Alien on the race track

New technology may ‘revolutionize’ how races are timed

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Mar. 18, 2008
A new technology using ultra high frequency radio waves could change the way motorcycle races are timed and scored.

Motorsport management firm Hardcard Systems and Alien Technologies, a radio frequency identification (RFID) company, have completed the first rounds of testing this new technology to accurately time motorcycles racing at speeds greater than 140 mph.

The technology could reduce the cost and complexity of timing racers. Instead of using expensive transponders, vehicles can be fitted with disposable RFID tags. These tags could take the form of small adhesive labels the size of a postage stamp and can transfer information to readers using UHF waves. RFID technology is already used by retailers to track merchandise and farmers to track livestock.

“Radio Frequency Identification technology has the potential to revolutionize motorsports timing and scoring,” says Andrew Leisner, managing partner with Hardcard Systems. “Our team of racers, racing executives and industry-leading timing and scoring professionals have found great promise in the use of passive UHF RFID for time scoring, event-related promotions, field access and overall use of the technology for asset tracking. Our system will be able to precisely time and score race machines at high speeds using RFID from Alien Technology and its partners.”

The tests were held in December at Buttonwillow Raceway in California. Eight motorcycles outfitted with two RFID tags raced around the circuit while trackside antennas and Alien ALR-9900 readers gathered data. Under these simulated racing conditions, testers were able to accurately measure the times of the bikes from up to 30 feet away.

“Working with Hardcard Systems, we were able to push the envelope for high speed RFID applications,” says Victor Vega, director of product marketing for Alien Technology. “Though the results are within the theoretical capabilities of Gen 2 RFID, we were pleased to see that our standard portfolio of tags and readers met the needs of this new racing application. At this raceway, the limitation was not RFID, but the length of the track and top speed of the motorcycles.”