zarnick
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Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Wed Nov 27, 2013 6:31 pm

Hello, I'm recently engaged on a project that needs to track athletes time on a race (running, skating and cycling).
What we thought of was using RFID for the tracking.
Has anyone some hints on this? What would I need? I'm not a hardware expert, but I do believe if I'm able to create and antennae that "stays" on the floor, I could use passive RFID tags for this. But as I said, I'm not a hardware expert and I'm completely lost on this.

Any help would be more than welcome.

Thank you very much.

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FLYFISH TECHNOLOGIES
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:40 pm

Hello,
zarnick wrote:Hello, I'm recently engaged on a project that needs to track athletes time on a race (running, skating and cycling).
What we thought of was using RFID for the tracking.
If your primary goal is to track athletes, then hire somebody with equipment and skills... and you don't need to read lines below. ;-)

So, obviously, you're reading... and your goal is to develop the system. :-) I'm not sure that generic RFID technology is suitable. The main problem are detections of multiple RFID tags present at the same time.
Typical setup of check point area for athletes is 2 meters wide (to be sure that both feet touch the ground) and cover complete track width. Events with massive number of competitors measure both times (next to bruto time triggered at gun start also netto time after the particular athlete actually passes the start line). Therefore, you should support presence of quite some athletes on these detection sector at the same time... starts are crowded.

Beyond this first "technical issue", you need to be aware that existing system providers have global databases - you can purchase your ID tag "for lifetime" and compete with it on various events all over the globe. So, by introducing your new system, expct a resistance due to quite some personal ID chips which athletes have already purchased and cannot be used on your events due to incompatibility fact (existing systems are not open source/open hardware ;-) )... this leads to increased starting fees (and additional effort to enter their persona data)... You just cannot become popular with your system.

Well, my opinion is that you're very late to enter these "classic" events, like marathons, cycling, skating, triathlons, etc.
Try to locate sports which are not yet covered with this technology. For example, implementing system for scouts orientation competition could be nice. A niche might be system for some animal competitions...


Best regards, Ivan Zilic.
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DougieLawson
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Wed Nov 27, 2013 7:57 pm

The last time I marshalled a cycling sportive event they had a timing mat at our feed station.

The mat was linked to a computer in a brief case that had a GPS receiver (mainly to give it a very stable timebase regardless of location) plus the batteries & the electronics for the receiver in the mat so it could energise the RFID tags, read the data and record it with the current timestamp. The time between La Tête de La Course and La Lanterne Rouge was about four hours (and we had to be in a ready state for that whole time).

The magic box of tricks didn't know who owned each RFID (that was done at the headquarters and in the race preparation). We only got RFID=123456 @ Timestamp='yyyy-mm-dd hhmmssth' in the data it collected. So it's not a big data problem.

The hard part with a bike is that you have to light up the RFID on less than 1 metre (about 2 metres wide) of matting (with your embedded antenna) at anything up to 45Km/h (or more if it's the Tour de France) with the tag about 30cm above you. The runners are the slowest and the skaters will be somewhere in between.

As a marshal my job was standing in the middle of the road (avoiding being squished by cars) trying to ensure every cyclist went over the mat and not round it or round me. [We didn't have the benefit of a closed circuit, this was on the public roads.]
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zarnick
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Thu Nov 28, 2013 2:06 pm

Thanks Ivan, and thanks Dougie.
Both what you all said is nothing but the absolute truth. But Ivan, the main problem that we have is the actual cost of the systems available now for this kind of tracking. This is why we are starting this project. The team that I currently race (inline speed skating) is small, and nationwide we have no more then 200-300 athletes, of those, if we can place ~150 athletes on the same race, that would be a record.
So, going with the number of athletes + the price of existing systems, I can tell you that it would be much more cheaper to make it on our own. Even if that requires learning all sort of hardware skills. Software skills present no problem, but hardware skills yes.

Ok, passing on this issue, Doug you have the absolute truth about the speed, we go around 45-50km/h (sometimes maybe 60km/h), and since we are such a small pack, at the same time you would have around 10 athletes crossing the finish line at the same time, around that speed.

What I wanted to make with RFID are mainly 2 things:
1) Checkpoints
2) Finish time

And it HAS to be passive RFID, I was thinking on those stickers, they could be placed on the bottom part (externally) of the skate boot, that would be around 15cms up on the floor with the skate down, if the skate is up, we could increase around 30cm tops. More then this there's no point on tracking the RFID.

So, any clue on how can I start this project? Is the Raspberry Pi a good starting point? From what I've been searching, I would need a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino Shield and the RFID serial module, then put all this together. More then this (hardware part) I have no clue whatsoever on how to make this.

Thank you for all your help!

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Thu Nov 28, 2013 10:02 pm

Hi,
zarnick wrote:But Ivan, the main problem that we have is the actual cost of the systems available now for this kind of tracking.
My suggestion is that you hire timekeeping team with equipment (and skills).

Else, you have to fulfill three important items:
- make/buy/rent/whatever equipment (software, hardware, etc.),
- build skills,
- gain "trust" (obtain certificates).
zarnick wrote:I can tell you that it would be much more cheaper to make it on our own.
I can tell you that I started to implement various timekeeping (sub)systems more than 20 years ago. I also worked several years as a professional timekeeper on sports events. In my first year (1995), I even counted number of events I worked on - the number was 156, including alpine skiing, biathlon, track & field, swimming, rally, cycling... you name it.
Therefore, I believe that I know what I'm writing about... ;-)

I don't think that my message can stop you... I'm just trying to "prepare" you that the path you're taking will (at least) take a lot of energy & time to complete it.

Let me just finish with one my experience from this context - pipes and cables buried below streets and squares decrease performances also of professional equipment. It happens that mats need to be moved away from initially planned location. Expect unexpected. :|


Anyway, good luck, Ivan Zilic.
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zarnick
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Mon Dec 02, 2013 4:32 pm

Well Ivan, you stand correct when you say that the message won't stop me ;).
I know it would take a lot of time and effort on this, but the idea is both to create a system "cheap" for our skating team to use and learn all the skill involved. So basically I'm still going.

Maybe if I make some more specific questions you can help me out (or anyone else).
As I've said, I reached the point were I should get a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino Shield and a RFID module for the Arduino, is that correct? Or is there any way (other then USB) to put the RFID module on the Raspberry Pi?
Also, thinking this is the right path, I should go to 125KHz RFIDs? Are those enough to reach around 30 cm on a floor based antennae?
And finally, how could I create the antennae for the floor? This is the part were I get completely lost (assuming the previous questions stand correct).

Thank you once again.

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:26 pm

Hi,
zarnick wrote:Well Ivan, you stand correct when you say that the message won't stop me ;).
I feel sorry for you... but on the other hand, you'll gain some knowledge and this counts most...
zarnick wrote:Or is there any way (other then USB) to put the RFID module on the Raspberry Pi?
Yes, there are various interfaces which you can use, RS-232, SPI, I2C... I'd say that (according to interface type) RS-232 should be most robust - decent allowed distance, resistant to noise, cabling not critical, etc.
zarnick wrote:Also, thinking this is the right path, I should go to 125KHz RFIDs?
My statement from previous message remains unchanged. :|
zarnick wrote:And finally, how could I create the antennae for the floor?
Active ID tags can have just a simple wire loop, where passive (like yours) need array of antennaes. Mobile passive systems have flexible array molded in synthetic base material (eg. polyurethane).


BTW: You should arrange a visit to any timekeeping team to see & touch this system in live... I'm also willing to show you one, some low-cost airlines fly to my town. ;-)

Best wishes, Ivan Zilic.
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ZombieWorm
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Sun May 14, 2017 12:35 pm

zarnick,

Did you get anywhere with this idea?

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Sun May 14, 2017 1:18 pm

Don't hold your breath waiting for a reply, the OP hasn't visited the forum in three and a half years since Tue 03 Dec 2013 @ 11:51
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mustaphamillion
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Mon Oct 09, 2017 11:59 am

Hi all,

I found this to be a useful thread. I was hoping to do something similar. I, however, have the benefit of working in a primary school so we can change the rules to include tapping a card on the receiver and the children will not argue (much). I have an excel document which is doing this but I can't get it to do individual lap times. I was hoping to use python to record the split times in seconds for any laps done, placing each one in a list per competitor. I would like it to then record all the data in a excel file.

Is a series of lists the best way to do this or is there another way? Also will the absence of a real time clock impact the accuracy of the timer? Could the "tap time" of each card be impacted by the time taken to store the data, or am I being wildly worried about nothing?

All help gratefully received

Dan

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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Mon Oct 09, 2017 2:09 pm

Unless you need to log the actual start and finish times as accurate times of the day, then I don't see not having a real time clock is going to impact your timings, they are cheap and easy to add should you decide you want to do this.

But I can see a problem with lap times if you reader can only read one RFID at a time or your reader is small limiting multiple access at one time, as following competitors will need to cue to access the reader, so affecting there lap times and the error will multiply for each competitor in the cue.
The actual writing of the data will only take micro seconds for each competitor so it should not impact on the lap time as I doubt you are going to be timing it to that degree in your case.
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mustaphamillion
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:12 am

I was planning to stagger start times rather than releasing them all at once to reduce the impact of multiple taps. With a gap of 10 seconds on a long lap there should not be a huge queue building up. And if there is, so be it - my children haven't paid a marathon entrance fee to be timed accurately!

What might be the closest succession of tap times? A few seconds? milliseconds? Advice appreciated

mustaphamillion
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Re: Using Raspberry Pi to track athletes via RFID

Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:14 am

Would multiple lists be the easiest way to do this? or perhaps writing straight to a .csv file? I thought the processing could be done after the race was done if this was easier.

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