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RFID Technology in Running Events

Sprints, dashes, relays, cross-country, trails and marathons - are the most common running categories that many of the athletes and non-athletes are engaging of. Running events have been filling up our streets early in the morning each day, or mostly once to thrice a week. A lot of people are already joining marathons, from as young as three years old, to as old as eighty plus. And for most of the runners, time is of essence; elapsed time, split times, average speed, and etc. are the timing details that a runner wants to know and record during his training or running course. Thus, Transponder timings (also called chip timing or RFID timing) were born.

But before the Timing Chips got its hike on running events, other timing and tracking gadgets such as stop watches, speed trackers, barcodes and barcode readers, and wrist watches with built-in timers have been the personal choice of every race organizers and runners. Even until now, these manually operated timers are still widely used for personal and smaller events.

My recent 10k running event with Timex have been blessed to have this kind of technology which accurately measured the race time of each runners. The data gathered by the RFID Chip also helped in the generation of a detailed running analysis (RunAlysis) of every participant. Thanks to the organizer, RunRio for including this kind of innovation for this event.

The RunAlysis generated for me was excellent. It boasted my average speed both in mph and kph; my place by gender, division, and overall ranking; split times per mile or per kilometer; and a bird's eye view of the finish line when I passed through it. A sample detailed race statistics can be downloaded here.

So how does this system works? A timing chip is marked with a unique identification, and is composed of a silicon chip and energizing coil. This coil is inactive (passive RFID) until moved into a magnetic field, generated by a send antenna in a mat (used to mark the start and finish lines of a race). The transponder then transmits its unique identification number to a receive antenna in a mat a. The send and receive antennas are cast in thin tartan mats. These antenna mats are placed at the finish line and other timing locations. They are connected to a box at the side of the road, containing electronics and batteries. Each time an athlete wearing a timing chip crosses the mats, the chip gets energized and sends out its unique ID number. This number and corresponding time are then stored in the box and transferred to a timing computer for further processing b.

One more thing that I was happy about my previous race was the free online photo vendo courtesy of As I have previously stated in my blog for Timex Run 2009, the PhotoVendo uses the signal from the timing chip to trigger the shooting of the cameras stationed on some posts along the race routes, this was not the case (lol). There were camera men stationed along the race routes, armed with fast-shooting cameras with big lenses, not automated though, but are also triggered to shoot for the runners as they pass them by. This made the downloading of photos from their website made possible just by inputting your race number.

Further readings:
a. Wikipedia
b Alta Vista Sports


  1. Sa palagay ko 'yung sa Kenny, ung Photo Vendo, triggered by RFID, right?

  2. hndi ko rin alam madz, pero parang, kc ung mga kuha ni EyewristRunner, parang mula sa taas ng poste ung kamera eh... or baka un mga cameraman nasa taas ng meralco electric posts? :D


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