RFID in running is quite a wide concept. Learn what the advantages and issues RFID technology poses to running event managers.

Running is becoming an ever more popular activity. This trend is being noticed both in the number of people you can cross on your way home at any time of the day AND especially in the number of runners joining popular events.

Servicing runners with stats

Participants in running events are required a fee for participating. Organizers have evolved from just offering the chance to participate to providing added value to participants in the form of statistics on how they did within the event.

With finishers in the numbers of 50K runners for biggest events, organizers needed to introduce technology to be able to provide appropriate information.

RFID in running is a no brainer: think about a huge number of ‘items’ you want to monitor through a ‘supply chain’. RFID does that work in logistics and industrial environments properly. Now change ‘items’ for ‘runners’ and ‘supply chain’ for ‘course’. You are basically monitoring runners go through gates along the streets.

ChronoTrack solution for RFID in running. Transponders are attached to runner's shoes

ChronoTrack solution for RFID in running. Transponders are attached to runner’s shoes

Issues with RFID in running events

Unfortunately, running events of medium to big sizes are missing lots of data from the race. Runners enjoy the event and give their best during the race but many of them find out after finishing that their data is not there to be checked.

RFID is usually blamed for this. In general, organizers use passive RFID tags as a wearable item attached to their running shoes, attached to their T-shirt or other method.

RF technologies do not work well with liquids. We humans are approximately 55%-75% water in weight. Now picture some 40-50 runners going by an RFID gate at the same time with an RFID tag on them. No wonder it is difficult to get a high read rate.

Understand what solutions to use

As we have been recommending for almost two years now, you should never stick to a single technology. It is true that passive RFID makes it cheaper but you will be facing lots of issues related to non-read tags if you use RFID in running.

If you are organizing events with a medium to high number of participants OR you want a very precise timing method you can’t rely on passive RFID.

In running events with lots of participants, you could use battery assisted passive (BAP) RFID for example. Yes, it is a little bit more expensive but it can still be cost effective. This should help you increase the read rate dramatically.

Passive RFID in running is still a viable option for more popular, low participation events. It is very easy to set up an RFID system to control basic running events. For a good example, check Orbiter’s solution.

As you can see, it is not the technology which is to blame but the decision about which technology to use. Using RFID in running is no different: be wise in deciding what products you use for the different events you run.