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Open AccessArticle

A Low-Cost Tracking System for Running Race Applications Based on Bluetooth Low Energy Technology

Signal Theory and Communications Department, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Esteve Terrades 7, 08860 Castelldefels, Spain
Aragon Institute for Engineering Research (I3A), University of Zaragoza, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sensors 2018, 18(3), 922;
Received: 28 February 2018 / Revised: 14 March 2018 / Accepted: 14 March 2018 / Published: 20 March 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue I3S 2017 Selected Papers)
Timing points used in running races and other competition events are generally based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Athletes’ times are calculated via passive RFID tags and reader kits. Specifically, the reader infrastructure needed is complex and requires the deployment of a mat or ramps which hide the receiver antennae under them. Moreover, with the employed tags, it is not possible to transmit additional and dynamic information such as pulse or oximetry monitoring, alarms, etc. In this paper we present a system based on two low complex schemes allowed in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): the non-connectable undirected advertisement process and a modified version of scannable undirected advertisement process using the new capabilities present in Bluetooth 5. After fully describing the system architecture, which allows full real-time position monitoring of the runners using mobile phones on the organizer side and BLE sensors on the participants’ side, we derive the mobility patterns of runners and capacity requirements, which are determinant for evaluating the performance of the proposed system. They have been obtained from the analysis of the real data measured in the last Barcelona Marathon. By means of simulations, we demonstrate that, even under disadvantageous conditions (50% error ratio), both schemes perform reliably and are able to detect the 100% of the participants in all the cases. The cell coverage of the system needs to be adjusted when non-connectable process is considered. Nevertheless, through simulation and experimental, we show that the proposed scheme based on the new events available in Bluetooth 5 is clearly the best implementation alternative for all the cases, no matter the coverage area and the runner speed. The proposal widely exceeds the detection requirements of the real scenario, surpassing the measured peaks of 20 sensors per second incoming in the coverage area, moving at speeds that range from 1.5 m/s to 6.25 m/s. The designed real test-bed shows that the scheme is able to detect 72 sensors below 600 ms, fulfilling comfortably the requirements determined for the intended application. The main disadvantage of this system would be that the sensors are active, but we have proved that its consumption can be so low (9.5 µA) that, with a typical button cell, the sensor battery life would be over 10,000 h of use. View Full-Text
Keywords: BLE; RFID; running races; tracking; monitoring; Bluetooth 5 BLE; RFID; running races; tracking; monitoring; Bluetooth 5
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Perez-Diaz-de-Cerio, D.; Hernández-Solana, Á.; Valdovinos, A.; Valenzuela, J.L. A Low-Cost Tracking System for Running Race Applications Based on Bluetooth Low Energy Technology. Sensors 2018, 18, 922.

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