HP, Verizon Bring High Tech to Venerable Marathon

HP and Verizon Wireless are employing their respective technologies and interactive features to leverage their sponsorships of next week’s Boston Marathon.

The companies have teamed to provide updates on participants as they pass designated sites along the marathon route and at the finish line. The system, which uses HP hardware and Verizon’s wireless data network, lets runners register six mobile numbers or email addresses to receive the alerts, which are delivered when the runner passes four checkpoints on the course.

The sponsorship functionality will also extend to the Web, where users can visit www.bostonmarathon.org to find up-to-date participant locations by entering a runner’s name or bib number. HP employees will be on hand at the race site with wireless-enabled iPAQs to check a runner’s location for in-person spectators.

The email and wireless alerts will not carry any branding, but the Web site results page will include sponsor logos, as will other areas of the marathon’s Web site. HP expects to deliver an estimated seven million page views over six-hour time span of the race.

Such sponsored alerts have become common at sporting events like marathons. IBM provides similar technology and alerts in conjunction with its sponsorship of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

HP has been the official technology sponsor of the Boston Marathon for 11 consecutive years. The company specially designed the Athlete Search System for the race five years ago, and has been adding technology and features to it each year. Verizon Wireless took over the wireless sponsorship of the race from Nextel in 2004.

Race participants attach a computer chip to their shoes or wheelchairs that transmits their location as they cross stationary sensor mats at regular checkpoints. Over half of the registered field is expected to participate in athlete alerts, with more than 200,000 alerts likely to be sent.

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