July 1, 2009

RFID at the races

RFID helps Los Angeles Marathon officials keep track of runners.

By DC Velocity Staff

Twenty thousand runners pounding the pavement for more than 26 miles. How do you keep track of all of them? Officials of the Los Angeles Marathon rely on RFID tags and readers. Event organizers first tested the technology in 2008 and were so pleased with the results that they used it again in late May for the 2009 road race.

Each of the registered runners attached RFID-enabled timing tags from ChronoTrack Systems to his or her shoelaces. The tags, which incorporate UPM Raflatac RFID tags and Impinj tag chips, recorded times at the start, at the finish, and at milestones along the race route.

According to UPM Raflatac, attaching the disposable plastic-enclosed tags to the runners' shoes ensures consistent placement and readability. At certain milestones, the Los Angeles runners pass over urethane ramps that use UHF antennas to transmit race data to readers. Custom-designed controllers then format the collected data for use by scoring software. The system logged accurate data for 99.84 percent of the runners in 2008.

One thing we know: If this technology had been around in 1980, Rosie Ruiz wouldn't have had a chance of scamming Boston Marathon officials.

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