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U.K. Rail Services Company Tracks Train Health Via RFID

Alstom Transport has deployed Coriel Electronics' UHF RFID-based automatic vehicle identification solution to track rolling stock in rail yards.
By Claire Swedberg

In addition to capturing the RFID information and alerting the condition-monitoring system, the DcTrak software also provides the operator with system diagnostics and alerts related to the health of the sensors and readers. Alstom installed the system in 2013, and Coriel expects further installations by Alstom to take place throughout the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Multiple companies in the railway industry have also launched pilots of Coriel's AVI systems, and are using RFID for multiple use cases. For example, several rail infrastructure owners will soon launch tests of the AVI technology, to determine passive RFID's suitability to identify train cars moving at various speeds. Eventually, Leslie says, the data collected may be utilized to identify cars in need of servicing or replacement, with the objective of causing less damage to tracks and consequential interruptions of service.

Alstom has mounted Omni-ID's rugged Grip tags to the undersides of railcars.
As with the Alstom deployment, passive UHF RFID tags will be used—though in this case, they will be placed on the sides of each railcar. Tags will then be interrogated at various distances and speeds. The unique ID number encoded to each tag will be linked to the railcar owner, and details about that specific car will be combined with sensor data in Coriel's DcTrak software. Coriel will install RFID readers at trackside, Leslie explains, and sensors will capture the speeds at which each railcar passes. This information can help the rail owner prevent unnecessary track damage, he says, by identifying when a car would cause excessive strain on the tracks, as well as helping to determine when a car might fail entirely while in transit on those tracks.

Last year, Leslie reports, the company received certification from GS1 UK for its UHF technology. "The certification means that buyers who want to deploy a GS1 standards-based system will have the comfort that this technology is compliant with GS1 global standards," he states.

Additionally, Coriel is launching a tag-encoding application known as Tag-Star, designed to help ensure that no critical mistakes are made, such as encoding a tag with the wrong ID number or using the same number twice. What's more, the company offers RFID technology for use in other sectors, such as logistics and manufacturing. One example is a cable and drum (spool) management system known as SmartDrum, with which drums and spooled cable can be tracked and managed at worksites by personnel equipped with handheld readers, or by fixed reader portals.

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