Asset Tracking Industries – Rail

The UK Rail industry has one of the largest asset portfolios in the UK. It employs more than 190,000 people and comprises more than 2,500 stations, in excess of 20,000 miles of track and more than 30,000 bridges and tunnels.

The Cost of Railway Asset Theft, Loss and Damage

Each year cable theft incurs costs of up to £16million and, in 2016-17 alone, it cost UK commuters 23,670 minutes of travel delay. In addition, millions of pounds worth of valuable railway assets are stolen, damaged or misplaced every year. All of these issues pose safety risks as well as marring the overall customer experience and having a negative impact on the brand image of all the organisations and businesses involved in running the railways and trains.

It’s essential therefore, to create an asset lifecycle management system that gives a granular, real-time view of how these assets are utilised and streamlines, automates and optimises the Railway supply chain and Rail asset lifecycle.

Growth in the Rail Sector

The global smart railway market was estimated at $10.5bn last year and is expected to grow to $20.58bn by 2021. According to The International Transport Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, passenger mobility is set to increase by up to 300% and freight activity by up to 250%, between 2010 and 2050.

With such exponential growth expected, never has it been more important to align the Rail industries asset management and security systems with corporate objectives and customer requirements.

Smarter Technologies Group’s Orion Solutions for the Rail Industry

Orion Data Network

The Orion Data Network represents the latest in asset tracking and site security technology. It has been extensively deployed in the CIT (cash in transit) industry where crime has been cut by 75% in the UK, and in the construction and plant hire sector, where recovery rates of over 80% were achieved.

When Orion is deployed in the Rail industry it can be used to track and monitor everything from personnel to station assets and Rail freight. Orion provides real-time visibility of assets and events in order to co-ordinate a response between the various Railway stations, buildings and tracks, Rail headquarters and Smarter Technologies recovery teams who liaise with the local police.

Rail Asset Security, Tracking, Monitoring and Recovery

This includes tracking and monitoring assets such as vehicles, fuel stores and utilities, Railway equipment, machinery, cargo, containers, pallets, cables and trains. In addition to the RFID technology and GPS tags monitoring the location of all assets, the system can be integrated with IoT-enabled sensors, so you can determine other critical factors such as temperature, shock, tamper, tilt, moisture levels and air quality amongst many others. Orion also includes security solutions for access points such as site maintenance and station entrances.

NFC Group railway industry
Emergency Alerts for Rail Assets

In addition to 24/7 monitoring and tracking, Orion sends emergency alerts direct to your mobile device or laptop when an unusual event occurs or a piece of Rail equipment moves outside a pre-defined area. These alerts are accessible through Smarter Technologies Group’s web-based asset monitoring software and forwarded by voice, email, text or app to all the relevant people in the response process.

Orion is backed up by a monitoring and recovery solution that critically includes police liaison and expert help from our team at Smarter Technologies in order to secure arrest and conviction in the event of theft.

Other Features of Orion Rail Solutions

The Orion system can bring further benefits, including:

  • A digital display of the locality and the positions of all persons and vehicles carrying an Orion GPS tag
  • Panic buttons for individuals and lone workers in remote areas.
  • The ability to switch a stolen asset into beacon mode to allow a directional scanner to follow the asset at a distance and pinpoint its exact location.
  • Ability to track the asset on the entire Orion infrastructure, anywhere in the country.

Smarter Technologies Group’s goal for all Rail operations is to prevent loss of valuable assets and, when stolen assets have been stolen, recover them and work with the police to secure an arrest.

How Does Orion Technology for the Rail Industry Work?

Orion Gateways

An Orion gateway (similar to a Wi-Fi router) with an omni-directional aerial will be installed at various sites on the Railway, providing a private security ‘bubble’ around Railway property. These gateways are also positioned in other locations throughout the country, so the system can also track Rail freight in transit.

Asset Status

Assets, doors, gates, equipment, property, buildings and personnel located within this ‘bubble’ can be tagged with active RFID devices which will deliver information back to the gateway, such as position, temperature and motion status. This is then forwarded by the server via an app, a text message or email alert to everyone on the watch list. This server has a scheduling system, so alerts can be tuned out at certain times of the day and activated at others, as required.

Integration with Existing Rail Systems

As a further benefit, the Orion network can also be integrated with CCTV systems. Typically, in the first instance, the message is delivered to the CCTV monitoring station and it causes a camera to swivel, pan, and or zoom to record and time stamp the location. This becomes an indexed event that can be reviewed later.

In this way Orion provides a comprehensive end-to-end Railway asset management and security system.

A Smarter Rail Industry with Enhanced Customer Experience

Smarter Technologies Group understand the challenges faced by the modern Railway. Orion, is affordable technology aimed at reducing costs and the Rail industry’s carbon footprint. The Orion network increases efficiency by simplifying data communications and reducing operational outgoing expenditure. Orion’s unique technology carries data without relying on a mobile phone network, this means no SIM cards, no ongoings and reduced commercial costs. Orion offers a comprehensive solution that allows you to create a smart, safe, secure, efficient, greener Railway with better services and an enhanced customer experience. Importantly, Orion is extremely flexible allowing you to decide what services you require and control the roll out that suits requirements and budget.

Optimising Asset Lifecycle


With so many valuable assets at station, along the Railway track and on trains, it’s important to prolong the asset lifecycle and make inventory, maintenance, retirement and repurchasing as quick and automated as possible.

The information that Orion sends to you about your Rail assets enables predictive maintenance scheduling and automatic alerts as to the condition of assets and when they need fixing and replacing. You can also move equipment around between stations and always know where it is located and who is responsible for it.

Orion’s real-time insights allow you to change your Railway business model from reactive to insights driven by making better informed business decisions that prolong asset life and save time and money.

Track, Monitor and Recover Freight


Orion tags can be attached to freight containers to determine the location of the container asset and also of the valuable cargo. Again, a wide variety of sensors can be included in the solution to measure environmental and other factors that impact the Railway freight container and its contents. This keeps the cargo safe and help to maintain its quality as well as optimising the life of your containers and pallets and ensuring they are recovered for reuse.

Combatting Cable Theft and Enabling Cable Recovery

Metal Theft

The theft of metal is a huge problem for the Railway and, in addition to targeting copper cables, thieves and organised crime gangs also target overhead power lines and other metal such as fencing to sell for scrap.

The UK Rail network is fail safe, so when a cable is cut by a thief, all trains along that track are brought to a standstill. This is an essential safety mechanism to protect passengers and staff, but of course it also leads to lengthy timetable delays.

Network Rail has announced plans to replace copper cables with aluminium cable as these are less profitable for thieves and therefore less likely to be stolen. They are still at risk though, and the rollout of this scheme will in any event take a considerable time to complete. In the meantime, we need to deter and prevent theft and ensure that copper cable is recovered quickly.

Scrap Metal Dealer’s Act 2013

The introduction of the Scrap Metal Dealer’s Act in 2013 did help to assuage the situation at first and there was an 80% fall in both the number of cable theft incidents and associated delays. However the price of copper has risen again and the incidents of theft are starting to increase.

Soaring Copper Prices

Research by the London Metal Exchange shows that the price of copper has increased by more than 50% in less than a year and the government’s commitment to a new infrastructure strategy of over £500bn means that the opportunity for theft is also exponentially increased. According to the British Transport Police cable theft is occurring at least 5 times a week, causing 23,670 minutes of delays to passengers.

Challenges to Cable Theft Prevention & Recovery

One of the challenges of eliminating cable theft is the vast expanse of the Rail network and the remoteness of much of the environment on which it is situated.

Orion Solutions for Prevention & Recovery

Smarter Technologies Group works with local government, freight and passenger train operators, local police forces, other agencies and the bona fide metals recycling trade, to tackle metal theft through covert and overt tracking, monitoring and security systems, recovery solutions, enforcement, education and deterrence. Our Orion Cable Theft Tracking, Monitoring and Recovery solutions send instant alerts if the cable is dug up and cut and covertly tracks the location of the cable if the thieves manage to get away, so it can be easily recovered. Integration with CCTV and the covert tags supply invaluable evidence to secure arrest and conviction.

Securing the Safety of Key Railway Personnel


The UK Rail industry employs more than 190,000 people and comprises more than 2,500 stations and in excess of 20,000 miles of track. It is often necessary for Rail workers to be in remote locations working on track installation, signal repair and other maintenance work. These workers are potentially vulnerable to injury and attack from criminals, so Smarter Technologies Group have created Railway Lone Worker solutions such as location tagging and SOS panic buttons, to protect Railway workers and their equipment.

Align with Corporate Railway Objectives


Asset Management with Orion focuses on aligning the way you manage your Railway assets with your overriding corporate objectives for the Railway, stations, trains and passengers. Smarter Technologies group’s principle objective is to help you mange your assets so you can deliver your Rail services in a safe and sustainable way, for the lowest whole life and system cost.



Benefit from reduced insurance premiums as the security of your Rail assets, trains and sites is greatly improved


Address the challenges of cable theft and recover stolen cable


Streamline your Rail operations with predictive maintenance and efficient asset lifecycle management to reduce costs and get a great ROI


Create a sustainable business strategy for a greener, more productive and profitable Railway


Provide customers with excellent efficient services and minimal outages and delays


Make passenger travel and goods transit by Rail more appealing than other modes of transport


Maximise the usage of your freight containers and secure the integrity and safety of your cargo in transit.

Start tracking your assets

Contact NFC Group


Our experts are waiting to answer your enquiries and help design a solution for you.

Call on 0330 223 5000

NFC Group location


1 Austin Park, Yeoman Road, Ringwood, BH24 3FG, United Kingdom

See on the map

Railway enquiries

Fill out the contact form and let us know how we can help you. Our experts are waiting for you.

Our experts are waiting to answer your enquiries. Smarter Technologies will never use any of the details you supply us for any other purpose.