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RFTrax Adds RFID to Railcar Tracking

The company is rolling out an RFID-enabled hardware and services platform, initially to the rejuvenated rail industry and companies shipping by rail.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
May 25, 2006As fuel prices continue to climb, shippers are starting to increase usage of rail as an alternative to trucking. As a result, rail operators are seeing revenue increases of as much as 19 percent, according to RFTrax, a Sugar Land, Texas, provider of asset-management solutions. Shippers and rail operators are also looking for better ways to track and monitor high-value goods being shipped, says Hal Haygood, president of RFTrax.

This week, RFTrax announced a products and services suite, the Asset Management Platform (AMP), combining RFID interrogators with other sensors to generate location and environmental data that is sent to a back-end system via a wireless GSM cellular or Iridium satellite communications link. RFTrax is partnering with Identec Solutions for the RFID hardware offered as part of AMP. The company is initially marketing the platform to the rail industry, and to shippers using rail.

RFTrax customers purchasing the RFID-enabled ACU (shown above) can also buy Identec Solutions' IQ UHF active tags, which they can then encode and attach to goods.

Specialized Rail Transport, a Houston-based rail operator that ships large turbines, generators and transformers for companies such as General Electric, has already committed to using the new platform. "A generator can be worth as much as $10 million," says Bob Felix, Specialized Rail Transport's vice president, "so our customers want to know exactly what's going on with that unit," and where it is at any given time.

Specialized Rail Transport has been using a device that sends the GPS data for its railcars in transit to the company's back-end systems. The unit, which includes a shock sensor, does not function as consistently as the company would like, Felix says. The company also wants to integrate RFID into its tracking system so it can identify specific products in transit, and to have the ability to add different types of sensors.

Felix says his company plans to offer tracking and monitoring services to its clients as a premium on top of its transport services, which is how it currently uses the GPS and shock tracker. The firm has ordered five ACU units and a license for the AMP software, which RFTrax says it can easily integrate with most existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) or manufacturing execution system (MES) platforms.

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