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UPM Raflatac Provides RFID-based Tags for LA Marathon

April 21, 2009
Los Angeles Marathon organizers have implemented an innovative RFID solution that provides highly accurate time-tracking for road races and athletic competitions, while reducing the cost and complexity of successfully executing these large-scale events.

The system, which made its debut with the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon, will make its second appearance at this year’s event on May 25, 2009, when more than 20,000 participants affix ChronoTrack Systems, Inc.’s RFID-enabled “D” timing tags to their shoelaces before the race. By using “D” timing tags, Los Angeles Marathon runners will obtain highly accurate start, split and finish time data after concluding the seventh largest marathon in the world.

With their challenging logistics, vast numbers of participants and time sensitivity, the world’s renowned marathons require a highly reliable time and participant-tracking solution that provides consistent reads at critical marathon milestones, integrates easily with racer identification materials and doesn’t strain lean race budgets. While many organizers have tried implementing RFID technology, they have often had challenges ensuring consistent reads, due to runners’ irregular placement of tags on their bodies. Matching timing tags with other runner identification materials, such as numbered racing bibs, requires significant time and effort from volunteers and runners.

ChronoTrack’s RFID time- and participant-tracking system solves these challenges with a lightweight, disposable “D” timing tag comprised of a UPM Raflatac UHF Gen 2 DogBone RFID tag and Impinj Monza™ 3 tag chip. All of the parts are secured to a piece of plastic and a highly durable adhesive strip by labelstock converter MPI Label Systems. Runners bend the plastic into a D-shaped form to secure it to the top of their shoelaces, ensuring that the tag is uniformly placed for optimal reading. As runners pass the five critical milestones, they run over ChronoTrack’s urethane ramps which use UHF antennas to transmit race data to Impinj Speedway® readers. Custom-designed ChronoTrack controllers then take the race data gathered by the readers and format it for use in scoring software packages.

At the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon, the ChronoTrack solution provided accurate time data for 99.84 percent of all participants, easily matching results achieved with previous, higher-cost solutions.

“ChronoTrack’s solution contributed to the best LA marathon in its 23-year history, and I am very pleased,” says Terry Collier, Executive Race Director, Los Angeles Marathon. “Our third-party timing verifier told us it was the most accurate timing method he’d ever seen, and he compared it against the same method used to time the Olympics. Both race setup and cleanup were much easier—hours instead of days—and we needed fewer volunteers and far less equipment. We easily saved between 15 and 20 thousand dollars, had a smoother race operation and heard nothing but praise from race participants. Definitely a win-win solution for me.”

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