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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

The agency decided that RFID would be the best technology for accomplishing this goal. UTA figured that with an RFID tag attached to each of the major components, and readers deployed along the rails, it could collect data about when components leave and return from the yard, thereby indicating when they were in use and for how long.

UTA conducted an RFID pilot project involving its Siemens S70 light-rail vehicles at the agency's Jordan River Service Center in Salt Lake City. The pilot involved applying tags to four rail cars and 22 separate components on each of those vehicles, as well as installing two RFID readers, each with eight antennas installed alongside the tracks or between the rails.

An Omni-ID Dura 1500 tag was attached to the underside of this rail car.
UTA's RFID implementation was a group effort. The agency set up a committee that would include asset-management personnel, as well as members of UTA's procurement, operations, maintenance and IT departments. It issued a request for proposals, and ultimately picked Seattle integrator Swiftsure Group and its partner, American RFID Solutions (ARS), for the winning bid.

American RFID and Swiftsure Group reviewed UTA's software requirements, as well as the physical demands for the readers and where they should be located. The companies also considered tag requirements and where to place those tags on the vehicles. ARS provided its TrackStar software, which was hosted on a dedicated server onsite, according to Bruno Riegl, Swiftsure's CEO.

UTA installed an RFID reader portal at two tracks that enter and exit the maintenance rail yard. Each portal consisted of a Motorola Solutions (now Zebra Technologies) FX9500 reader and eight ARS HD500 antennas: four installed atop a signal pole to read tags mounted on the top of the cars, two attached to the pole at ground level, and two positioned between a track's two rails to interrogate tags glued to the cars' undersides. At the portal locations, train speed is at 15 miles per hour.

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