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Startup Offers 'Fail-safe' RFID Race-Timing System

Using ruggedized EPC Gen 2 tags and redundant components, the company says it has created an affordable, reliable system for timing many different events, from canoe races to triathlons.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
According to Hansen, the software built for the Jaguar system enables splits and finish times to be fed, in real time, to monitor displays at the finish line, or at other points along a race course. Spectators can also subscribe to a cell-phone service, through which split times, finish times and digital images or videos of the racers they are watching can be delivered to Web-enabled phones during an event.

Each of the reading points contain redundant reader antennas designed for use in extreme weather.

Over the past year, Hansen says he and his team used beta versions of the Jaguar system to time more than 50 events, the largest of which was a race-walking half marathon conducted this month, with approximately 3,500 entrants. The company plans to time at least another 60 events next year, he adds, now that the system has undergone a number of real-world tests.

Innovative Timing Systems also employs a unique tag form factor for timing triathlons, Hansen says, which the company makes by modifying the Alien Squiggle inlay, in order to reduce its size and waterproof it so race participants can wear it during a triathlon's swim leg. (Championchip and other legacy RFID timing systems are also available in a waterproof form factor, enabling them to be used in swim events as well.)

For races that do not include swimming, the Jaguar system utilizes the Alien Squiggle inlay embedded in a race bib. In addition to Alien tags, Hansen says, the system also employs Alien's 9900 interrogators.

Innovative Timing Systems sells the Jaguar system as a part of two separate offerings, Hansen reports. In one offering, a race organizer purchases the hardware and software elements outright, as a turnkey product it can then use to time events on an ongoing basis. This would likely cost that organizer anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000, depending on the number of reading points required. Alternatively, the firm can be hired to install the Jaguar hardware and software for a specific event and provide race-timing services, including on-site race registration. This, he says, would cost an organizer $2 to $3 per racer.

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