1. Home
  2. Timing
  3. FAQ
  4. Passive vs Active Timing Chips

Passive vs Active Timing Chips

We often get asked “why don’t you just use those disposable chips like they do in running”, or “it’s a pain to collect chips after the race.”  This FAQ is meant to better explain the differences between disposable passive chips and GoChip which is an active chip.

Passive Active (GoChip specifically)
Worn by Athlete
Timing Point Gear (mats – antenna underneath racers)

Timing Point Setup

(overhead and track side antennas)

(wire taped to road)

Per timing point weight 25-50lbs per reader box + mats (which each weigh 15-25lbs)  Track side antennas are lighter but need stands. 1lbs for activator and 1/2 lbs for wire loop. (5+ activators and loops can easily fit in one backpack for setting up remote timing points.)
Per timing point cost $5,000 – $15,000 (very heavy / big to ship for rental)  $1270 (or rent for $100)
Per Chip Cost $0.70-$1.25 for disposable ($7-$15 for re-usable) $2.50 to rent for weekend or $60 to purchase (and lasts 4 years)
Maximum Speed Read rate drops with speed.  Running can expect 99% read rate, cycling speeds can expect 90%, 100km/hr would be less than 50%. 100% activation rates up to 125 km/hr

Passive chips are often covered with foam strips that you often see on the back of running bibs.  The foam is to keep the chip away from metal and the human body which blocks the passive chip signal.  Passive chips have no battery and reflect the transmitted energy from the reader antennas like an echo — this means the antenna needs to be carefully aligned or close to the chip, or else the signal is weak and the chip does not read.  The signal can also be easily blocked by other racers or objects such as bike frames.  This is why passive systems have so many antennas and often a primary and backup reader to decrease the miss rate.  Passive chips do not store their times, so you must have a reader at each timing point with a data connection back to the central timing system.

At Zone4, we were attracted to the low cost of the disposable chips and the potential it had of lowering the cost of timing for clubs. We started in 2009 to develop a passive system, but soon became frustrated by the missed reads and inaccurate times that required cameras and other backup systems to resolve.  The large amount of complex equipment needed was an organizational and maintenance nightmare, especially when multiple timing points were required.  By 2014, our frustrations with the limitations of passive timing chips were at a tipping point.  We knew passive systems had their place in large mass-participation races where accuracy isn’t necessarily a priority and some number of misses are an acceptable compromise in exchange for not having to collect the chips after the race, but passive was never going to get us to our goal of making timing easy for the average club.  So our experience with passive chips inspired us to develop the GoChip system.

First and foremost, GoChip was designed to be extremely reliable and easy to set up.  Times are stored inside the chip itself for 3 days so there is never a fear of a missing time.  The large field size ensures that chips can be placed anywhere on a racer or bike, and cannot be blocked from the activating field.  The GPS activators ensure an accuracy better than 1/100s so sports such as cycling, skiing, and motorized sports can enjoy extreme precision.  High speeds of 170km/hr have been tested with hundreds of chips with 100% activation rates.  GoChip was designed to make timing easy and fun – timing shouldn’t require highly trained individuals and complex equipment. For more information about GoChip, please see our GoChip section: http://help.zone4.ca/cts/go-chip/
Updated on September 29, 2017

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles