[Manic Monday] The Technology Behind Running Competitions

[Manic Monday] The Technology Behind Running Competitions

[Manic Monday] The Technology Behind Running Competitions
[Manic Monday] The Technology Behind Running Competitions

Lately, Indonesia has been hit by running fever. Running, as a sport, could be said to be the ‘new cool thing’ to follow, although quite many already love the sport. Of course, this trend has a much better impact to society compared to, say, trends of eating at fast food restaurants or hanging out at 24-hour convenience stores, as this trend advocates living healthy.

Many communities, programs and races during the past year have been organised, and the presence of these races are now much more in the public eye. Brand owners are competing to engage with these runners, to promote their latest energy or isotonic drinks, the latest sport equipment, or associate their brand with healthy living.

The development of the races themselves has also advanced, involving technology to support it. When previously race timing was done manually by an army of marshalls that had to oversee thousands of runners, now the recording of start, split time and finish times is assisted with RFID technology.

The RFID technology used for races is principally simple. An RFID chip is attached to the runner, usually on the chest number or their shoes, which can be read by RFID readers placed at the start, middle and finish points. One of the companies in Indonesia that provides this service is Run.ID.

As with RFID technology, each chip has a unique identification number, so that the RFID readers can differentiate between one chip and the other (and thus, one runner from the other), and uses the UHF (ultra-high frequency) standard for RFID so that the RFID chips can be read with a distance of at least 1 meter. This differs from the RFID standard used for prepaid cards such as BCA Flazz or Mandiri E-toll Card, which uses a HF (high-frequency) standard and can only be read by touching the RFID card to the reader.

With the help of RFID technology, the management of race events can be more efficient, as race timing is done automatically by the system, and only needs to be supervised by a handful of marshalls. Despite this, the best practice is to also have video or photo documentation as reference for confirming race winners, and there is still usually manual time recording by marshalls at the finish line.

The use of RFID technology helps runners to see their performance time on the race they participated with. And with the use of RFID technology in races, there is  potential to create more interactions like what was done at 2010’s New York City Marathon, and other races. The use of a digital-based technology for a real-world event is definitely potential for further development.

Ario is a co-founder of Ohdio, an Indonesian music streaming service. He worked in the digital music industry in Indonesia from 2003 to 2010, and recently worked in the movie and TV industry in Vietnam. Keep up with him on Twitter at @barijoe or his blog at http://barijoe.wordpress.com.

[Header image from Shutterstock]

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