Indian Railways implementing Automatic Identification and Data Collection (AIDC) of Rolling Stock (RFID Project)

Indian Railways is amongst the largest Railway systems in the world, addressing a significant part of the country’s transportation needs, both in the passenger and freight segment. It carries about 23 million passengers per day and over 3 million tons of freight every day over 65000 route kilometers. It has major growth plans and needs to improve service levels and operating efficiency. As a part of this endeavour, the RFID project has been taken up which aims to automatically and accurately track and trace rolling stock as they move across the country with a special focus on improving their safety and reliability. Two works for RFID project have been sanctioned by Railway Board for a total of Rs. 112.96 Crores. 

For implementing this project over Indian Railways, the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS, the IT arm of the Indian Railways), GS1 India and the Indian Industry have come together in alignment with the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. Thereby creating a new segment in the AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Collection) industry in India uniquely suited for the Indian Railways requirements. This project is being spearheaded by the Rolling Stock Department of the Indian Railways. GS1 India is deeply involved in ensuring the quality of the work and proper adoption of international standards. CRIS has been utilising the considerable expertise of GS1 in developing and validating solutions, based on GS1 Standards, for the Indian Railways. 

The project enables real time visibility of railway wagons through the National Rail Network using cutting edge technologies like RFID with GS1 global standards for unique & universal identification, in line with global best practices. It enables enhanced operational efficiency of the Indian Railways. This unique initiative of standards based technology development coupled with high-paced field work done by CRIS during last 15 months has now borne fruit – the complete technology eco-system for RFID implementation on the Indian Railways has been established jointly. 

In order that RFID tags can be used in all locations in the country including those with poor connectivity, Indian Railways opted to use the GIAI-202 standard. Indian Railways has successfully field tested these CRIS designed GIAI202 encoded tags at a speed of 182.7 kmph. This feat puts the Indian Railways in the league of leaders with respect to AIDC technology in the Railways sector.

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Implementation plans: The Indian Railways has aggressive implementation plans for RFID. All Rolling Stock, roughly 3,50,000 vehicles, are expected to be tagged by 2021. Till now approximately 22,000 wagons and 1200 coaches have been fitted with RFID tags. Additionally, roughly 3500 fixed RFID readers are expected to come up which shall communicate to a central control center using GS1’s LLRP (low level reader protocol) standard. 

The complete solution also includes the integration of RFID readers with various equipment such as Train Presence Detectors (TPDs), trackside condition monitoring equipment etc. The combination of all of these allows for an early identification of rolling stock that may need maintenance. This will enable a paradigm shift on the Indian Railways in its move to improve reliability of its Rolling Stock, by moving from a predominantly time based maintenance methodology to a condition based maintenance. The operational advantages in terms of improved availability and reliability of Rolling Stock will affect each and every customer of the Indian Railways. 

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AIDC is being expanded on the Indian Railways to more areas such as Direct Part Marking and material management based on GS1 standards such as GTIN, CPID, SSCC, GLN etc. Automating information capture about assemblies and components is a key element in the Indian Railways implementation of Industry 4.0. Greater accuracy in data capture accompanied by greater efficiency is the key driver. GS1 India’s initiatives such as DataKart etc. are all expected to play an important role in the creation of master data from the suppliers to the Indian Railways. 

Looking ahead: Future areas that are currently under study include laundry management, medical working and others.

Fixed reader site
BOXNHL wagon with RFID tags