Founded in 2008 as an offshoot of ImageMap, a railway diagnostics leader, Tire Profiles is the industry leader in diagnostic systems and instruments that precisely measure tread depth and wear patterns. In 2014, Tire Profiles launched its TreadSpec product line, and its award-winning GrooveGlove handheld device. Today, its TreadSpec and GrooveGlove products are helping car dealerships, tire retailers, and auto-repair shops quickly assess customers’ tires to recommend strategies for rotation and replacement.
In the thin-margin world of automotive maintenance and repair, the aftermarket for replacement tires represents a largely untapped opportunity for greater sales volume and increased profits. But too often, car dealerships and independent garages fail to maximize their tire sales volumes because they can’t objectively present evidence to skeptical owners about the need for tire rotation or replacement. According to Jeff Hislop, chief technical officer of Irving, Texas-based Tire Profiles LLC, the old-school assessments are unreliable.
“Most everyone thinks they know how to eyeball their tire treads,” he said. “The old trick of using a nickel or a toothpick often won’t work because the grooves on modern tire designs are curved at the bottom. You can’t get the proper measurement, and you can’t properly assess the lateral wear unless you look at each groove. Those inaccurate estimates can lead to significant safety risks for drivers and missed revenue opportunities for retailers. Of course, the other obstacle is that far too few drivers – and repair shops, for that matter – actually take the time to assess their tires.”
As a result, after undergoing routine maintenance such as an oil change, too many vehicles leave repair shops with undetected tire issues that warrant attention. “Tires can be worn down to the point where they pose a safety hazard – but there’s no process for assessing and monitoring tire status,” Hislop said. “We saw an opportunity to improve that experience for the driver and enhance revenue for the service provider.”
In 2014, Tire Profiles unveiled “GrooveGlove,” a handheld laser scanner that captures and reports tread and alignment diagnostic data. According to Hislop, fast connectivity was an essential requirement for this innovative solution. “No question – we need speed,” he said. “We’re capturing an image of the license plate for vehicle ID, scanning the tire data, transmitting it, analyzing it, and downloading a report. But we’re also mindful that our solution has to be rugged enough to operate in an environment with heat, humidity, airborne dust, and other impediments.”
Needing a fast, rugged solution for GrooveGlove’s connectivity, Tire Profiles selected the Digi TransPort LR54, the industry’s fastest, most stable, and most secure router with LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) support for exceptional speed and connection integrity. Digi TransPort LR54 features an LTE-Advanced Category 6 (CAT6) modem with a four-port gigabit Ethernet switch and serial port for console access. The Wi-Fi model deployed by Tire Profiles contains dual-band, dual-concurrent 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz radios, personal/enterprise security, and multiple SSIDs for maximum range and throughput performance in IoT applications.
Using the integrated onboard camera and touchscreen interface, the service manager first scans the vehicle license plate with GrooveGlove. The image is sent via Wi-Fi to the Digi TransPort LR54 inside a Tire Profiles kiosk in the repair garage. From there, the plate information is sent over a Verizon IoT cellular network to the cloud for a VIN lookup. Simultaneously, with the lasers on, the user slowly moves the GrooveGlove device over each tire to capture precise measurements about groove depth and tread wear. GrooveGlove uses the same Wi-Fi-to-cellular-to-cloud path to send the tire data to Tire Profiles’s central server, where a customized “TreadTracker Report” (complete with recommendations and projections) is generated and sent back to the garage for local printing – all in about 15 seconds.
“We love what the Digi TransPort LR54 gives us,” said Hislop. “We get excellent speed and security, and we are able to use Digi Remote Manager® to centrally manage and update the routers – that’s a key to making this solution successful. I have Wi-Fi and 4G LTE-Advanced in a single device that a service customer can simply plug in – and everything works immediately. That opens the door to more tire sales and alignment services for our customers without any headaches or IT burdens.”