Tracking Runners with RAIN RFID

With over 20,000 participants running in the fourth-largest marathon in the country, the LA Marathon organizers were in search of a solution that would simplify event logistics while giving consistent results. With a RAIN RFID enabled solution, they:

  • Improved recorded race time accuracy to 99.84%
  • Reduced race check-in process to hours instead of days
  • Found savings between $15,000-$20,000 due to reduced labor and administrative work

Los Angeles Marathon Profile:

The Los Angeles Marathon began in 1986, attracting 10,688 registrants. It has since become the fourth-largest marathon in the country, with 12,000 race day volunteers required to support more than 20,000 participants. Over one-half million people watch the televised coverage of this marathon, the 7th largest in the world.

Impinj Solution Partner: 

ChronoTrack logo

Los Angeles Marathon organizers turn to RAIN RFID for timing solution

The LA Marathon is a massive logistics undertaking (requiring among other things, the closure of 12 freeway on-ramps, 4,053 city barricades, 40,000 no parking signs, 55,000 gallons of water, 9,500 gallons of Gatorade®, and 2,500 trash cans). With tens of thousands of runners to keep track of, organizers needed to facilitate a simple setup, quick clean up, and as few suppliers to manage as possible. And most importantly, they needed a way to accurately time all participants.

A common race timing method uses a plastic-encased, low-frequency tag. These tags are manufactured independently of other race identification materials such as bib numbers, requiring extensive pre-race effort to match each timing tag to the entrant’s information. To read tags, cumbersome mats must be placed at timing locations, and runners funneled over them. An alternative method involves creating read zones by erecting structures with antennas mounted overhead. Race participants must travel under these read zones wearing tags specifically angled away from the body to support consistent reads.

While these solutions work with varying degrees of accuracy, timers at the 2008 LA Marathon welcomed the chance to implement a RAIN RFID system created by ChronoTrack, a timing and tracking equipment company. ChronoTrack’s solution promised to be at least as accurate as the best solution available, much easier to use, very durable, and less costly. Here's how it works: 

  • Impinj RAIN RFID tag chips are attached to athlete's shoes to create endpoints
  • As race participants run past the starting line, Impinj Speedway readers and antennas collect their start times; at the end of the race a second set of Speedway readers collect finish times
  • Raw timing data obtained by the reader is put into a format that is compatible with most scoring software packages
  • Scorekeepers work with race directors to determine the best method for sharing race data with participants

Easy implementation makes RAIN RFID marathon-tracking a huge success

  • Simple installation leads to money savings
    One of the organizer's major concerns was finding a simple-to-use solution that eliminates the hassle and labor-intensive tag distribution and return proceess. ChronoTrack’s solution is lighter and less expensive than previous timing methods. ChronoTrack’s “D” timing tag allows race organizers to print an integrated bib and tag for each participant, encoding the runner’s bib number into the tag’s RAIN RFID chip at the time of printing. The peel-off, disposable portion of the bib becomes a tag that runners attach to their shoes. ChronoTrack’s tag solution is lighter, less expensive than previous timing methods, and most important to race organizers and participants—disposable. Runners no longer need to stand in long lines to “tag check” their timing devices as with previous solutions. And after the race, tired participants can avoid yet another line to return expensive tags. Because of the reduced administrative, set-up, and tear-down time, race organizers estimate they were able to save between $15,000-$20,000.
  • RAIN RFID tracking yields highly accurate results
    By automating time-keeping with highly sensitive, incredibly accurate RAIN RFID tags and readers, marathon organizers were able to collect times in a structured, logical way. The system provided finish line results and split timing data to runners at the 10K, one-half marathon, and 30K points. ChronoTrack’s system accurately recorded 99.84% of all race participants, easily matching the best results achieved using previous timing solutions.



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Impinj (NASDAQ: PI) wirelessly connects billions of everyday items such as apparel, medical supplies, and automobile parts to consumer and business applications such as inventory management, patient safety, and asset tracking. The Impinj platform uses RAIN RFID to deliver timely information about these items to the digital world, thereby enabling the Internet of Things.

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