Please tell us about what MYLAPS offers and about your role at MYLAPS.
MYLAPS, originally AMB-IT, was founded in 1982 as a way for twobrothers to solve an issue of how to time their radio-controlled cars through developing the first electronic timing system. In the 35+ years thereafter MYLAPS has specialised in developing timing systems and services for sport events and athletes. Our goal is to enhance the experience of the athlete. I have been with MYLAPS since 2006 and am currently the Managing Director of the 4 local MYLAPS offices in the Asia Pacific Region (Sydney, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Beijing). On a yearly basis, we estimate that more than 20 million athletes are being timed with our systems.
Marathons and road races are being very popular in China and Hong Kong. How is MYLAPS involved in these markets?
We do see a steep increase in Marathon & Road racing participation in China and in Hong Kong. Most of the major city marathons in China (Xiamen, Beijing, Shanghai) and Hong Kong are using MYLAPS’ hardware and software to not only give athletes an accurate finish time and a split time every 5km, but also to deliver a great experience before, during and after the event with services like online registration, EventApps and photo/video.
What makes MYLAPS stand out from other similar products in the market, especially now that many phones and wearable devices offer the GPS tracking function?
Actually, you should ask our customers this questions!
In official races it is not possible to have each runner use their wearable device for an official timing as you will never be 100% sure on the accuracy of the device and the reliability. As an athlete, it is very interesting to compare your times (split times and finish times) with the professional athletes and so this information is shared via the official results. If an athlete was to share their own personal results from their device, it would be hard to compare times with others.
Next to that we offer full-suite solutions where we use the data collected by our timing systems for software services (apps, websites) to enhance the event experience. Think of the EventApp for running races, where spectators can follow the progress of their favorite runners live in a mobile app.
We are also a long-time player in the market and always in search of the next innovation in sports. Our products are used in a lot of high-end athletics and racing events, including the Olympic Games, Giro d’italia, Nascar, IndyCar, MotoGP and so on. These high-end events and customers are choosing us as we have the most accurate and most reliable systems. We are also already more than 35 years in the market and have therefore built up an enormous expertise in these markets.
How is China or Hong Kong different from other APAC regions, or even Europe regions, on the technical side of things?
The Hong Kong Marathon is one of the largest road races in the world. With around 74,000 participants, it is very important for the organiser to make sure that the loss of start and or finish-times is as low as possible. With our technology, the race organiser gets almost zero complaints on the timing part as we have the best detection rates in the world. This is one of the reasons why all these major marathons are choosing companies that utilise the MYLAPS technology.
On the technical side, in China, we do have challenges with our services as the social media platforms in China are so very different from that in the rest of the world. In China, there is no Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter available; Android Phones are not supported by the Google App Store and Chinese users are not using apps a lot. They do use platforms like Weibo, WeChat and Youku though. Just getting our website up and running in China took us about 9 months due to all the procedural formalities that come with developing a website specifically for the Chinese market and having it approved.
We are currently in the process of getting our other services up and running for the Chinese market - having a local office in Beijing is an enormous help in that.
See for more background info on the Hong Kong Marathon here.
Race management can be difficult for outdoor road races in a new environment. What challenges has MYLAPS faced working in a new race location and what are the solutions?
We are very blessed with long-term partners who are aware of the Chinese market and the Chinese challenges. Our system is using 3G / 4G technology (and soon also 5G technology) to send the data from the 5km points back to the timing laptop. In new race locations you always have to verify which provider is the best for that.
Next to that, the setup time becomes more and more important. In the past you could close the roads hours before and after the race. Nowadays people in the larger cities would like to keep the roads accessible all the time which allows us less time for setting up our systems onsite. One of our latest innovations is a timing system which can be setup (and also cleared) within only a minute.
Can you share with us some significant or interesting experience you had in China or Hong Kong races or sports events?
Basically in every event in China there is always something interesting happening. :)
An interesting one was a recent event we had in China. Few weeks before the event, the government swapped some working days and declared the Sunday, also the supposed event date, to be a working day, which meant that the race organizer had to move his race date to the Saturday right before it. Changing the event date so urgently is a nightmare to every event organiser… I lived for a couple of years in Malaysia and in there the same thing happens a lot. When a local soccer team wins an important match, the city government often declares the next day(s) to be a public holiday. This is something I had never seen in any other country before.
Another one was the massive disqualification of runners during a Chinese Half Marathon last year. This was all over the news and the Chinese Athletic Association banned these individual cheaters from the races for life. I have not seen situations like this in many other countries - a timing system with checkpoints on cut-off places is of great help for preventing this.
Also the delivery of the timing Systems after the race back to the collection place is sometimes a challenge as you can see in the enclosed photo. I do believe the truckdriver wanted to be home early…
Nowadays everything is about fan engagement. How does MYLAPS' technology also help engaging fans in events?
Fan engagement is getting more and more important. MYLAPS started about 4 years ago with new ways to enhance the experience for fans and also for athletes.
During a number of major marathons, we have introduced EventApps with Live Tracking and Live Photos. During this year’s Boston Marathon, we had more than 246,000 users of this app, while the number of participants is “just” around 27,000. On the race day, the average session duration of the users was 30 minutes, 38 seconds. The app was opened 856,900 times and users watched 18 screens per session on average, resulting in a dazzling total of 15.4 million screen views.
During last year’s Boston Marathon, there were 14,487 app users following the US athlete Shalane Flanagan. Of course, when you compare this to the fans of Michael Jordan that is not a lot, but for the running industry, this is really a record-breaking number as there are not a lot of celebrities in running (try it yourself - ask a random person passing by who is Eliud Kipchoge. I bet that less than 1% of the people are able to tell you that he is the world record holder of the marathon).
Furthermore we try to make it easy to share people’s progress via online channels like Facebook, Twitter and Wechat.
The technology of MYLAPS is usually B2B-based, do you plan on making it more B2C, maybe enable the public to track their own timings and statistics when they are training?
Our technology for the timing itself is B2B. However, we are currently also creating products more focused on individual consumers in an event. A great example is our free-to-use EventApp. Consumers like friends and family of racers can download this app and follow the racers. The service is paid by the event organiser, but it fully focuses on the consumers.
We have something similar for the motorized sports; there we work with “personal transponders.” Each racer buys her or his own timing transponder and is then able to track their progress over the years via their own Mylaps account where their results are stored. Through the free Speedhive app racers can see their results and we have some cool sharing features there as well. We do offer this functionality as well on cycling tracks and ice skating rinks all over the world.
Hong Kong is building a world-class smart sports park now. Do you think the technology of MYLAPS can be introduced and utilised here?
Yes. We are aware of this and we do believe our technology can bring the sports park some additional benefits, especially when you are talking about training facilities and permanent timing systems, as we are also introduced in the Hong Kong Velodrome and on many other high-end sport facilities all over the world.
Know more about MYLAPS: http://mylaps.com
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