US 20060217232 A1
A lap counter system for multiple runners automatically counts and times one or more runner(s) during a workout session exercise at either an indoor or outdoor running track suitable for use at a health club, school, business, government or other organization promoting physical activity to enhance the health of their members. The system includes standalone, computer controlled, end user friendly components that displays fitness statistics during the use of the running track for each runner without impeding the athletic activity with a cumbersome wearable device. The system preferably includes a display visible to the runner at one or more points around the track such as a scoreboard with the aforementioned statistics displayed providing the runner with a virtual coach.
1. A lap counter system for counting and timing a runner during a workout session at a track comprising:
A receiver located a predetermined distance from the track, an antenna electrically coupled to said receiver creating an electrical field that the runner passes through during each lap around the track, a RFID tag affixed to the runner for generating a signal when it passes through said electrical field, a computer connected to the receiver for capturing and processing said signal to provide counting and timing information related to the cumulative laps completed by said runner.
2. A lap counter system of
3. A lap counters system of
4. A lap counters system of
5. A lap counters system of
6. A lap counter system of
7. A lap counter system of
8. A lap counter system for accumulating lap information about a runner doing laps around a track during a workout session, comprising:
(a) a pedestal positioned adjacent the track;
(b) computing means housed within the pedestal for acting upon the accumulated lap information about the runner and for generating a graphical display of the accumulated lap information that is viewable by the runner during the workout session;
(c) a RFID antenna connected to the computing means for creating an electrical sensing field across the track;
(d) a RFID tag removably affixed to the runner for generating a signal each time the RFID tag passes on the runner passes through the antenna sensing field during a lap on the track; and
(e) sensing means on or in the pedestal for recognizing the runner RFID tag when it is positioned on or about the pedestal to initiate the computing means to begin a workout session of that runner and to accumulate the lap information for display and to end a workout session when the runner approaches the pedestal for a second time and places the RFID tag on or about the pedestal.
9. A lap counter system of
10. A lap counter system of
11. A lap counter system of
12. A lap counter system of
13. A lap counter system of
14. A method of a lap counter system for a runner on a track, comprising the steps of:
(a) affixing a removable RFID tag to a runner for generating an encoded signal with unique characteristics related to the identity of the runner and to cumulative lap information derive about each runner during a workout session;
(b) sensing the encoded signal each lap around the track;
(c) feeding the sensed encoded signal to a computer for calculating various variables concerning the laps completed by the runner; and
(d) displaying the various variables on a monitor viewable by the runner on the track during a workout session.
15. The method of
16. The method of
17. The method of
18. The method of
(a) utilizing a computer based pedestal Kiosk having a sensing means for sensing the presence of an RFID tag and having an antenna projecting an antenna field for sensing the encoded signal from an RFID tag;
(b) placing the RFID tag near or about the sensing means on the Kiosk to initiate or terminate the workout session;
(c) running laps pass and through the antenna field projected by the Kiosk to generate the encoded signal;
(d) feeding a plurality of encoded signals to the computer in the Kiosk for generating the running information; and
(e) developing running information from the accumulated encoded signals for logging onto a data bank about a runner workout session.
19. The method of
20. The method of claim 28 wherein the RFID is placed near or next to a point on a touch screen in the Kiosk to initiate or end a workout session.
This invention relates to a system for counting and timing a runner on a track and, more particularly, to a system for counting and timing the laps of one or more runners on the same track without a system component impeding each individual runner or the logging of the runner's individual exercise workout session.
There are a number of devices for counting and timing the laps of a runner. On personal lap counters, these devices generally fall into two different technology categories: a GPS driven device or an inertia detection device. There are significant problems and limitations with both technology categories and the respective devices used therein. First, each device shares the disadvantage of a significant investment of time to learn the operation and of money by the runner to purchase a component of these systems.
Next, commercially available GPS devices are quite expensive and generally take the shape of a wristwatch or a band attached around an arm of the runner. GPS devices although accurate in calculation of speed and location are somewhat delicate instruments that require significant time to calibrate before they can provide reliable data to the runner. Such devices are limited to only outdoors track where there are no overhead obstructions to impede the reception of satellite signals that often require at least three satellite captures of the signal for a proper triangulation of the runner on the ground. Moreover, to log meaningful data similar to the present invention, the GPS devices of these technologies would require additional memory on board which consumes battery power to later download the logged data to a personal computer (PC) for printing out the statistics on a particular exercise workout session. In addition, the runner utilizing a GPS system needs to be careful handling the GPS devices and so ruggedness, temperature and moisture often plays a role in the overall effectiveness of the GPS device in outdoor track settings.
On the other hand, the modern inertia detection devices are essentially more elaborate electronic versions of the classic pedometer with all of the normal problems encounter by the electronic GPS devices and yet having additional unique problems for the runner that makes inertia devices unfriendly to the end user. Inertia devices require a careful calibration to the runner's stride which may change several time over an exercise workout session and once set, all calculations are based on that stride whether it's an accurate approximation or not. If the runner changes stride during the workout, which is often the case because the runner either speeds up or slows down, there is little chance that the inertia device no matter how expensive the electronics can properly compensate for this change in the runner's stride. Therefore, the runner ends up with essentially erroneous data displayed and later logged out to a PC for printing the exercise workout session results.
And then there are even more expensive type of runner systems used in Marathon running, cycling and other similar type athletic events marketed by ChampionChip World of the Netherlands. Its principal use is to log the times of runners and the like as they cross the finish line in a race. Since this type of system utilizes expensive components to energize and capture a signal from a chip on board the runner that has a coil which must be energized by a magnetic field at the finish line, a powerful magnetic field must be created and then each individual runner's chip produces only a small signal that must be picked up by an accompanying antenna that is also located in a specialized mat at the finish line. There is no feedback displayed to the runner in this system and the chip in the system is often subject to severe shock during accidents and other traumas during the run that can damage it and render it useless at the finish line.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a lap counter system that automatically counts and times a runner's laps around an indoor or outdoor track that requires no investment in time or money by the individual runner to utilize.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a lap counter system that is inexpensive but yet provides an accurate device worn by a runner for automatically counting and timing each individual runner doing laps around a track that has no restrictions of indoor versus outdoor use.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a lap counter system for counting and timing a runner's laps around a track that results in accurate information about each individual lap completed despite changes in the runner's stride or form while running around the track.
It is a further object of the invention to provide a lap counter system for counting and timing a runner's laps around a track that produces workout statistics that are captured by a storage device for later printing results or tracking the progress over a multiple of exercise workout sessions over a predetermined time span.
It is still a further object of the invention to provide a method for a lap counter system for counting and timing a runner's laps around a track that can be added to an organization or club track facility statistics on each individual runner with relative ease while an essentially unlimited number of runners on the track are able to see a display of their progress during each runner exercise workout session.
It is still a further object of the invention to provide a system for counting and timing a runner on a track with a passive emitter or tag carried or attached to the runner person or clothing which is unobtrusive and has no appreciable effect upon the runner's performance on the track.
It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a system for counting and timing a runner's laps on a track with a durable and active emitter or tag having a greater sensing range than a passive emitter or tag.
In accordance with the present invention, the foregoing objects are met by providing a lap counter system for counting and timing a runner's laps around a track in which the runner affixes either a passive or active transponder tag, respectively, to the person or the clothing worn by the person and in which the runner passes by an antenna generally incorporated into a receiver located adjacent the track to pick up the signal emitted from the tag during each lap around the track. Each tag is encoded with unique information related to a particular individual runner and this tag serves as a transponder with the runner's information concerning the counting and timing of the laps associated with each exercise workout session so that this lap information can be logged into a storage device in the system associated with each runner assigned tag. This logging function permits each runner's data for one or more exercise workout sessions to be stored for later comparison between various workout sessions to see the advancement in physical training for each runner. A signal from the runner's tag is generally picked up by an antenna of a predetermined configuration or array generally incorporated into a receiver located closely adjacent the running track.
Preferably, a lap counter system for multiple runners automatically counts and times one or more runner(s) during an exercise workout session at either an indoor or outdoor running track suitable for use at a health club, school, business, government or other organization promoting physical activity to enhance the health of their members. The system includes a standalone emitter tag worn by a runner, an antenna or other array sensing a signal from the emitter tag during each lap, a computer receiving and processing the sensed signal from the antenna or array for presenting the runner lap information in any desired format, end user friendly components that display predetermined fitness statistics during the use of the running track for each runner without impeding the athletic activity with a cumbersome or fragile wearable device. Through an unique, coded passive or active transponder tag or device carried by or attached in some manner to the runner, the system calculates individual elapsed time, current lap number, time taken to run the last lap, total distance run, minutes per mile achieved per lap, and speed in mile per hour per lap or any other relevant data related to the exercise workout session. The system preferably includes a display visible to the runner at one or more points around the track such as a scoreboard or other type of monitor with the aforementioned running statistics displayed providing the runner with a virtual coach. On the completion of the exercise workout session, the runner may print out a hard copy (receipt) of the workout session statistics or data. The results of each runner exercise workout session is logged into the system computer and stored for future reference by the runner or others. Therefore, multiple runner workout sessions can be easily referenced at a later date and the data from each workout session is available to view training progress on each runner. The end result of utilizing this lap counter system for multiple runners of the present invention is getting all of the benefit of workout logging provided by a health club treadmill machine, but with an actual running on a track exercise workout session that is universally accepted and considered to be superior to that of the motor assisted treadmill or other health club workout machines or devices.
Preferably, a lap counter system for one or more runners comprises means for counting and timing a workout session of a runner using a programmed microprocessor in which the results are displayed to the runner using a monitor or scoreboard type of device strategically placed near or about an indoor or outdoor track. The monitor or scoreboard uses light emitting diodes or a graphic liquid crystal display or the like. The microprocessor is programmable to operate in predetermined modes to display relevant information with regard to the runner such as lap count completed, total distance completed, time of each lap, average of each lap time, average speed or individual speed of a particular lap, real or total time, pace (minutes/mile) or last lap time. Also, the microprocessor is adapted for programming by either the club or individual runners to change the output of data for review by each runner.
Other features and advantages of the invention, which are believed to be novel and nonobvious, will be apparent from the following specification taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which there is shown a preferred embodiment of the invention. Reference is made to the claims for interpreting the full scope of the invention, which is not necessarily represented by any one embodiment.
Although this invention is susceptible to embodiments of many different forms, a preferred embodiment will be described and illustrated in detail herein. The present disclosure exemplifies the principles of the invention and is not to be considered a limit to the broader aspects of the invention to the particular embodiment as described.
The transponder or emitter tags 20 that are generally used in the system 10 are either a disposable radio frequency identification (RFID) passive type tag or a more durable active emitter tag. If the organization uses a passive transponder tag 20 as shown in
Sensing distance of the tag or label 20 can vary depending upon the manufacturer of the passive tag or label 20 being used but generally covers at least a meter or two from an omni-directional antenna array 18 or 18 a located on the side of the box receiver 16 or kiosk receiver 16 a facing the running track 14. The receivers 16 and 16 a including the antenna array 18 and 18 a are powered by a RFID reader pulse signal that is sent out to the passive tag or label 20 as the runners 12 and 12 a run past the receivers 16 and 16 a that energizes the tag or label 20 on the runners to relay their identification information back to the receivers to perform the aforementioned counting and timing functions of the system 10. The size of a passive tag or label 20 is approximately in the one by three inch range or smaller as electronics continue to miniaturize and the weight is virtually nothing in comparison to the overall weight of a running shoes 22 and socks 22 a.
The passive tags or labels 20 are very inexpensive and literally can be thrown away or disposed of after each exercise workout session by a health club member or guest doing the running on the indoor or outdoors track. This provides for a high level of security concerning the personal training and fitness of each runner utilizing this lap counter system of the present invention. Therefore, the expense or charge to the individual runner using the track facility with a personal passive tag or label 20 to measure their performance is nominal at best. Also, since the computer in the lap counter system offers virtually an unlimited number of different preprogrammed workout sessions that can be chosen by each runner, the runner spends little time interfacing with the smart tag or label in setting up the parameters of a workout session and instead spends most of the time doing the actual running around the track.
Next, the RFID tag or label 20 may be a more durable active device (not shown). An active tag or label is generally made of a hard or plastic type of material in the appearance of a commercial pager. This active RFID tag would generally be supplied by the organization operating the running track and such a tag has a much greater sensing distance of up to or exceeding 25 meters or more from the receivers 16 and 16 a. The active tag would require only a directional antenna in stead of an array antenna on the receivers 16 and 16 a and is powered by its own battery. The dimensions of this type of the permanent active tag is approximately 1.5″×3.0″×0.38″ thick.
Again, each individual runner's information is then stored on the active tag similar to the previously described passive tag or label 20. Again as the runners 12 and 12 a go past the receivers 16 and 16 a mounted adjacent the running track 14 and the active tag provides a signal captured by the receivers 16 and 16 a through their respective antennas for processing by the facilities microprocessor within the box or kiosk enclosures or back to a main computer in the facility with the runner's data being recorded and logged during each exercise workout session.
A power cord 32 is connected to an AC adapter 34 that provides the required voltage and amperage to power the electronics within the box receiver 16. The AC adapter 34 is plugged into a receptacle 36 having either 110VAC or 230VAC. Then the runner or operator of the system 10 sets the time and date on the display 38 and then the track parameters for each workout session. The display 38 of the time and date is typically either a light emitting diodes or graphic LCD. The box receiver 16 includes operator-actuated buttons 40 and memory tree ports 42, 1 through 10 as shown in
The external antennas 18 and 18 a of the receivers 16 and 16 a, respectively, are connected to the RFID reader. When the antenna is a larger omni-directional antenna array, it is capable of generating a pulse signal for activating the passive tag or label 20 as the runner 12 or 12 a passes through the signal range of the antenna 18 or 18 a and thus collect data pertinent to each runner who runs past the receivers 16 and 16 a to log in the data concerning that runner's workout session. The antenna type or array depends upon the type of tag selected for the system 10 and whether the tag or label 20 is active or passive.
Referring now to the block diagram of
A commercially available pedestal Kiosk like TouchScreens.com from Mass Multimedia, Inc. offers a variety of interactive hardware and software solutions in an attractive, angled touch screen display as shown in
The active, durable tag version of the pedestal Kiosk receiver 16 a would feature top mounted and integrated active receptacle that identifies the durable tag as it is positioned or plugged into the receptacle and then the Kiosk receiver 16 a prompts the runner 12 or 12 a to initiate the input. The runner would then be assigned a permanent active tag by his club or organization and would bring it to the running track each time that the runner wanted to record or log a workout session.
Obviously, all of the components like the computer and its related circuitry that may be found in the box receiver 16 and its antenna 18 as previously described above, are also easily incorporated into the pedestal Kiosk receiver 16 a located adjacent the running track 14.
The flowcharts of
Now how does a runner or operator interface with the system 10 of the present invention? The runners 12 and 12 a will each approach the pedestal Kiosk and initiate a workout session with either the active durable RFID tag by placing the tag in a receptacle at the pedestal Kiosk or the passive RFID tag by first generating a new disposable tag at the printer in the pedestal Kiosk station that inputs the appropriate runner identification information.
Once the runner RFID tag is initialized, the runner proceeds to the running track 14. Upon running past the RFID antenna for the first time, the system 10 initiates tracking of the runner's progress through the workout session. Data is displayed real time, overhead, on one or more ceiling or wall-mounted displays 58 (LED or LCD Scoreboard Type). Each runner is identified by name and the following information is relayed to the runner: laps completed, pace (minute/mile), speed, total distance completed (miles or kilometers), total time, last lap time, etc.
Information is computed by the CPU housed in either the box receiver 16 or the pedestal Kiosk receiver 16 a based on each passing of the respective antenna sensors and displayed only when the runner is in view of the display, per the aforementioned description in the flowchart.
The box or the pedestal Kiosk receiver CPU keeps track of a runner's average pace, and when this pace drops to a significant lower level indicating that the runner is walking instead of running, the system 10 assumes the runner is in a cool down mode and halts computation of the runner's performance.
Upon completing the cool down period, the runner approaches the pedestal Kiosk and ends the workout session by placing the RFID tag back into a receptacle for the hard, durable tag or on a spot location on the either the box or Kiosk display. Upon completion of this task, the runner is given the option of printing out a hardcopy of the runner's performance during workout session just completed.
These and other improvements would be within the realm of an ordinary person skilled in the art of lap counter systems once reviewing this invention.
Having described and illustrated the principles of the invention in a preferred embodiment thereof, it should be apparent that the invention can be modified in arrangement and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as claimed.