Timing with RFID tags is one of the best ways to get accurate results, but how do you know when to take your race timing system to the next level?
Most new RFID race timers start out with a basic Level 1 system when starting with RFID, but as your company grows, that basic Level 1 system will hold you back. When you are asked to time a race with over 500 participants, you will soon realize that your 2-Port RFID reader just won’t be up to the task. Where do you go from there?
First, what are you starting with? The most common starting point for upgrading is the Basic Level 1 system mentioned above. Defined loosely, a Basic Level 1 system is: 1 Two-Port reader, 2 Mat Antennas (or panel antennas), 2 Cables, and mounting equipment if necessary.
Second, decide what you want to do. The graph below will take you through the questions that you need to answer when you decide to upgrade.
As illustrated in the graph, there are three basic steps that you can take to upgrade your system.
- Add additional equipment to your existing one read zone system – Upgrading your existing system depends on your current equipment. If you are using all of the ports on your reader, you will need to purchase another RFID reader. While readers are rather large purchases, the difference in having 2-8 antennas and having 6-16 antennas is extremely important when you are timing races with participants in the thousands. If you are not at full capacity with your current reader and just want to upgrade your system a notch at a time, a couple more antennas would help you add larger races to your current portfolio.One important piece to remember when upgrading is to understand the software you are using. Typically, with most race timing software, you have one API, or Application Programming Interface, that governs how your software works with the equipment. Most of the time, you should stick with the same manufacturer for your readers so that you do not have to be concerned with a different API. Changing the API could lead to potential problems with your existing setup unless you are a developer and understand the ins and outs of the software.
- Add additional checkpoints/read zones – Have you ever had a race director call and ask if you are capable of doing split timing? While you may not have been able to do it before, adding a checkpoint or read zone may be easier than you think. Depending on the event’s size, simply setting up an additional basic Level 1 system as a read zone may be exactly what you need. As mentioned above, sticking with the same make/model of reader is preferred to ensure it works well with your software.
- Add accessories- Adding accessories to your timing system can create a one of a kind customer experience. If you already have a full timing system, but you are looking to add a spark on race day, check out the accessories recommended by race timers below.
- Photo Finish- If you want participants to leave the race with a lasting memento, set up a camera at the finish line to snap a picture when they cross. Remember to upload the pictures to your website and social media networks, or setup a printing kiosk so the participants can have access to them.
- Screen Number Display – Set up a monitor at the finish line and connect it to your laptop (with software) so that when your participants cross the finish line, their number, name, and finish time are flashed across the screen!
- Social Media Kiosks – Have you seen the social media kiosks you can purchase or rent for big events? They are a great way to get the participants talking about the event and your company…LIVE!
- Hashtags & Auto tweets – If you set up a hashtag for your event like #atlasRFIDstore, you can get the participants engaged with your brand and create a community before and after the race. You could also use that hashtag and send out auto tweets like “runner 439 has just crossed the finish line #atlasRFIDstore”. Auto tweets could be set up on your laptop or an additional laptop at the race for full functionality.
- Real Time Location for Friends and Family – For the out of town participants that don’t have their friends and family there to cheer them on, take a look at using the timestamps at each checkpoint and sending the information to an app or webpage that anyone can access.
If you have any questions about upgrading, reader compatibility, or anything else we covered in this blog post, please let us know! When your races start picking up and increasing in size, now you know what to do to keep business crossing the finish line.