What is FASTag Technology and its Importance

By: Dr. S. S. VERMA; Department of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal

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Basics of FASTag

FASTag is an electronic toll collection system in India, operated by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). FASTag is a device that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly while the vehicle is in motion. FASTag (RFID Tag) is affixed on the windscreen of the vehicle and enables a customer to make the toll payments directly from the account which is linked to FASTag and enables to drive through toll plazas without stopping for transactions. FASTag is mandatory throughout India now with majority of the Toll Plazas accepting it as the only mode of transit and the remaining are in the process to do so. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has launched two mobile Apps – MyFASTag and FASTag Partner to facilitate the availability of FASTags for Electronic Toll Collection. The tag can be purchased from official Tag issuers or participating Banks and if it is linked to a prepaid account, then recharging or top-up can be as per requirement. As per NHAI, FASTag has unlimited validity. The same FASTag can be used till the tag is read by the reader and not tampered with. In case due to wear and tear the reading quality depreciates, a FASTag is required. FASTag is issued by Issuing Banks for a charge maximum of Rs. 200/ – for each tag. Dedicated Lanes at most of the Toll plazas have been built for FASTag. To get a FASTag, one needs documents like registration certificate (RC) of the vehicle, passport size photo of the owner, KYC documents according to the category of the vehicle owner (individual/corporate), identification document (PAN Card, Passport, Voter ID Card) and Aadhar Card with the address. FASTag can be purchased online from Issuer Banks websites / NHAI website / IHMCL website and will be delivered by courier at the door step of the purchaser.

Electronic toll collection

Electronic toll collection (ETC) is a wireless system to automatically collect the usage fee or toll charged to vehicles using toll roads, high-occupation vehicle (HOV) lanes, toll bridges, and toll tunnels. It is a faster alternative which is replacing toll booths, where vehicles must stop and the driver manually pays the toll with cash or a card. In most systems, vehicles using the system are equipped with a windshield based Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag.

fastag Electronic toll collection
Fig.: Toll Plaza payment using a FASTag

When the vehicle passes a roadside toll reader device, a radio signal from the reader triggers the transponder, which transmits back an identifying number which registers the vehicle’s use of the road, and an electronic payment system charges the user the toll. A major advantage is the driver does not have to stop, reducing traffic delays. Electronic tolling is cheaper than a staffed toll booth, reducing transaction costs for government or private road owners. The ease of varying the amount of the toll makes it easy to implement road congestion pricing, including for high-occupancy lanes, toll lanes that bypass congestion, and city-wide congestion charges. The payment system usually requires users to sign up in advance and load money into a prepaid account, which is debited each time they pass a toll point.

RFID technology and FASTag

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is at the core of FASTag, the flagship initiative of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) for implementing electronic toll collection across the national highways in India. The RFID technology uses an Electronic Produce Code (EPC) through which every vehicle can be uniquely identified. This code is different from the vehicle’s registration number and exclusive to it on a global scale. Each EPC code, which is a 13-digit number, in the RFID- FASTag is issued by GS1 India, a standards body, which ensures that each code is unique and in sync with the global standards put in place, in order for correct product identification and in the case of FASTag it is a vehicle. The code needs to be standardized in order to ensure that the data coded inside is not read differently at different levels. Radio Frequency Identification technology is essentially a data capture technology, much like barcoding. However, unlike barcoding, which uses a pattern of black bars and white spaces, in which the information is coded, an RFID tag uses a small electronic chip for the same which is surrounded by an antenna. Also, unlike the barcode, an RFID tag does not need to be very close to the reader or, even in the line of sight of the same. One just simply has to be within a reading distance from the scanner. A FASTag has what is called a passive RFID chip as it does not contain its own battery. It is energized only when the beam from the scanner strikes it. At a toll plaza, when a vehicle comes within a certain radius, the scanner is able to send out the signals and read the tag which means, the identification code of the vehicle. Since a FASTag is pre-charged with money, it hits the payment that is inside the tag and deducts the toll amount. All of this is done in an automated way, without the vehicle stopping, or the toll operator touching the tag itself. Passive RFID tags are used in FASTag and these tags operate without a battery and get power supply from the electromagnetic energy transmitted by the RFID reader. These tags are long lasting and have more economical value due to lower cost of manufacturing. It is employed in many industries for file tracking, supply chain management, race timing and smart labels etc.

Some of the major FASTag objectives

  • Save fuel
  • Pollution reduction
  • Reducing the waiting time
  • Providing quality service
  • Enhancing digitalization
  • Enhancing data collection
  • Accommodating more vehicles in less time

Safety concerns

National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) ensures the data security in the case of RFID-FASTag. They have proper IT infrastructure with backend servers in a place where all the data is captured. A FASTag user need not worry about data security since the RFID technology does not identify an individual.

Benefits of using FASTag

  • Better highway management and reduced efforts in managing toll plaza
  • Ease of tracking transactions through regular SMS alerts each time any transactions are done
  • Easy account recharge options by Cash, Cheque, Credit Card/ Debit Card / NEFT/RTGS or Net banking
  • Eco-friendly initiative as it reduces pollution and use of paper
  • Facilitate ease of transaction through digital payment of toll-fare
  • It is a reloadable tag which is simple to use
  • No longer queues at toll plazas
  • Online portal for customers
  • Reduces the overcrowding and waiting time at toll plazas
  • Prevents air pollution which occurs due to congestion around toll plaza
  • Provide secure interoperable framework applicable across the country
  • Saves the travel time and fuel consumption

According to Govt. of India reports

  • Average daily FASTag collection crosses Rs 100 crore-mark
  • Mandatory FASTag to help save Rs 20,000 crore a year on fuel
  • The move will boost the revenue by at least Rs 10,000 crore
  • Significantly reduced delays at toll plazas have resulted in a saving to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore per annum on fuel cost