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RFID Helps Keep Utah Transit Authority on Track

UTA is deploying passive RFID tags and readers to manage rail cars and components, schedule their maintenance and inspection, and comply with federal rules.
By Claire Swedberg

Stockley says that the companies opted to use Omni-ID Dura 1500 passive UHF tags for their durability and reliable reads in the presence of metal. Because there could be no welding or bolts on tags, they were applied via epoxy.

When each component was tagged, its serial number and history were entered into the TrackStar software and paired to the unique ID number encoded to the tag. The software stores a parent-child relationship between a car's tag and those of its components, says John Rommel, ARS' director of sales and marketing, and also provides five custom reports with built-in data exchange for PDF, cvs or Microsoft Excel files. In addition, the software provides a custom dashboard and user-defined searches for data of interest, adds Sally McDonald, ARS' manager of customer care.

Eight ARS antennas were deployed for each reader, including four installed atop a signal pole to read tags mounted on the top of the cars, as well as two attached to the pole at ground level.
The one-year pilot project ended early this year. During that time, the group tracked the movements of the tagged assets, and that data was compared against vehicle mileage. The pilot's scope, Stockley says, was to determine whether the tags could be read and the software could collect that data. Further deployment will involve identifying how that information can be used to learn more about the components' usage history, and to schedule maintenance and inspections.

To date, UTA has RFID-tagged 38 light-rail vehicles and their components. "We will have our entire fleet of 77 tagged by the end of 2015," Stockley reports. "The challenge is getting time to install the tags on vehicles, because they spend the majority of their time in revenue service. I would estimate by the end of 2015, UTA will have over 2,500 tags in service."

By the end of this year, UTA also plans to provide handheld readers to employees so that when they perform maintenance or inspections, they will be able to use the devices to update data about the components on which they work. Eventually, UTA hopes to expand the technology's use to all 60 of its commuter-rail vehicles, all 700 of its buses and all 400 of its vans. The agency would next like to install wireless sensors that measure impact, pressure, temperature and vibration levels, in order to identify changing conditions. For instance, sensors could determine the kind of motor vibration to which a component has been exposed, to help determine maintenance schedules.

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