Using a new app, launched by a Baton Rouge- and Mississippi-based partnership, Louisiana Marathon organizers this year were able to track the location of emergency services, medical volunteers as well as the progress of participants.
Signal, the tracking system co-founded by Matt Mullenix of Baton Rouge, has been used in just three races so far—the Louisiana Marathon, Tiger 10k and the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon—and has already caught the attention of some of the biggest triathlon organizers in the U.S.
“Ironman gave us a call. We will do a pilot in April in Santa Rosa, California, tracking support staff [who] organize that race,” Mullenix says. “USA Triathlon called us as well.”
The system, using both an app and website component, allows users to set up an account through the website and assign profiles to people who will be tracked through the app on their phones. Users can manage profiles on the website like a database, Mullenix says.
At the Louisiana Marathon, emergency services provider Action Medicine Consultants used Signal to monitor medical staff as they arrived and departed from aid stations along the course. It also tracked bicyclists who helped chart the progress of the runners. In the past, race organizers had to rely on radio reports.
“For the first time, we were able to get real-time visual tracking of lead runners and medical assets throughout the entire course,” says Ray Castle, medical coordinator for the Louisiana Marathon and owner of Action Medicine Consultants.
Castle, who has worked a number of races, including the Boston Marathon, says other tracking systems are complicated and costly, requiring extra devices and subscription fees. Signal is a low-cost alternative that is as simple as downloading an app. The tiered pricing starts with a self-serve option at $1 per person per month, or event.
Its original purpose, however, was not to track events. Mullenix, a communications consultant, began working on Signal about a year ago with a client, TBS Southeast in Liberty, Mississippi, to track its mechanical dispatch services. Owner Kenny Bambarger and Mullenix created a partnership—Bambarger Intellectual Properties, or BIP—to develop the tracking system.
Mullenix describes Bambarger as the investor, while he fills more of an active role. They also worked with Padma Vatsavai and her Baton Rouge tech company Vinformatix to create the app, called BIPSignal.
Soon enough, they saw greater potential for their tracking system. Castle, a friend and colleague, asked Mullenix about using Signal for the Tiger 10k in December, which would serve as a trial run in event management. As Signal took on more events, word spread among race organizers—all the way to the national level.
Government entities also expressed interest. Mullenix is now working with Louisiana Municipal Advisory and Technical Services to offer Signal at a discount to cities. They’re currently building a pilot for Ville Platte to track employees in certain departments, such as meter readers.
“This kind of all fell in our lap,” Mullenix says. “We’re trying to go with the energy and see how far it can take us.”
—Annie Ourso Landry