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Role of RFID in Public Transportation: Applications and Benefits

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Aug 07, 2023
  • RFID
RFID in Public Transportation

 In the modern world, traveling is a part of day-to-day life, whether it is to & back from work, leisure, or something else. In Delhi alone, more than 2.5 million people use the metro system, every day to travel throughout the NCR. In an industry with such a high volume of daily foot traffic, many issues like security, access control, and waste can arise quickly. For example, imagine the amount of wastepaper an organization like Metro would generate every day if they used paper tickets. Therefore, many of these organizations RFID technology to optimize their operations.

Today, we will discuss the role of RFID in Public Transportation, so without wasting any time, let’s get into it.

What is RFID?

It refers to a class of Automatic Identification & Data Collection (AIDC) technology; the full form of RFID is Radio Frequency Identification. These systems function by communicating data wirelessly by using radio signals.

In order to function, any RF system requires 4 basic components, namely: Tags, Reader, Antennas, and Software.

RF Tags

These are the main component of an RF system. These tags store the information regarding the items and go on the assets, to make them readable by the system. There are different types of tags, suitable for a variety of applications and industries. However, there are two basic classes of RFID tags, known as Active & Passive.

Active Tags contain an internal power supply that is used to broadcast a carrier signal to communicate with the reader. They do not require assistance from a reader to start operating, making them active in functionality. On the other hand, Passive Tags do not have any internal source of power, so it uses the signals from the readers to power up and transmit information.

A few other classifications of tags are Mount On-Metal, Hard Tags, Wet/Dry Inlays, NFC Tags, etc.


This is the other end of the RF system. There are different types of readers based on their operating frequency, antenna attachment & data transfer methods. The job of an RFID reader is to convert the signals received from the tags into readable data. Some basic types of readers are Fixed Mounted, Handheld, Integrated, etc.


Although these are considered a separate part of the system, antennas operate in tandem with the readers. The antennas are responsible for two tasks. Firstly, they convert the digital signals from the reader and broadcast them as electromagnetic signals (radio signals) and create a field of influence around them. Secondly, it receives the signals coming back from the tags and converts them into digital signals before sending them to the reader.

There are many types of antennas available in the market, like-

•   Far Field Antenna

•   Near Field Antenna

•   Circular or Linear Polarized

•   Ground Antenna

•   Shelving Antenna, etc.


The last component of a radio frequency identification system is the software. This software runs on a computer and allows the user to operate the RF system. The software is essential for the hardware to communicate data with the central hub/database.

RFID software can be pre-built and come with the hardware. Or users can get custom-designed software that works with their hardware.

Applications of RFID in Public Transportation

After reading the brief above, you most probably know the basics of Radio Frequency Identification technology. So, let’s come back to public transportation and the use of RF technology in this industry. Below are the most important applications of RFID technology in the Public Transportation Industry.

(A). Automated Ticketing System

The primary use of this technology in the public transit system is for ticketing purposes. Many agencies now use RF-enabled travel pass/card instead of tickets. These smart cards have an RF inlay inside them that can store the balance of travel credits. All that is required now is to have the security gates have an NFC-enabled lock.

For example, the Delhi Metro offers passengers a smart travel pass (known as the Metro Card). The passengers have to tap these cards on the surface of the security gates’ panels, both while boarding and deboarding the train. At deboarding, the exit gate panel automatically deducts the amount of credit that is associated with the number of stations traveled from the card. 

In addition, passengers can easily recharge the cards too, they just need to pay the recharge amount using any online portal that works with the Metro system. Then just use the kiosks at the stations (these kiosks are NFC enabled), just tap the card on the kiosk, and tap on the recharge button, and the amount will be automatically added to your travel pass.

(B). Vehicle Tracking

RFID tags are also popular for vehicle tracking needs; when operating a large public transport system, the users have to keep in account all the transports that are available to them. So, they equip their assets (transports/vehicles) with RF stickers. Whenever a vehicle leaves or enter the depot, the readers on the gates update the available asset stock information in the database.

(C). Employee Access Control

Public transportation facilities don’t just use this technology to give access/entry to travelers, but also to employees. Each employee is given a custom ID card, these cards are RF enables and help them acquire access to the premises and provide attendance during their work shift.

(D). Maintenance Records

An essential part of operating mechanical components like transportation or machinery, is maintenance. These machines go through regular cycles of wear and tear during daily operations, making preventative maintenance very important to ensure smooth functioning & preventing breakdowns. However, creating manual schedules & records become very difficult as the size of the fleet increases.

India has more than 2.2 million buses in the public transportation industry. With the integration of RFID technology, businesses can ease this task and create a system that automatically updates the service records of equipment. In addition, these systems can set up automatic alerts & reminders of upcoming preventative servicing, based on a custom template.

(E). Data Collection

Lastly, as I have mentioned many times before; an important part of running any business smoothly & successfully, one must give importance to data collection. When users have access to important operational data like number of travelers, popularity of routes, maintenance requirements, etc., they can adjust their operations accordingly and compete competently in the market. 

Why Use RFID Technology in Public Transportation Industry?

Now you know how this technology is integrated into the public transportation industry. So, it’s time to discuss, why this technology is so popular in this particular industry. 

(A). Reduced Congestion

The biggest benefit of using RFID in public transportation is its ability to tackle the risk of congestion due to peak hour foot traffic. Meaning, during peak hours like office hours, these facilities usually see a high volume of passengers incoming. This leads to a crowd and a large line of people in front of the ticketing counter and the security terminals. By using travel passes, passengers can outright bypass ticketing counters and proceed straight through the security gates to the transport.

A steady flow of travelers ensures that all the vehicles contain the optimum number of passengers and saves the passengers’ time.

(B). Data Analysis & Optimization

Another huge benefit of utilizing a wireless AIDC solution in this sector, allows the users to automatically collect data like operations data, popular routes, service records, etc. With the help of this data, the users can run analysis to optimize their operations making public transportation more efficient and secure.

(C). Digital Transactions

Instead of using cash, standing at ticket counters, or automated ticketing kiosks, passengers can just put in the recharge amount on the transport organization’s online portal. Then use the kiosk to recharge their travel passes in a couple of steps and within seconds. This has two advantages. Firstly, it saves the passengers a lot of time. Secondly, it bypasses the risk of transaction failure due to defective/crumpled currency notes.

(D). Improves Security

By replacing access control from manual to automated systems, users can eliminate the possibility of corruption or errors. Manual security can be fooled, but unless you have the encryption code and the correct RF equipment at home, you’d find it very difficult to fool the access control gate at the premises.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How is RFID used in transportation?

RFID technology has many uses in public transportation systems like tracking, access control, ticketing, service management, etc.

Q2. What is RFID in buses?

There are two primary purposes for implementing RF technology in buses. The first one is to automate inventory management at bus garages/depots after the working hours have ended. The second is to track the bus on its route. 

For example, in transportation systems like the BRTS, the buses travel along a specific lane. In these systems, there are RF readers placed at specific intervals all along the lanes and the stations, connected to the central database. This allows the passengers to easily track the buses and see their arrival times.

Q3. What is the use of RFID in railways?

Railways consist of two major components, the engines, and the bogeys. Depending on the route, cargo, and type of travel; these organizations utilize different sets of bogeys and engines. Each engine & bogey is tagged with an RF tag making it easier to be identifiable. This allows the railway corporation to easily conduct its operations & also helps with creating a proper maintenance schedule.

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 Aug 07, 2023

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