Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sigma Set High Tech Bar

 


A record 20,000 plus participants had gathered at the start line in New Kingston for the 15th annual Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run when Sagicor Investments boss Donovan Perkins instructed them to look up and wave.  Hovering overhead was Skycam, a remote-controlled model helicopter fitted with a camera. The result - a breathtaking shot of the largest road race, per capita, in the world.


An expert Skycam team manipulates the state-of-the-art, "multi-rotor hexacopter". The HD camera installed on the machine is equipped with a camera gimbal system capable of a 180 degree tilt.  The operator can raise the hexacopter to a height of 400 feet from an astonishing 3,000 feet away. During this, the flight path is monitored via a live video download link.  Using 10 inch propellers, the craft has a payload of five pounds.  For Sigma, a Sony NEX 5n Full HD camera was used to capture the stunning video and still shots, but it just as easily could have been the GoPro Hero2 HD camera with the wide angle lens.

Without this cutting-edge Skycam system, the alternative would have been to ask a cameraman to join the crew on a real helicopter, an option which could have posed significant risk to the participants below. Skycam followed all sorts of self-imposed safety protocols: clear landing space, limited flight times, minimum vertical distances et al. Also, compared to the other options, the Skycam system was whisper quiet. Thus – an elegant and cost effective solution which provided minimum disturbance to the participants below, while producing breathtaking dramatic representations of the historic crowd.

The Sigma 5K set the bar, by being the first road race in Jamaica to make use of aerial technologies, but setting the tech bar is nothing new to Sigma. They were the first in the hemisphere to introduce the MyLaps BibTag timing system. With the MyLaps BibTags, every runner, walker or wheelchair participant gets accurate race times both from the gun time and the start line time, through to the finish.

Sigma Corporate Run Start Line
Microchips, embedded in the bibs, ‘talk’ to special mats placed at the start and finish line, also coordinating with the start gun used to cue the participants.  For the participants, it is seamless.  For Sigma, the race management becomes so much easier. Less infrastructure is now needed at the finish line, accuracy is improved and the results can be exported in many ways and shared with participants via email or text.  The race results are also posted to the Sagicor website so that participants can query and compare their results with team mates, friends or friendly rivals.

The Sigma 5K website also has a great feature called, “Watch Yourself Finish”.  With this innovation, finishers (notice the change from ‘participants’ to ‘finishers’) can enter their bib number and see a video clip of themselves crossing over the finish line.  No need to scan through minutes of video, or for some walkers, hours, to see the big finish.  Data cross referencing of the bib number, the MyLaps timing chip and the video makes it easy to relive the victory.

The Sagicor team will exploit technology for the 16th staging of the Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run on Sunday, February 16, 2014.

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