Why bib detection isn’t always perfect

Bib detection technology, also known as automated race recognition, has become increasingly popular at mass participation events. It uses cameras and algorithms to identify race participants and their finishing times. While it's a helpful tool for event organizers and athletes alike, it's important to note that bib detection technology isn't always perfect. Here are a few reasons why.

Human error during bib distribution

Bib detection relies on the accurate and consistent distribution of bibs to participants. If there are any errors during the process, such as missing bibs or incorrect bib numbers, the technology won't be able to identify the participants accurately. Human error can happen at any stage, from the initial distribution to the actual race day.

Technical difficulties

Another issue that can impact bib detection is technical difficulties. The cameras or sensors used to detect the bibs may malfunction or be blocked by other objects, making it difficult to capture accurate data. The cameras may also struggle to differentiate between similar bib numbers or colors.

Tagged bibs may not be detected

In an effort to prevent cheating, some mass participation events require participants to wear tagged bibs that contain a tracking device. While these bibs have proven useful, they're not always reliable. They can be left in bags, lost during the race, or even intentionally removed by participants. This can cause issues with the bib detection system and lead to inaccurate results.

Course design and construction

Finally, the course design and construction can also impact bib detection. If an event takes place in a heavily wooded area or features steep hills, camera placement can become an issue. The cameras may struggle to capture accurate images of participants or their bibs due to obstacles or distance. This can lead to incomplete or incorrect data, which can be frustrating for both event organizers and participants.

In conclusion, while bib detection technology has improved significantly over the years, it's still not perfect. Human error, technical difficulties, tagged bib difficulties, and course construction can all impact the accuracy of the system. Event organizers and participants should keep these factors in mind when relying on bib detection technology, and use it in conjunction with other methods to ensure that accurate and reliable results are obtained.

Andy Hammond

12 May 2023