Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

SBB Cargo digitises Freight Operations

William Payne
January 5, 2017



Finnish RFID specialist Vilant has equipped Swiss rail company SBB with RFID automated tracking for its freight rail operations. The Swiss freight operator plans to have all its freight cars equipped with RFID by the end of 2017.

By the end of 2016, 1,000 individual freight cars will have been equipped with RFID. Two RFID tags are attached to each car. SBB Cargo plans that by the end of 2017, around 5,000 cars out of 6,700 total will have been equipped with RFID.

The adoption of RFID is part of a larger overall automation and digitisation strategy being pursued by SBB. The company is attempting a Digital Transformation of its business, and has introduced the concept of the "Intelligent Goods Wagon".

The company is developing three new areas for freight digitised services. The first is "Asset Intelligence", measuring and monitoring the state of each car. Working with suppliers such as Vilant, and with Bosch Engineering, its main digitisation partner, SBB Cargo is aiming to digitise railway logistics. The Automation project relies on Asset Intelligence. This means that every freight car is equipped with sensors and a GPS. Temperature, mileage, charge data and position are accurately recorded and sent to the control centre. At present, around 150 wagons have been equipped with temperature monitoring. Weighing technology has been installed on the tracks.

The second area of automation and digitisation is "Efficient Manoeuvring and Train Formation". SBB's shunting operation is being modernised and digitised.

The third area is "Wayside Intelligence", which aims to be able to locate individual cars and freights with pinpoint accuracy at any point at any time within the network. The RFID project is part of this component of SBB's digitisation strategy.

With the RFID technology, SBB Cargo is able to respond to different customer requirements: the system automatically provides information on the wagon line at the shop or generates an arrival alarm and departure messages, depending on when a customer wants to be informed about the arrival of the train.