Retired Naval officer, computer programmer and RFID News reader John Bouma wrote with an interesting story:
“My sons got involved in off-road motorcycle racing several years ago, and being the “involved parent”, it didn’t take long to see there were vast improvements possible in how motorcycle events were being scored.
The bottom line is that I’ve developed software for scoring off-road events. It started out as basic data entry, manually entering rider numbers in a computer located trackside. I then migrated to collecting data via barcodes attached to the helmet – and now I’m using transponders – it’s a vast improvement.”
“In the past, teams were comprised of up to 20 individuals with roughly 120 riders on the track at one time. As the riders approached the single gate checkpoint, they needed to come to a complete stop to pass through individually, because their time was recorded manually using punch cards. The use of barcodes on riders’ helmets improved the scoring process since data could be analyzed for lap times, starting times, and overall and class standings. However, riders still needed to come to a complete stop at the checkpoint to be scanned trackside, which slowed the event and limited the number of participants.
Today, using TI-RFid technology, riders can continue racing through checkpoints. By strategically placing antennas throughout the racing trails and attaching a TI transponder with read/write capabilities to the rider’s chest protector or front fender, the racer’s time is recorded when he or she passes by the antenna at each checkpoint. The software automatically reads the rider’s transponder and determines his status at each checkpoint, displaying his number, registered class, rank, and distance behind the closest rider in his class at that location”
RFID based lap timing systems are available for most sports (motorcycle, horse, RC, snowmobile, etc) and have been around for some time. Racers use a battery powered transponder charged prior to the race. A PDA or PC based reader system records and reports lap times for competitors.
Organizations with limited budgets and a large number of competitors (1000!) benefit the most from homegrown solutions. While this is not the first RF race monitoring system, RFID News applauds Mr. Bouma’s ingenuity and expects this is the first of many reports of niche, in-house (literally, in this case) RFID solutions.