South African Rail System Adopts Passive RFID For Vehicle,Asset Tracking

spoornetSpoornet,the rail transport division of Transnet,a diversified organization for the South African government,will equip their general freight rail fleet of 80,000 wagons with TransCore’s radio frequency identification (RFID)-based Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI) technology in a multimillion dollar contract to improve asset maintenance and utilization. TransCore is teaming with ANSYS Integrated Systems to deliver an initial order of 160,000 tags. The project is scheduled for completion in 2008.

Managing rail wagon assets represents a large expense,ranging from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars,so consequently,in-transit visibility into their location,status of a load,maintenance status,or avoiding it sitting empty in a rail yard poses an extraordinary communication process among multiple systems in an expansive transportation network. Using wireless RFID technology to monitor railway operational efficiency saves time and money by automating the process of tracking the location and status of railway equipment in both a high and low speed environment.


Spoornet will use passive RFID for tracking rolling stock in order to enhance equipment location information so operators can be aware of the contents and location of each wagon throughout its 14,400 route mile and 18,800 track mile rail network. With passive RFID,the signals being reflected from the tag mounted on the wagon to the reader are both directionalized and precise so that wagons are read in the order in which they pass,allowing the system to effectively “build the train.” Passive tags typically have no battery;as a result,passive’s more concise read range results in a targeted signal creating a highly accurate tracking system.

“Railroads have been instrumental and,in fact,have driven all aspects of the AEI product development since the original design in the early ’90s to today’s next generation RFID asset tracking tags. That is why this particular RFID technology has been readily adopted around the world,” explained Dr. Jerry Landt,TransCore’s chief scientist. Dr. Landt is one of the original five scientists who developed RFID for two divisions of the U.S. Federal Government and is author of some of the most instrumental RFID patents.

Spoornet will join China’s Ministry of Railways,the Association of American Railways and 16 other countries deploying AVI technology to monitor their rail assets. In North America alone 100 percent of all railcars in interchange service are required to be equipped with TransCore’s tags since the Association of American Railroads adopted TransCore’s Amtech brand of RFID technology as the standard for automatic equipment identification. Now,throughout the world and spanning five continents,TransCore has installed more than 6.5 million tags and 20,000 readers throughout the rail and intermodal industry.

TransCore’s president John Worthington explains,“This additional extension of our RFID technology is an important expansion into another strategic international market. Additionally,as an existing major satellite communications/GPS technology provider in South Africa,we are able to offer companies either of the wireless enabling technologies necessary to manage their logistics assets.”

1 comment to South African Rail System Adopts Passive RFID For Vehicle,Asset Tracking

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