TPMSes) in the market where they connect a gadget on the tyre and a small display is mounted on the dashboard through which you can see data on tyre pressure. In high-end vehicles this could be integrated to the vehicle’s stock infotainment system, too. But these solutions require vehicle owners to be inside their vehicles to check tyre pressure, which is not a requirement for SensAiry.

One unique challenge that none of the existing solutions for non-luxury vehicles solve is that these do not alert you about a tyre puncture or critically-low tyre pressure until you are near the car or turn on the ignition. The problem here is that it makes the situation ripe for that unfortunate day where you are greeted by a flat tyre while hurrying to your office in a jacket and trousers.

A more significant benefit is for fleet-management companies that have long trailers or road trains with a large number of tyres at complex locations. Some might have multi-axle tyres where there are eight tyres at one point in a bus. Then there are lorries with 64 tyres—imagine the pain of installing a normal TPMS.

Design challenges
Tyres on any vehicle face some very extreme conditions, so placing your components inside these is a technically-challenging aspect of their design. In fact, some people say that this is exactly the place where an electronic system should not be installed.


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