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By ASE Team

RFID – Technology in Rail Freight Transport


Dear Companists,

As promised, we will explain the topic of RFID and the benefits of ASE’s technology. Most parties in the transport and logistics industry are familiar with transport tracking via RFID technology. RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, which basically means high frequency identification. This process is part of a group of automated systems to identify goods and functions via contactless signal exchange. Transponders and RFID tags play a key role in this process. They are very small and light and can be applied directly to the goods, transport containers, and loading equipment as stickers. (Source:


RFID vs. OCR: Which telematics solution has a future?

But which of the two technologies is better suited for which use? OCR (optical character recognition) is a more reliable and affordable solution for infrastructure operators in rail freight transport.

The implementation of an RFID tag reader is technically unproblematic. According to leading European railway companies (ÖBB, SBB, SNCF, DB, Infrabel, etc.), however, equipping with RFID tags does not appear to be feasible throughout Europe, as too many new and old wagons are mixed on the track network. With regard to freight wagons, the following applies: As long as 100% of wagons are not equipped, a train combination with subsequent automatic checking is not safe enough.

For example, if one or two wagons without an RFID tag are present in the train network or the RFID tag is damaged, these wagons cannot be automatically recorded. In this case, a train with 20 wagons would only be carried at 18 once it has been recorded. This mistake would be difficult to detect in practice.

In principle, all wagons are recorded during video capture, even if the UIC number has not been read (e. g. due to graffiti etc.) No wagons are lost as long as the camera is in working order.



Another disadvantage is that trains contain metal, which can interrupt energy transmission to the tag and data transmission to the receiver unit considerably. Furthermore, the tags are liable to damages, for example from loading processes or vandalism. One also has to consider that the maximum speed when passing is restricted by physical limits. In order for a wagon to be recognized properly, each side of it needs to be equipped with a tag. This doubles installation costs as well as the risk of damage or loss.

RFID tags would have to be attached to each individual wagon for each train in order to ensure continuous data exchange.  In view of the number of wagons to be equipped (by 2016 DB alone had a stock of approx. 85,000 wagons / source: Statista), it can be assumed that this investment would be considerably higher than a local implementation of a NUMBERCheck system.

For this reason, ASE’s NUMBERCheck concentrates on OCR and the UIC number. The 12 digit UIC wagon number in rail freight transport is unique worldwide. It allows for exact identification of freight and passenger wagons and contains key data for railway traffic.

The main advantage of evaluating UIC numbers over all other systems is that each wagon has to be marked with the UIC number on each side before entering use. This means that only the evaluation sensor needs to be set up additionally. Another advantage of ASE’s NumberCheck systems is the camera-based sensor. It allows for the recognition of damages, identification of dangerous goods, and more without additional hardware expense. Last but not least, RFID cannot provide status documentation as neither images nor videos are recorded.


Best Greetings from Bruchsal,

Your ASE team!


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