RFID Scoring Big in the Sports World

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 @ 12:03 PM

Tags: RFID, Event Management, Access Control, Attendance Management, Race Timing

SportsIt’s that time of year again, when stadiums are filled with baseball fans, greens are manicured for golfers and trails are rampant with runners training for the next race. All of these activities bring with them a wide range of opportunities to leverage the power of RFID. From enhancing the fan experience to precisely measuring race times, RFID is making a case for itself as an essential element to sports activities, teams and events.

One area in which RFID has been making a big impact is in event ticketing. Dating back several years to the 2005 Tennis Master’s World Cup in Shanghai, China, RFID inlays were embedded into all 100,000 tickets for the event and were scanned using stationary readers at the gates to grant spectators entrance to the venue. Prior to this system, spectators were required to purchase a pre-event ticket, and exchange it on game day for the physical ticket at the box office. This new system ensured that those granted access were genuine ticket holders, and streamlines the entry process. The following year, the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany became the largest use of RFID in sports ticketing to date with twelve venues, sixty-four games and 3.5 million tickets. One of the main reasons that FIFA, and several other organizations choose to employ RFID technology in ticketing, was to enhance security and prevent counterfeiting.  This use of RFID continues today with many event organizers investing in automated RFID-enabled systems to replace legacy manual and error prone processes.

RFID technology has also shown its ability to enhance other aspects of a fan’s experience, aside from security. Across the pond in the UK, the Scotcomms Technology Group is working with several leading football clubs and their season ticket holders. Scotcomms’ contactless ticketing solution, TeamCard, benefits both the ticket holders and teams themselves by deriving incremental revenue from unused tickets. When a season ticket holder notifies the box office that they will not be attending a game, £10 are loaded onto the fan’s TeamCard to be redeemed for team merchandise or refreshments at the next game they attend. In turn, the team can then sell the unused ticket for an average profit of £15. Additionally, fans can participate in sports betting at the stadiums by using their TeamCard to place wagers against friends or other fans.

RFID technology is also found in many state-side sports. As many golfers have experienced, one can spend hours combing through thorns and thistles to try and locate a lost ball. However thanks to RFID technology, the hunt may be over. Radar Golf has developed an RFID equipped golf ball that can be located with an RFID reader using the company’s Ball Positioning System (BPS). Similar to a metal detector, the handheld BPS will beep at an increasing rate as the user gets closer and closer to the ball being read.

While the technology may be newer to the golf game, road racers, cyclists, triathletes and skiers are already very familiar with RFID applications. RFID has had a presence in the racing world for many years and has undeniably enhanced the visibility aspect of the sport. ChampionChip pioneered the use of this technology in the 1994 Berlin Marathon and athletes have been running with it ever since. With marathon season in full swing, many race participants find this technology to be a crucial part of the sport and an efficient tool for recording real-time data Tracking devices are attached to race participants while passive-RFID technology records racer’s real net times as they pass antennas throughout the course, as well as at the start and finish lines. This technology also allows for friends, family, and fans who are watching the races to locate their participants and position themselves along the course to cheer them on at different locations and present personalized messages of encouragement. Many runners find this technology to be a very efficient tool for recording real-time data and measuring their performance.

Whether it is streamlined security, increased profits or saved time on the golf course, RFID technology has found place in the sports community, and as the technology advances, we expect RFID will continue to enhance the overall experience of sports fans world-wide.

RFID in Race Timing: Mercury-6e Beats the Competition in Brazil

Posted by Bernd Schoner on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 @ 10:48 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, Race Timing

Filed from the front lines - where every tag read counts.

NgTechno and Tempo Certo Cronometragem-Race Timing with WaveLabs all  based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, are offering race-timing solutions for running events and recently completed the design of their own RFID timing hardware, the WL4i. The new device is based on ThingMagic’s Mercury-6e module and among other critical features offers four antenna ports, Wi-Fi, and optional 3G cellular communication. The device can be purchased in a weather-resistant portable box for easy deployment at race events. 

WaveLabs Case 
 WL4i with ThingMagic Mercury-6e  WaveLab’s Race Timing Solution

Upon completion of the design, NgTechno decided to compare the new M6e-based product against their earlier solution based on the Speedway Revolution R420, designed and manufactured by Impinj. On September 19th, 2012 the company timed the 5-mille Valinhos running race in Campinas, an industrial city located about 100km north-west of Sao Paulo. In this event and a number of others, rather than deploying a single system, the engineering team set up two completely independent systems: one system used the Impinj R420, the second system used the WL4i with the integrated Mercury-6e.

During the Valinhos race the WL4i/M6e collected a total of 5,333 tag reads, compared to 4,063 reads collected by the Impinj Speedway R420. At the start line, the WL4i/M6e successfully identified 439 individual tags, versus 436 individual tags identified by the R420. At the finish line, both devices identified 438 individual tags. In summary the WL4i/M6e outperformed the R420 in terms of total number of tag reads and hence overall system margin. The WL4i/M6e also outperformed the R420 in terms of the very important metric of uniquely identified tags at the start and finish lines.

RFID Offers More to Race Timing than Just Timing

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Aug 02, 2011 @ 01:50 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Sports & Entertainment, Race Timing

Marathon TimingMarathons are popping up everywhere. It appears as though there is one for everyone, with a slew taking place across the country over the summer including: the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon near Area 51 in Nevada, the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon, and the Grandfather Mountain Marathon inNorth Carolina.

So, what better time to revisit race timing since we last blogged on the topic? In our previous post, we focused on how UHF RFID could be used for extremely precise timing, as well as the efficiencies gained by using RFID due to the technology’s ability to process a greater amount of data in a shorter period of time. Today, we thought we would highlight a few additional benefits of using UHF RFID in race timing applications as described in our latest Application Note: Designing Race Timing Applications Using UHF RFID Technology.

Checking-in participants before the race - The slow, manual process of checking-in racers on race day can be eliminated by mailing pre-associated RFID-enabled race bibs to the racers in advance. With an RIFD-enabled race system, participants get checked-in automatically via an RFID reader at the starting point, eliminating time consuming check-in processes that can impact a runners pre-race outlook.

The motivation factor - As we noted, marathons are attracting a wide demographic of people - from the born runner to the novice. But they all have one thing in common. Most runners want to be cheered on, celebrated and supported and this motivation can go a long way to help them dig deep to find what it takes to finish a grueling race. With the combination of RFID-enabled tags and check points, sponsors, friends or family can display personal motivational messages on big screens for individual racers or a group of racers at any given time. Or the statistical information of a particular racer could be presented at different check points so they can see their performance in relation to the rest of the field. This motivation factor is also very fitting for charity races and even walks.

The importance of real-time data - Without RFID, race coordinators have to record the time of each participant at certain milestones, which can be a tedious and is prone to human error. RFID systems automate the collection of timestamps by reading the participant’s bib at certain locations and updating them to a central database, which is then interrogated in real-time during the event or at the end of the race. Race statistics, like checkpoint time stamps, can also be stored on servers that can be made accessible via the web for participants to check their performance. These time-sensitive application requires fast data transfer between the reader and the tag and could not be achieved at the same level of accuracy with manual processes.

These are just a few of the ways that UHF RFID can be used to enhance the race day experience for race organizers and participants alike.  If you are designing a race system and interested in exploring RFID to enhance your solution, please download our Application Note here.

The next time you run a marathon or participate in a walk for charity, what message would push you to cross the finish line?

Messages on the Move

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Dec 01, 2010 @ 03:03 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Race Timing, Social Networks

RFID Helps Cheer Marathoners Along New York City Route

Feaster FiveI had a great time last week running my town’s Thanksgiving morning road race - the Feaster Five – and hope to run again next year.  Running along side more than 10,000 other runners, joggers and walkers, including marathon legends Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Team Hoyt, I was especially looking forward to cruising past my house and my own personal cheering section.  Being cheered on by friends and family can go a long way – even in a short 5 miler (or 5k in my case) like the Feaster Five. 

Now imagine running all 26 grueling miles and 385 yards of a marathon and all of the little things along the way that can help runners focus on making it across the finish line.  In previous blog posts we covered the use of RFID for race timing to record accurate start and finish times and provide runners with split times to help them set their pace.  We’ve also blogged about the use of RFID in smart signage to provide opt-in users with unique personalized messages.  Now, how about a combination of the two?

The New York Marathon is one of the world’s largest marathon events with over 45,000 runners and 2 million people cheering them on.  What a better place to combine the use of RFID already in place to time runners with the display of personalized messages from the family and friends of race participants.  ASICS America launched such a program as part of the 2010 New York Marathon.  Prior to the start of the race, ASICS setup a program site dedicated to taking photos, video and collecting personal messages, texts, tweets and Facebook comments from race supporters.  Then, the same RFID tags worn by racers for timing triggered the display of the messages on LED screens as they passed by sensor-enabled checkpoints throughout the marathon route.

Check out ASICS’ cool "support your marathoner" video:

I’ve experienced first hand how the motivation of others can help you push a little bit harder, run a little bit faster, and stay focused on the task at hand.  And, I for one know I’d need all the encouragement I could get if I were running a marathon!

The race route is one setting where motivation can help.  Where else do you think this type of solution could inspire others? 

RFID Left out in the Cold

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 @ 01:02 PM

Tags: RFID, Temperature Monitoring, Race Timing

Solution Provides Tracking, Temperature Monitoring & Scheduling for Iditarod Participants

IditarodDuring this campaign, we’ve seen how one use of RFID actually ends up solving more than one problem - offering added bonuses on top of serving its initial purpose. Today’s application is no different, with one RFID system helping its users overcome three major challenges.

The obvious use for RFID in a race that spans more than 1,000 miles and the course of several days is to help the spectators get a real-time view of the Iditarod. They can see the locations of each musher, in relation to the others, at any given time.

The tracking system used RFID transponders built by IonEarth. Each transponder contains a GPS receiver, an Iridium short-burst data modem that transmits a signal encoded with an ID number, an accelerometer to track speed and a temperature sensor. The waterproof transponders are affixed to the front of the sleds and programmed to transmit their position, speed, heading and temperature every 15 minutes via Iridium's satellite network. With that information, race officials can pinpoint a sled's position to within 20 feet. That’s pretty precise when the sleds are traversing mountain ranges, forests, desolate tundra and frozen rivers - which brings us to the second benefit of RFID in this application.

Because the system tracks the speed of each sled, organizers can see if a racer's pace is slower than normal. Simultaneously, they can also see the temperature being endured by that racer. With the extensive stretch of trails and the variations in landscape, temperatures and winds can change dramatically, going as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. The data would indicate if a racer needed to be rescued. And forget about using a cell phone in an emergency situation because on these trails cell phones don’t work. 

Cell phones also wouldn’t be able to be used to notify checkpoint teams of a sled’s arrival. But RFID would! For RFID use #3, the real-time view lets volunteers, judges and dog handlers know when to be ready. Before the RFID tracking system, checkpoint teams had to be ready at any given time, requiring someone to be on watch around the clock.

Purists may not like the idea because the Iditarod was invented to pit man against nature. At least the RFID system isn’t enhancing anyone’s performance over another or influencing the outcome. And it’s helping protect the lives of the mushers and the dogs. Who wouldn’t like that? We particularly like the 3-for-1 deal. 

[Photo credit: Boston Globe’s Big Picture]


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