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Integration of RFID in Indian Railways Operations

  • Akansha Sharma
  • Sep 28, 2023
  • RFID
RFID in Indian Railways

RFID technology is quickly emerging as a preferred IoT and AIDC technology for it provides accurate wireless identification and tracking of RFID tagged objects. RFID labels can be used to tag retail items, containers, RTIs, pallets, etc. and provide accurate inventory management, eliminating ‘out of stock’ scenarios.

Now RFID is being used in transportation sectors including the railway. As per a 2020 report, Indian railways is on a mission to tag all wagons with RFID tags by 2022. So far 23000 wagons been tagged with RFID tags to provide identification and tracking throughout the route. However, due to covid19 pandemic, the progress is slow.

What is RFID and How does it Work?

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which is a type of AIDC technology that uses low-powered radio signals to communicate data. These systems use a Tag, Reader, and Antenna to operate. A reader uses the antenna to broadcast radio signals and create an interrogation field around it. When a tag enters this zone of influence, it can use either radiative coupling or inductive coupling to transmit back a signal with the information in it. Once the antenna receives the signal from the tag, it sends it to the reader which converts it into a readable format.

Applications of RFID in Indian Railways

The Indian government has implemented the use of RFID in the railway industry in the year 2021. With the help of this technology, it becomes a lot easier to oversee the entire fleet of railway wagons throughout the country.

So, let us check the essential applications of this system.

Asset Tracking

The Indian Railway uses radio frequency identification technology to keep track of all of its 3,50,000 rail wagons. With the help of carefully placed readers along the rail network and IoT integration, we are able to centralize the tracking of every railway through the entire network.

Travel Route & Speed

By placing sensors throughout a route, the system logs every time a train passes through a checkpoint. This allows the users to check the travel time of a train between two points. This can make it easier to assess the performance and traffic volume along any route.

Maintenance Records

Having a fleet of 13,215 locomotives and 3,50,000 wagons, you can only imagine what a colossal task it is to maintain this massive infrastructure. Luckily, RFID readers and tags allow us to keep track of the maintenance records of all the assets – Last Service Date & Time, Number of Assets Serviced in the Current Cycle, etc. In addition, the integration of RFID with TPD (Train Presence Detectors) systems, allows the authority to perform necessary maintenance and service on parts before they even break. This is because TPD systems are capable of detecting Worn Friction Wedges, Missing Column Wear Plates, Broken Suspension Springs, Hollow Worn Wheels, etc and transmit the data to the database.

How will RFID Benefit Indian Railways Operations?

The estimated cost of this integration project was around ₹112 Crores, which is no small amount even for a country. That is because there are very clear advantages to using these systems that outweigh their cost.

Prevent Breakdowns

With the help of radio identification integrated with TPD and trackside conditions monitoring systems, we can collect information on worn or failing parts of every wagon. This allows us to perform preventive maintenance or just replace a part before it fails. This prevents breakdowns and accidents, making the entire infrastructure safer.

Improves Data Collection

These systems are all connected to the central database and continuously transmit information. This makes data collection extremely efficient and accurate. The authorities can then use this data to further improve the routes and infrastructure to make transportation faster and smoother.

Efficient Maintenance

As mentioned above, these systems allow us to make preventative management and prevent accidents & breakdowns. However, doing that, also cuts down on a lot of costs, as breakdowns and using worn equipment can increase the cost of operations. In addition to that, it helps you conduct maintenance operations smoothly and faster.

Real-time Visibility

RFID systems read and transmit data continuously, this feature allows it to provide information about the operations of the entire railway infrastructure. And significantly improves the visibility of the system.


Radio Frequency Identification technology has become very popular in a vast variety of industries like manufacturing, warehousing, retail, and now in transportation. As mentioned above, it was a daunting task to implement this system throughout the infrastructure, with exorbitant costs. However, with the application of this technology, we have made the railway infrastructure safer and more efficient.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How much does RFID tag cost in Indian rupees?

Ans - The cost of RFID tags can depend on many factors like Communication Range, Materials Used, Type of Tags, etc. RFID labels cost ₹5 onwards. However, the cost of a passive hard tag can be anywhere from ₹25 to ₹150 per piece. And for active tags, the average price range is from ₹250 to ₹700.

Q2. What is the use of RFID in the Indian railway?

Ans - Radio Frequency Identification systems have a lot of applications in the Indian Railways infrastructure. However, there are three primary uses of this technology, namely-

(A). Asset Tracking

(B). Data Collection

(C). Streamlines Maintainance

Q3. What are the challenges of using RFID tags on Metal Rail Wagons?

Ans- Rail wagons are made of metal and metal offers interference and that is why mount on-metal tags are used. These tags are designed with metal conductors and work well with metal objects.

A part from interference, RFID tags also get covered in dust, frost and other unwanted particles which again impacts RF signal transmission.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on May 23, 2023

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