The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Clever timing for runners

Local wireless system for Round the Bays will give results to participants in minutes.

Barcodes on race numbers will be scanned as people cross the finish line. Photo / Richard Robinson
Barcodes on race numbers will be scanned as people cross the finish line. Photo / Richard Robinson

More than 40,000 registered participants in this Sunday's Round the Bays fun run will have their finishing times processed by wireless technology developed in this country.

Parnell-based Mobico says it has custom designed a timing system for the event, which it provides free of charge, that can process the thick flow of runners as they funnel through the 20 finishing chutes at the end of the 8.4km race.

Mobico staff armed with scanning guns will scan barcodes on the runners' race numbers as they cross the finish line.

The scanners connect to a local area network and the runners receive a printout of their time within minutes of finishing the event.

According to Mobico, the data processing intensity of the Round the Bays is more than 10 times greater than some of the country's busiest distribution centres, which use similar technology.

Mobico managing director Aldas Palubinskas said that it used to take race organisers hundreds of man hours to process the physical race numbers, which were manually removed and spiked as the runners finished the race, and divided into 30-second timing bands.

He said other races with more expensive entry fees used radio frequency identification tags to time runners. But the Mobico technology allowed Round the Bays, which costs adults only $15 to enter, to have a low-cost yet effective automated timing system, Palubinskas said.

He said the fun run showcased Mobico's mobile technology and highlighted the productivity gains it could bring to a range of businesses.

The company's roots stretch back 25 years and its clients - including The Warehouse, Pak'nSave, Countdown, Mainfreight, Kathmandu, SkyCity and Auckland Council - use its technology for tasks ranging from stocktaking to ordering, invoicing and meter reading.

Palubinskas said Mobico's customers represented a big chunk of GDP. "Pretty much most of what New Zealanders wear and eat on a daily basis goes through our systems - that's pretty staggering," he said. "Our view is that we're only a small organisation [14 staff] and we can't significantly contribute to New Zealand's economy by growing our business but what we can do is engage with other businesses to make them as productive as possible and in that way we can help improve the whole economy, bottom line, by 1 or 2 per cent."

Palubinskas said he didn't think the rise of smartphones would make the more specialised technology offered by Mobico obsolete.

"You couldn't do this Round the Bays solution with anything but purpose-built stuff."

- NZ Herald

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