Race Timing with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:24 PM

Tags: RFID race timing, Embedded RFID, USB RFID reader

How Rosie Ruiz Changed an Industry

On April 18th, 2011 over 25,000 participants are expected to run the 115th Boston Marathon – the oldest annual city marathon in the world.  In addition to its well known course meandering through eight Massachusetts cities and towns, the Boston Marathon is famous for several legendary participants. Recognized as a Boston Marathon icon, Johnny Kelley competed in the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, winning in 1935 and 1945, placing second seven times and finishing in the top five 15 times.  Kelly ran his last full marathon at Boston in 1992 at the age of 84.  Bill "Boston Billy" Rodgers won the Boston Marathon four times between 1975 and 1980, breaking the American record in 1975 and 1979.  Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father and son team who compete in the wheelchair division with Dick pushing Rick in a custom racing chair. Team Hoyt has competed in 27 Boston Marathons and often finish with times faster than 90% of the pack.

While these runners have been an inspiration to many, no one may have changed the sport like Rosie Ruiz.  In the 84th running of the Boston Marathon on April 21st 1980, Ruiz crossed the finish line before all other women runners – clocking the fastest time ever recorded for a woman in the history of the Boston Marathon and the third fastest time ever recorded for a woman in any marathon.  Following her impressive finish, investigations determined that Ruiz had skipped most of the race and rejoined runners about one mile from the finish line.  Ruiz was disqualified and as a result, the Boston Marathon and several other races instituted a number of safeguards against cheating - including RFID race timing systems that monitor when runners arrive at various checkpoints on the course.

Today, both Active and Passive RFID-based solutions are being used to time all kinds of races including marathons, triathlons, and cycling, sailing, skating and motorcycle races.  In each of these and many other races, timing is everythingTo ensure that an accurate time is captured when every biker, runner or swimmer crosses the finish line, events like these require extremely precise timing equipment that is both durable and able to account for each participant, especially in dense, quick-paced situations.  Without RFID, races can be timed by hand with operators using a stop-watch, or by using a combination of electronic timing and video camera systems.  As with many other time-sensitive activities however, RFID has proven to be a more efficient alternative to manual tracking due to a reduction in human error and the technology’s ability to process a greater amount of data in a shorter period of time.

RFID-enabled race timing solutions are offered by companies around the globe, including several ThingMagic partners who have implemented varying combinations of UHF and other RFID technologies to meet the demands of their customers. 

RFID Timing offers timing solutions for timing running, triathlon, cycling, swimming and canoeing. Their Ultra product includes battery assisted tags that last for two and a half years, extremely thin EVA mats, and highly sensitive Gen2 RFID readers.  HDD is a lower cost package for smaller organizations or multi-sport competitions that can be set up in less than a minute, complete with easy rollout mats. RFID Timing is using ThingMagic USB readers for short range applications including encoding and checking UHF tags prior to placement onto race numbers for an event. The ThingMagic USB reader is also used to scan athletes’ tags at race pack pickup (usually the day before a race) to verify the athletes details in the timing system database are correct. 

Zoomius produces TAG Heuer Track Intelligence, a complete online motorsports management system. Hundreds of racing organizations, track days and schools are using TAG Heuer Track Intelligence to simplify their operations and provide more love to their customers.  Zoomius has also created the TITAN RFID system, powered by ThingMagic Mercury 5e readers to provide cost-effective and accurate next-generation timing and scoring systems. Perfect accuracy provided by sophisticated but easy-to-use technology, TITAN RFID, powered by ThingMagic, brings complete timing and scoring to organizations who previously couldn't afford it. 1/1000th of a second. 40 feet. 180mph. With superior ThingMagic technology Zoomius overcome hurdles that no-one else can even come close to solving.

Share your experiences with RFID race timing systems – as a race administrator or participant.

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