South African Rail System Adopts TransCore's Passive RFID Technology to Monitor Logistics Assets

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Spoornet, the rail transport division of Transnet, a diversified organization for the South African government, will equip their general freight rail fleet of 80,000 wagons with TransCore's radio frequency identification (RFID)-based Automatic Equipment Identification (AEI) technology in a multimillion dollar contract to improve asset maintenance and utilization. TransCore is teaming with ANSYS Integrated Systems to deliver an initial order of 160,000 tags. The project is scheduled for completion in 2008.

Railroads have been instrumental and, in fact, have driven all aspects of the AEI product development since the original design in the early '90s to today's next generation RFID asset tracking tags. That is why this particular RFID technology has been readily adopted around the world

Managing rail wagon assets represents a large expense, ranging from tens to hundreds of millions of dollars, so consequently, in-transit visibility into their location, status of a load, maintenance status, or avoiding it sitting empty in a rail yard poses an extraordinary communication process among multiple systems in an expansive transportation network. Using wireless RFID technology to monitor railway operational efficiency saves time and money by automating the process of tracking the location and status of railway equipment in both a high and low speed environment.

Spoornet will use passive RFID for tracking rolling stock in order to enhance equipment location information so operators can be aware of the contents and location of each wagon throughout its 14,400 route mile and 18,800 track mile rail network. With passive RFID, the signals being reflected from the tag mounted on the wagon to the reader are both directionalized and precise so that wagons are read in the order in which they pass, allowing the system to effectively "build the train." Passive tags typically have no battery; as a result, passive's more concise read range results in a targeted signal creating a highly accurate tracking system.

"Railroads have been instrumental and, in fact, have driven all aspects of the AEI product development since the original design in the early '90s to today's next generation RFID asset tracking tags. That is why this particular RFID technology has been readily adopted around the world," explained Dr. Jerry Landt, TransCore's chief scientist. Dr. Landt is one of the original five scientists who developed RFID for two divisions of the U.S. Federal Government and is author of some of the most instrumental RFID patents.

Spoornet will join China's Ministry of Railways, the Association of American Railways and 16 other countries deploying AVI technology to monitor their rail assets. In North America alone 100 percent of all railcars in interchange service are required to be equipped with TransCore's tags since the Association of American Railroads adopted TransCore's Amtech brand of RFID technology as the standard for automatic equipment identification. Now, throughout the world and spanning five continents, TransCore has installed more than 6.5 million tags and 20,000 readers throughout the rail and intermodal industry.

TransCore's president John Worthington explains, "This additional extension of our RFID technology is an important expansion into another strategic international market. Additionally, as an existing major satellite communications/GPS technology provider in South Africa, we are able to offer companies either of the wireless enabling technologies necessary to manage their logistics assets."

About TransCore's Next Generation RFID Rail Technology

For Spoornet, TransCore will ship 160,000 AT5118 tags. ANSYS Integrated Systems, specializing in the design, development, integration and support of advanced technology systems and products for the defense, aerospace, manufacturing and transport industries, is responsible for integrating the system and will work directly with Spoornet. The next generation tags are faster than current tags in the market and feature read/write capabilities are battery-less and provide a technology that can grow as the customer's needs grow. The AT5118 tag operates in the 915 MHz radio frequency (RF) band application, and is packaged in a factory-sealed case, which makes it ideal for mounting on railcars, vehicle chassis, intermodal containers, or in any environment requiring a durable, weatherproof tag. The tag can be factory-programmed, as specified by the customer, or user-programmed in the field. The tag has extended data capacity of 1088 bits, and is beam-powered where a small portion of the RF signal energizes the tag's circuitry so no internal battery is required. In addition to giving the tag an unlimited service life, this feature curbs the tag's range and reduces the possibility of cross-reads from nearby tags, providing a 5- to 10-foot (1.5- to 3-meter) diameter reading area.

About Spoornet

Spoornet is the largest division within Transnet, a diversified organization whose sole shareholder is the South African government and an organization that operates and controls the major transport infrastructures within South Africa. The Spoornet division represents the group's rail freight and long distance passenger transport interests. Spoornet's core competency is the movement of freight on rail. Through joint ventures, alliances and partnerships with customers and service providers, Spoornet aims to transform the freight sector into an effective and efficient logistics management industry.

About TransCore

TransCore is dedicated to driving inefficiencies out of surface transportation through innovation. The company's almost 70-year heritage supporting the transportation industry spans a range of offerings for the rail, intermodal, trucking, toll, traffic management, airport, parking, access control and homeland security markets. With installations in 44 countries, more than 100 patents, and pioneering applications of RFID and satellite communications technologies, TransCore's expertise is unparalleled in the markets it serves. In 2006, TransCore was honored by Inbound Logistics Magazine as one of the Top 100 Logistics providers while Engineering News-Record (ENR) ranked TransCore No. 57 out of the Top 500 Design Firms and No. 11 for firms that specialize in transportation.

TransCore operates as a unit of Roper Industries, a market-driven, diversified growth company with 2005 revenues of $1.5 billion, total capitalization of over $4 billion, and is a component of the S&P MidCap 400 and Russell 1000 Indexes. For more information, visit

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Barb Catlin
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