EE Product News

RFID Time

Those of you who read this column regularly know by now that much of my thought about electronic systems is spurred by my interest in road race timing. I have not yet made the big step, which is timing runners by using RFID chips. This method is used by most of the professional race timing organizations in my area, which is Long Island, NY. In fact, I believe Finish Line Road Race Technicians (flrrt.com) timed the recent New York City Marathon using RFID chips. And this race had over 35,000 runners. So what’s the problem? Well, it’s easy enough to time smaller races (less than about 150 runners) by almost any method, electronic or manual. But once the number of runners gets up to the 250 to 1,000 runner level, RFID chips are the way to go. The RFID system most used for the running community consists a chip for each runner, which is fastened to the running shoe, an antenna mat at the finish line and a reading/timing system to collect IDs and associated times. From what I understand, the investment in equipment is rather steep, in the multi tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not looking to do the results for a race as large as the NYC Marathon, or any race even close to that number. But I would like to have the capability of doing races up to about 1,000 runners. How much should it cost for a system to do the job? Not tens of thousand of dollars, that’s for sure. I’m now looking into two areas. First is a much cheaper way to use RFID chips in an application of this kind. And second is an alternative to the RFID system that works just as well. Any advice is appreciated. E-mail your comments to me at [email protected]

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