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I time about 20 races a year using cards. Some home made code very reliably assigns overall and age group places. Using a hot spot, I can have results posted on my web site before the awards ceremony is over. During the race, it can tell you what any finisher's place is (like 3rd place female 20 -24) as soon as the computer operator gets the card. It can print out "results so far" for races when the director sees everybody leaving and there are some walkers still way out on the course.

However, the problem of runners walking off with cards has just gotten worse as people get used to automatic timing systems. We have someone dedicated to snagging them as they exit the chute. That does great for up to 100 which is about 90% of my races. Even then though, you get the feeling that runners (no feedback, just a feeling) consider themselves 'diminished' by having to fill out the card - "What's this for? "

So I am soliciting ideas for quickly and reliably identifying finishers in the chute.
a. Does anybody have a "proven" design for a pull tag spike that only allows tags to go on the spike one way eliminating the dropped spindle on a windy day nightmare scenario?
b. I have experimented a little with a bar code reader (too slow and bend sensitive) and voice to text (possible as a partial solution). Next thing may be recording bibs with a small printing calculator with a headset and voice backup.
c. One thing that intrigues me is use of a hand held RFID reader to zap IDs (2' range maybe) as runners exit the chute. U Grok It (I think) sounds like it would work but it is about $500 which is a lot for an experiment.
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These problems have largely been solved using RFID systems with timing chips on the bib, some of which are quite inexpensive. As a bonus, the RFID systems scale to much larger races, so you can earn your investment back much more readily.

I still use 1-2 volunteers on TimeMachines and a video camera as backup with my system.

The RFID systems also get rid of the narrow, confining chutes, which people learn to hate.
Does anybody have any experience with Near Field Communications systems? You see these things on E-Bay for less that $50. Idea is that somebody would hand scan a $.15 chip glued to the bib. This could be a "cardless", FAST, HANDS OFF determination of finish order.

Watched a group time last Saturday which had problems with a nearby PA system. The tunes were "broadcast" (don't know if it was Blue Tooth or what) to the sound system amplifier. It did fine till the music got really intense and then it started missing tags. I think the guy said heavy base beats were the worst.
Update: Got Smart Card reader to work at a range of about 4". Need software though to make a text file.

Timed a small race 4-23 using bib numbers written on sequentially numbered cards. Software worked fine. Worked out pretty well especially since there were a lot of children who write poorly or do not understand process.
Watch for duplicate bibs when combining leftovers.
Have registration people to tell runners to put bibs on the front as they hand them out.

In a larger more confused atmosphere, it might be helpful to have person handing out cards circle gender and guess / ask age when there is time.
Timed an 8K with 27 runners on 9-30-2017 using Near Field Communication "tappy" cards. A second operator put the times in via the ENTER key. Worked great! Had a 22" auxiliary monitor at end of the chute so runners could see their time, place and award status as they exited. ID acquisition was fast and flawless compared to either using a keypad or 1D barcode reader. However, the 10' USB wire would be a big problem in a larger race.

These bib numbers, BTW, might go directly into RunScore. Don't have a copy so I have not tried it. Anybody ever tried this?

My problem is finding an NFC card reader that will Bluetooth the information into Notepad or Excel or my home made code. I did this successfully in smaller 5Ks earlier this year with a key pad and a barcode reader.


Documentation / information access for possible candidates is poor. So far, every vendor of a product that might work has inadequate English language skills. And their devices are a lot more than the $10 for this USB card reader, i.e. you could waste a lot of money finding out what won't work.

Runners liked the credit card size bib / badge. The instant info access was a little disappointing as most participants had significant presbyopia and had to go get their glasses to see it.

Also: have not completely given up on using 2D barcode if there is one (reasonably priced) that will Bluetooth with adequate reliability and lock on speed.
Got a Motorola FX 7400-4 UHF reader on Ebay for about $75. There was no 24V power supply with it so that was another $46 on Ebay. They have more readers and power supplies. To use with it for $50 got a circular, gain > 6db, RP-TNC connector, rated IP54 (deficient in a downpour) antenna. Good antenna will be more like $140. Then a 15' LMR200 RP-TNC connector, low loss cable for about $35.

Motorola has a quirky demo program "Session One" that records tags read in order of first read. I had tags in another room 15' away and it was getting them sometimes. So for $206, I have a, pseudo anyway, chip timing system.

Have not tried it out at a race yet but the used FX7400 is a neat little gizmo and the supply is limited. If you time, you might want to consider it for a back up. To be a great labor saver, all it has to do is record almost all the tags in a 100 person 5K. Then, between finishers, I can manually enter them into my results program. Custom race timing software is available from Brian Agee.

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