Thursday, April 12, 2007

RFID Marathon

RFID monitored Marathon races are all over USA. Please see below an extract of an interesting article from CNN. Not for long, Hong Kong Marathon will probably do the same. Then we will know the position of our Marathon lovers along the road and their speed of running as they progress.

Such is the latest use of RFID as a location-based system for identification and much more information. It is really an innovative use which could boost the interest of the public towards the sport. Just imagine that you will receive SMS on the location of your friends in a Marathon race and how well they are doing. This is also good for the race management to identify runners and maintain accurate race records.

The trick is in the shoelaces where RFID tags are embedded. This is quite clever as most Marathon runners wear running shoes with shoelaces (I guess). It is an out of the way device which the runner could barely notice. I wonder if some runners could cheat by switching shoelaces. The second trick is the RFID receivers hidden in rubber mats positioned along the road. The rest is common telecommunication services.

The interesting point is the ability of the RFID receiver which could capture RFID signal from a runner passing at running speed. Contrary to what we heard that RFID in a proximity card could only be read when you voluntarily place the card to a reader, like using the Octopus, RFID receiver could actually read from a distant fast passing object. The RFID tag could be very small, hidden in the shoelaces, with or without your knowing. RFID receivers could also be placed anywhere without your notice. We are carrying more and more RFID with us nowadays, starting from the Octopus, Autotoll, and office access cards. Credit cards and passports are being planned for RFID embedding to increase their security. Many goods sold by Walmart and a number of other large stores are already embedded with RFID. Somebody may have already linked up the RFID data captured in numerous locations.

At the end, I think the development is good for the citizens for the sake of security and customer services. It is better than being video-recorded everywhere you go in London.

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CNN 1717 GMT (0117 HKT), April 6, 2007

Tech-savvy marathons keep racers connected with fans

Story Highlights
• Free online tools help spectators track runners
• Runners are provided with RFID chips that attach to shoelaces
• Updates on Web site, cell phone, text message or e-mail
• One of the most tech-savvy races is the Houston Marathon

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Brendan Burke's cell phone was beeping within minutes of the start of his wife's marathon in San Diego. A text message arrived with her latest time as she crossed the six timing mats around the course. It didn't matter that he was across the country at home in New Jersey. Pushing to make the 26.2-mile races more friendly to fans and runners alike, marathon officials are increasingly offering free online tools to help spectators and loved ones back home track runners along courses that can span entire cities.

During the April 16 Boston Marathon the curious can use their computers to check on the progress of up to five runners at a time. Last year, 10,232 Boston marathon runners, or about half, signed up for alerts, up from 9,836 in 2005. In Chicago, meanwhile, fans can stop by participating Starbucks coffeehouses along the course and ask marathon volunteers with laptops to look up runners on the spot.

Runners are provided with radio-frequency identification chips that attach to shoelaces. As they cross large rubber mats along the course, a radio transmitter inside the chip sends a unique ID number to an antenna, which routes the information to a central database. From there, depending on which options a runner has chosen, the information is sent to the cell phone or e-mail address on file. Elapsed time: two to four seconds. New York started using the chips seven years ago to track its runners for timing and online viewing of an athlete's splits. Today, transmitters send automatic updates to the address of your choice.
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