Bar Codes at the Boston Marathon

By Deane Barker on April 15, 2006

Runners’ bar codes help health, safety officials at big events: They’re doing something at the Boston Marathon that may help with mass crowds after Katrina-like natural disasters.

All runners will have a bar code on their bibs so organizers can track them using handheld scanners should they require transportation or hospitalization during the race.

The immediate goal of the runner tracking system is to make sure organizers don’t lose any participants during the 26.2-mile event. But public health officials say it could also test a mechanism for tracking victims of natural disasters or terror attacks through medical tents and shelters.

They’ve used bar codes like this for years at big conventions. There’s usually a bar code on your lanyard, and if you talk to a vendor and tell them you want more info about their product, they can just scan your bar code, which gives them your record from the convention’s database.



  1. I’m surprised they can’t use the chips they tie into their shoes to keep track of the runners time for the same information. As the runner passes over a mat on the course it recognizes the chip, and tracks the runners time and displays it at the finish, other places along the course, even on the web in some events. Maybe organizers didn’t want to wave a mat over a passed out runner, and opted for the bar code scanner.

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