Tracking Racers with RFID

NASCAR drivers and others may soon be sporting the same cheap timing technology as marathoners

Testing the Tags

Hardcard

Everybody loves a photo-finish. But, what if you can't afford the camera? At prices that start around $25 thousand, high-speed cameras aren't practical for lower levels of racing. Now Hardcard Systems, in cooperation with Alien Technology, thinks they can lower the cost of electronic timing to just a few dollars per competitor—not with cheaper camera technology, but by shattering the speed limits on radio-frequency identification.

While RFID tags have become a popular timing method for marathons, it has proven more complicated to track a stock car moving about 16 times the speed of the fastest runners. Hardcard, however, has already successfully completed testing on motorcycles at up to 140 mph and has no doubt it will work at +200 mph. They've tested on dirt tracks, and have confidence that the paper thin stamp-size sticker can withstand the elements.

RFID Tag on Side of Bike

Hardcard

Even for elite levels where photo-finishes are bound to continue, Hardcard believes its RFID technology can replace existing transponders. Currently they're used for timing not deemed photo-worthy, but can cost up to $800 per competitor. As deep as NASCAR's pockets are, even they'll enjoy the savings.

Testing to date has validated accuracy at 1/100s: more than sufficient for amateur and lower level races. A few minor tweaks should make RFID hit the 1/10,000s accuracy mark claimed by transponders. According to Hardcard, there are ongoing discussions with "major" players in the racing industry. Hmmm. Wonder who that could be?