Dec 17, 2019—While RFID has brought automated data to race timing for marathons and large track events, the technology's cost can be above the modest budget of many common, and considerably smaller, community 5K races. Timing system company Agee Race Timing and RFID technology firm SensThys are selling what they say is a solution for small- to mid-sized events and race-timing companies that enables users to quickly set up an RFID-based timing system out of a box.
The RaceKit-Pro solution consists of a kit that users can carry to a a race, which includes four tripods, reader and antenna hardware from SensThys, and Agee Race Timing software to capture and manage the RFID tag reads of race participants. The kit is designed to be a single, compact and affordable hardware and software package, for what are typically 5-kilometer running races involving 150 to 1,000 participants. It includes a SensArray-Pro UHF RFID reader using Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), so there are minimal cable requirements. It also comes with three SensRF-101 antennas and antenna cables that can be set up at any point along a race course and be covered with a rubber mat.
Agee has traditionally offered software that is now being used for timing race competitors in events around the world. The company was launched by its president, Brian Agee, a running enthusiast who had been seeking a technology solution for race timing since his competitive running days in college. After graduating, Agee developed his own solution to avoid paying timers to time the annual events he organized. "I wanted a system that was easy to use, with no yearly fees, and that wouldn't lock me in with proprietary hardware or tags," he says.
"I've been timing my own races since 2003," Agee says. "I didn't want to pay for chip timing for small races." However, he notes, "manually timing a race is not fun." In some cases, that meant starting the timer manually, then running ahead of other participants so he could be at the finish line to capture the results of each runner. By 2012, he had developed his software to sell to other racing organizations, and then to the timing solution providers. One feature that Agee makes his solution unique is its "open hardware" feature—customers can use the solution with any hardware or tags they choose.
A timing system can typically cost around $10,000 for RFID tags and readers, as well as software, or the same amount to hire a race timer, if they are used multiple times. However, most races are actually local fun-runs and fundraisers that can ill afford that expense. "So there was a problem in the timing industry," Agee says. "I wanted to make it so anyone could time their race."