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Discussion Forum - PACER - PACER feedback

Author: Andrew Todd
Posted: Thu 14th Jun 2018, 23:44
Joined: 2010
Local Group: Wiltshire
Don email me @ andy@andytodd.org.uk

I would say that the main advantage of NFC tags is that they can be written on demand, and as an electronic system reading is more consistent than a barcode.

The main advantage in using an app rather than a web interface is in the reliability of the system.

The problem for self scanning with Android is an odd one, Android turns off the NFC reader when the screen is off. It would be fairly trivial to build a scanner using a simple dev board such as a Raspberry PI, if there was a use case to justify the effort.

Author: Iain Connell
Posted: Thu 14th Jun 2018, 23:42
Joined: 2010
Local Group: North Yorkshire
In 2009 I did the Oxfam TrailTrekker 100km, which used wrist-tag identifiers for each entrant. I don't know if they were barcodes or RFID, but at each checkpoint we touched the tag onto a reader (feedback was audible, I think) atop a pole in the ground. Organisers and supporters could then track our progress in analogous fashion to what is now available with PACER. It was a form of self-clip, though there were always marshals around to ensure you didn't forget to tag in.

TrailTrekker has been cancelled, but its sister and predecessor TrailWalker (https://www.oxfam.org.uk/trailwalker) has been running for more than 25 years (over a 100km route through the South Downs) and will use a similar system. In 2009 the initial cost per entrant for TrailTrekker was 50 for a field of around 700 entrants. (We had to raise a minimum amount for the charity, but admin costs and support came out of the entrance fee.)

Iain

Author: Tim Bedwell
Posted: Thu 14th Jun 2018, 19:45
Joined: 2016
Local Group: Surrey
I guess the RFID tokens might be easier to read than a barcode in the wet.
If you could get a system reliable enough that people could "touch in" at a checkpoint and get a confirming beep or green light that their RFID had registered, then potentially you could save a Marshall or two at each checkpoint doing barcode scanning. I'd see that as the main justification for considering RFID over the current barcodes.

Author: Don Arthurs
Posted: Wed 13th Jun 2018, 13:33
Joined: 2017
Local Group: Kent
I'd be very interested in taking a look..

Author: Andrew Todd
Posted: Sun 10th Jun 2018, 20:29
Joined: 2010
Local Group: Wiltshire
RFID is easy and cheap (certainly cheaper than a bar code scanner solution if you have to have to provide both a scanner and a browser device.) and more reliable.

II have implemented a RFID system which we use in Wiltshire (Adam has a copy of the current apk) which runs on cheap android mobiles using NFC tags. The phones we used are the cheapest android phones with NFC (Cost 50/each a year ago, bit more now) and the tags cost 38p/each and have probably an indefinite life expectancy. Total cost for a year one on the Pewsey Downsaround was 5*50 (phones) + 5* 10 (minimum amount of airtime) + 350 * 0.38 = 433. Year 2 cost was 5 * 5 airtime = 18 (cheap deal via ebay). Year 3 may be nil if I can remember to turn the phones on every few months (as vodafone have a very low user tariff now). The system paid for its self in one year as it meant we did not need raynet, and they wanted a donation that was greater than the year 1 cost.

The tags are only written at the reception desk, so all the entry desks can register any entrant, as all the phones can look up all the detail on all the entrants. We registered ~250 people in under an hour with 4 desks, with no queues at any time. (I took some timelapse footage to check how it went and for a fair proportion of the time the people on the desk appeared to have nothing to do. Route and start time are checked and corrected at registration.

The backend is one which means if the phone loses network connectivity it does not matter, and they will automatically sync the data when they regain coverage. It does require coverage to initially login, but that can be done in advance. There is a backup mode if the app has to be started with no coverage.

The system makes extensive use of text to speech (TTS) so people had verbal feedback that the system was working (and entrants appeared to enjoy that the handset registered them by name).

At the final checkpoint the system automatically generated the certificate when they were scanned and it could then be sent straight to the printer to be immediately handed over.

What I found interesting was how it changed how the volunteers on the checkpoints operated. As it was a mobile phone they tended to get up from behind a desk, and in general moved to a point a bit before the checkpoint, this made the checkpoints much simpler as people were scanned before the got to the mass of people at the food. System was simple enough that none of the volunteers had a problem using it (even the most technophobe).Pic from the end.

The system is deliberately built so it removed the option of a paper backup. I consider paper based system to be very time consuming and almost universally wrong and lacking sufficient accuracy to be fit for purpose. At the PDA this year we had one missed scan, which looking at the screens was obviously one of two people that were walking together.

(If anyone wants a copy of the apk then please ask)

Author: Don Arthurs
Posted: Thu 7th Jun 2018, 15:12
Joined: 2017
Local Group: Kent
I had a cursory look into RFID and it doesn't seem to be financially viable for now.

A big part of the problem is the number of checkpoints over the period of a challenge versus the number of people taking part. Events like the London marathon buy RFID in as a service, with a third party providing the tokens and placing receivers over the length of a course. the (expensive) cost is then recouped via a portion of the entrance fee from the 40,000 odd people who entered (i had a double take myself when I saw that figure but it's true).

For our purposes we'd need the 3rd party to provide and support RFID tokens per entrant and an RFID receiver at each checkpoint, but typically only have around 150 - 200 people to share that cost amongst (yes there are more people on a 100 but also more checkpoints over a longer period).

Even if we wanted to buy in our own equipment (and I haven't priced that out to be fair) I strongly suspect it would need be done either as an organisation or at least shared between multiple groups, with the cost recouped over a longer period.

You then need to consider things like who gets to use it when, the training and skills required to run it on the day, and how long it would be before the specific equipment bought either breaks or becomes outdated (one of the great benefits of buying it as a service per event from a 3rd party) .

To top it all, as is seen with Pacer a paper backup process is typically run alongside anyway.

Author: Tim Bedwell
Posted: Wed 6th Jun 2018, 18:44
Joined: 2016
Local Group: Surrey
Hi Tony, it would be good to have some functionality that flags overdue walkers.
Are there any plans to look at using RFIDs ?

Author: Iain Connell
Posted: Wed 30th May 2018, 17:07
Joined: 2010
Local Group: North Yorkshire
A very impressive use of satellite tracking devices on the Cinque Ports to record sweeper, and hence last-entrants-at-checkpoints, times and positions. This meant that it was no longer necessary for a Raynet person to accompany the sweeper teams. If that's working and fully reliable, it should be extendable to support vehicles including paramedics and St John's, then retirer vehicles, then, eventually, entrants.

If entrants can be tracked, they can record their own times and positions on a wrist-worn device. This is already possible with sports/fitness apps, but PACER would have to integrate it with its own time & position logging. A wrist tag with barcode, touched onto a stick-held device by each entrant at each checkpoint (and self-clip, or self-swipe), would, eventually, remove the need for tally cards.

First test a small number of entrant-carried trackers on long-established (with paper backup) 25-mile challenges events ?

Iain

Author: Tony Cartwright
Posted: Wed 30th May 2018, 13:44
Joined: 1978
Local Group: Surrey
We are looking at the next upgrade of PACER - to PACER3. The main focus is likely to be 'browser caching' which will go a considerable way to overcoming comms dropouts and weak signals. I spoke to several PACER marshals during the Cinque Ports 100 about issues and features all of which have been noted but should anyone else have any 'wants, wishes or issues' could they please let me have them via this forum. We can't guarantee their inclusion (budget constraints) but to have such a list would give us a good foundation on which to proceed.

Many thanks

Tony