ANSI - American National Standards Institute
 Print this article  Previous Next 

See for Yourself: RFID Technology Allows for Tracking of Athletes in the Boston Marathon


New York, Apr 21, 2003

As the world's oldest annual marathon marks its 107th year today, spectators at home will find Boston Marathon runners sporting some dynamic new technology. Visitors to the Boston Athletic Association’s website during the race will be able to track official runners as they pass eleven checkpoints along the race course thanks to a tiny timing and scoring device that will transmit data to www.baa.org.

Competitors will be equipped with a ChampionChip®, a tiny transponder in a specially designed housing worn on the runners' shoelace, marked with a unique identification number. The transponder is a waterproof glass capsule that contains a silicon chip and an energizing coil, and can be used under all weather conditions: wet and dry, cold and hot.

Developed using Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID, the chip operates in a similar fashion to electric traffic control and toll collection or the security tags clipped onto clothing in retail stores. An RFID system consists of a reader, comprising a transmitter and receiver, together with an antenna and an integrated circuit transponder tag or label. The transmitter sends out a radio signal on a specific frequency using the antenna. This signal is recognized by the tag if within the transmitter’s reading range. The tag then responds with a signal that is recognized by the receiver.

With the ChampionChip, the transponder is inactive until moved into a magnetic field, generated by a transmitting antenna in a mat. When the runner enters the magnetic field, the energizing coil within produces an electric current to power the chip. The transponder then transmits its unique identification number to a receiving antenna in a mat. The entire process takes approximately 60 milliseconds.

Since its invention in 1948, RFID has had myriad applications including supply chain management, transportation, industrial, security, animal identification, automated library systems, and healthcare. RFID standards fall under the scope of SC 31, Automatic Identification and Data Capture Techniques, a subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) jointly sponsored Joint Technical Committee 1. SC31 works to provide standards for interoperability of wireless, non-contact omnidirectional radio frequency identification devices capable of receiving, storing, and transmitting data while operating at power levels that are in freely available international frequency bands. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) serves as the U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to SC31.

ANSI member the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) maintains American National Standard ANSI/INCITS 256-2001, which establishes a technical standard for a family of compatible RFID devices, specifically, RFID devices operating in freely available international frequency bands at license-free power levels. It is intended to allow for compatibility and to encourage interoperability of products for the growing RFID market in the United States.

Standards Portal