The objective of this thesis is to investigate the application of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to the traffic engineering sector of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). RFID has been used for automatic data collection since World War II but the recent attractiveness of wireless communication systems has opened the door for it to change the way transport systems function in the near future. RFID systems do not suffer from the limitations of traditional identification systems as they are not affected by harsh environments, excessive dirt, dust, moisture or speed. It is the hypothesis of this report that RFID would be an effective measure in the improvement and expansion of ITS systems. In this report the positive and negatives of a RFID systems are explored and its current and potential uses investigated. This information was gathered through a review and analysis of relevant literature and the key findings are listed in the Discussion section.
A standard RFID based system consists of transponders (which are also referred to as tags), readers, radio frequency modules, antennas and host computers. The tags are small electronic devices that reflect and modify received continuous radio wave signals which are retrieved over the air by the reader. It is hard to subdivided the types of tags or systems into one or two categories. Tags can vary from being read only to read/write, and they can also be either active or passive. The RFID systems may vary with their transmission methods or the frequency they operate on. Whatever their configuration, their suitability for application to ITS is undeniable.
RFID applications are currently being applied to ITS systems such as Intelligent Traffic Information Systems (ITIS), Intelligent Traffic Management System (ITMS) and Automated Vehicle Control System (AVCS). Its use is already apparent in technologies such as automated vehicle identification (AVI) and billing, weighing vehicle in motion (WIM), collision warning and avoidance, traffic information, route guidance, traffic signal control and optimisation, automatic accident detection and automatic vehicle spacing. Currently RFID has been made relevant to car, bus and train applications, as well as in fields such as emergency vehicles, access control/identification, toll collection, underground systems, and freight applications. Its possible future applications can include technologies such as hands free cash handling, metal detection, increased security functions and most notably automatic guided vehicle systems. This naturally is only a list that is suited to the scope of this project. The list of its possible uses is virtually endless and limited only by one’s imagination.
Any disadvantages that have been found with the RFID system stem from poor understanding and misconceptions regarding its functions. In reality using RFID should trigger the same privacy concerns as other commonly used technologies such as credit cards, cell phones and the internet. There is however a lack of standardisation globally and within individual countries. This nevertheless can be easily overcome by the global deliberation to form a universal standard for RFID systems.
RFID has the advantage over existing technologies due to its reliability and flexibility to conform to an endless variety of applications. It has the lead over other identification approaches such as bar coding and infrared technology because it does not require line of sight to identify the object. RFID can be used in hostile environments where excessive dirt, dust, moisture, and/or poor visibility would normally hamper rapid identification. RFID also posses the ability to improve operation management because it reduces labour and thus eliminates human error. The RFID tags are capable of carrying the equivalent of two pages of text (which is significantly more than the capability of bar code technology), and have the ability to respond in less than 50 milliseconds. Another advantage that is particularly appropriate for the ITS industry is that a single reader has the ability to track multiple items through a portal at one time. This eliminated the need for queues in applications such as toll collection as more than one vehicle could be identified at the same time. Overall the advantages that RFID systems can provide, far outweigh any concerns that are associated with the system. RFID is shown to be an effective and successful technology for use in the ITS industry.