RFID technology began showing up on railcars in the mid-1980s. Then, the technology was used to track the delivery of products from one location to another. The products could be tracked over larger distances and while moving faster than if only barcodes were used. It only took approximately a decade for RFID technology to go from being a convenient option to a standard, which is still in use today in some form. Where this technology was once only used for tracking products, today it is also used to help keep track of people who use trains to get around or travel. 
The uses for RFID, also known as radio-frequency identification, are skyrocketing. For a long time, the technology was only connected to retail and military applications. Now, you can find RFID technology in nearly all facets of life. When it comes to managing a railway, the cargo hauled on it, and the people who run it, RFID has made life easier and safer. The simple and inexpensive addition of RFID technology allows today’s rails to be more dependable than they have ever been.
Railway Management Applications
There are many different applications for RFID technology when it comes to railways. They all have the potential to increase productivity and safety for both the cargo and the people working in and around each train. Each application gives a deeper understanding of what the railcar has endured during its time on the rails and allows people to understand when a railcar may need to be removed from service. Here are some of the most commonly used railway management applications. 
- Monitoring Maintenance: By putting RFID tags on railcars, the maintenance records of each railcar can be tracked with a scan and kept up to date. As maintenance is performed, it can be added to the report quickly and brought up during a future scan to ensure the car is safe to use.
- Protecting Cargo: RFID technology is one method of keeping track of train cargo and making sure it does not get taken. One simple scan can tell managers what is in each car, who has had access to it, and if any of the items were removed. This can deter theft of products and adds an extra layer of protection to both the railyard and the cars themselves.
- Providing Safety Checks: RFID technology also allows for safety checks for people both on and near the rails. This can help track people on the trains while in transport, those working in the railyards, and service people working beside the tracks.
- Real-time Updates: One of the best ways of using RFID technology is to supply real-time updates on where people or products are and when they’ll arrive. This can keep travelers aware of what time they will reach their destination and employees aware of when products will arrive at their next stop.
- Reporting Conditions: Another way that RFID technology can help ensure the safety of those in and around the train, plus the cargo, is by being able to report the conditions around the train. Should a derailment ever occur, the RFID tags can provide information that a human operator or passenger may be too traumatized to remember.
- Tracking Temperature: When a railcar is moving, figuring out if an axle or even the cargo is getting too warm is nearly impossible using any other method than RFID. This simple application can help prevent crashes and derailments by alerting the conductor or railway manager to a problem.
Whenever RFID technology is placed into a railway system, it allows for greater transparency about what is going on. This offers several benefits to both the people using the railways and those managing the railways. It allows everyone to make sure that each railcar is where it should be, holding what it should hold, and going where it needs to go. Plus, the technology helps provide an extra layer of protection for all people involved with the process. This helps to make managing the cars and the rails themselves much easier and safer. For instance, railways in India are looking to tag all wagons in order to locate and move them to places where there’s a requirement. This would prevent wagons from piling up at one end of the country, as well as fulfill a need at the other end, which is 2000 km away.
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