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Discussion: air+ siac

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Jun 15, 2017 2:15 PM # 
ErikEddy:
DVOA just had a local weekday sprint event where those with an SIAC chip had the option to do 'swipe air punch'. I haven't been to a national meet with a sprint course, so I was wondering if this system has been used in US?
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Jun 15, 2017 2:32 PM # 
edwarddes:
It was used last year for Ski-O championships, Team Trials, and Boston Sprint Camp. Truckee orienteering has a set of punches that they use for all their local events. The upcoming Ski-O World Cup and World Masters this winter at Craftsbury will be using Air+ for all the events.
Jun 15, 2017 2:58 PM # 
ErikEddy:
nice. for the non-truckee events, did you rent or is there a club set (or was it optional)? if rent, what was the price?

I'm especially interested in mtb-o use (and possibly november sprints), though demand for mtb-o and upfront price don't quite match up
Jun 15, 2017 3:20 PM # 
edwarddes:
We rented directly though SportIdent in Germany.
The Ski-O team is looking into buying a set as rentals for US events.
Jun 15, 2017 4:03 PM # 
graeme:
We use it quite routinely in the UK now. Got some very big loss-leader reductions from SI in the first instance.
Note that the settings for ski-O and regular are quite different (~5m vs ~30cm range)
Jun 15, 2017 4:05 PM # 
edwarddes:
We use the 30cm range for ski-o too, since that is all our existing BSF-8s can do. Way to expensive to buy the new BSF-11s.
Jun 15, 2017 4:13 PM # 
edwarddes:
There are a lot of extra things to pay attention to when using Air+:
The radio doesn't turn on until you check, if they miss the check station, no touch free punching. (we had problems in a mass start where people showed up late)
The radio turns off when it punches a finish. Make sure everyone doesn't walk past a finish station on their way to the start.
There is no backup memory in the control stations.
Make sure you have a battery test station before the start.
Have a SIAC-Off station programed for DNFers, or an extra finish station. So their stick isn't on for 24hrs.
The stick has a periodic green flash when the radio is on.
Wrist mounting with the longer straps is convenient, especially for ski-o, and much harder for beginners to loose, but download is not touch free and awkward to insert in that case. (Yes, you can download over SRR, but be prepared to write your own software for it)
Your existing radio controls won't work. You need to use SRR for radio control functionality.
You can't punch while the stick is flashing/beeping from the last punch (same as the SI-11 and SIAC in traditional punching mode)
The SportIdent finish line solution using a pair of the BS11-BL controls is crazy expensive, and in my opinion crap and unreliable. Use BSF-8s as beacon finishes for them to punch, or use a separate time keeping system.
Its awesome when it all works right!
Jun 15, 2017 4:41 PM # 
Delyn:
Plus you need to turn on the control stations with a regular punch to activate the contactless punching when you set them. I would think a SIAC card can also turn on the units with a regular punch while the card is in Air+ mode.

Here is further info from the firmware notes page 5

The SPORTident classic equipment grows in the Air+ direction. The new beacon operating modes allow all BSx7/8 stations to operate in a mixed mode. Punching all classic SPORTident Cards is still possible (direct punching) while the new SPORTident ActiveCard will be able to record the control point at a range of 60 cm above and 30 cm around the station (remote punching).


We are going to try it for MTB-O and regular courses this Saturday event and then our next event a set of Sprints using the BSF8 with 30cm range. Will report back with experiences.

A few of us went in on a group purchase 10 or more $62.00 each from here:
http://sportident.us/SI-Active-Card-Air-SIAC-10503...
Jun 15, 2017 7:10 PM # 
ErikEddy:
thanks for the info! @Delyn, please post here after the event to let me know how the mtb-o'ers like it and if it makes a substantial difference in lessening the tricky dismounts to punch, even with the smaller '1 foot' radius (the 2 foot height is good to know for bikes).

it was a huge difference for sprint in overall experience
Jun 15, 2017 7:13 PM # 
jSh:
@edwarddes:
#1: instead of the (admittedly a little fiddly) 2*BS11-BL-gate setup, I highly recommend the BS11-LA (loop antenna), for a 6 metre wide finish line. Will work wonderfully even when dug into some snow, but does have issues when mounted inside a metal "ramp" affair (trail run finish photo-posing thing I saw in China).

#2: instead of the battery test station at the start (where it's probably too late), have that battery test at the assembly area, close to the attending o-shop :)
At the start, after Clear and Check, put a "SIAC test" (NOT battery test) station. This provides a range-testing possibility for the "turned on" SIACs - and if the SIAC is by any chance still off, dibbing it in the hole will activate it.

@Delyn: it's more like 50cm around as well... and just to avoid misunderstandings: it's "zero to 50cm", not "works only at 50cm distance", as one Russian team-leader tried to explain to his/her athletes at a WorldCup two years ago :) Many top-athletes will be seen to "touch and go", similar to the old "game of tag", because this really really makes sure the punch range requirement was met.

And AFAIK, IOF currently expects foot-o and ski-o to use the "small" range (BS7/8), while MTBO can't decide between "small" and "large". WorldCup in Austria 10 days ago used "small", France will use "small", World Champs in LIT probably "large". IOF MTBO commission is working on a ruling, one hears.
Jun 15, 2017 7:16 PM # 
jSh:
@Erik: classic in-hole to small-range Air+ is a vast difference. Seeing the "Austria Cup" participants fumble the chips into the hole on the finish line after the high-speed finishes of the WorldCup participants previously made it very clear that this is a totally different kind of punching.
Jun 15, 2017 7:21 PM # 
edwarddes:
#1: instead of the (admittedly a little fiddly) 2*BS11-BL-gate setup, I highly recommend the BS11-LA (loop antenna), for a 6 metre wide finish line. Will work wonderfully even when dug into some snow, but does have issues when mounted inside a metal "ramp" affair (trail run finish photo-posing thing I saw in China).

6m is still not really enough for ski-o, where we want 3m finish lanes, and up to 4 of them. The standard ski race finish line width is 12m. If SportIdent could do a 12m loop antenna finish line I would probably buy a ton of the Air+ for ski race timing. The SIACs are no more expensive than any other active chip on the market, and a BS11-LA at 12m would be by far the lowest cost active chip timing point.

#2: instead of the battery test station at the start (where it's probably too late), have that battery test at the assembly area, close to the attending o-shop :)
At the start, after Clear and Check, put a "SIAC test" (NOT battery test) station. This provides a range-testing possibility for the "turned on" SIACs - and if the SIAC is by any chance still off, dibbing it in the hole will activate it.


I would really like to be able to have a touch free check station, but that isn't supported. Instead I have had an extra beacon control before the start as a test, but you still need to punch the check or SIAC-On to turn on the radio.
Jun 15, 2017 7:39 PM # 
jSh:
Re #1: you're speaking of non-orienteering ski-races here? Because for ski-o the rules state 6 metres are enough?

Re #2: you possibly misunderstood. YES, you must use the in-hole Clear and in-hole Check. After that, you can use a beacon-mode station as a SIAC testing. In the past, people often used BC-Start or BC-Control with a code not used in the competition. This has the disadvantage that the Chip is not empty afterwards and/or the event software used the Start-punch as the start time. Since SI-ConfigPlus v.2.0, there's a new mode "SIAC Test" which leaves the Chip "cleared". Internally, it is a "SIAC ON" with an additional beacon signal, so that's why it can double as a life-saver for those that manage to not "Check" their SIAC to turn it on.
Jun 15, 2017 9:48 PM # 
edwarddes:
The SIAC Test sounds like exactly what I want, and had asked for.
I'm interested in hearing how other groups have arranged their start, but I think with that functionality I would:
1) have Battery Test stations available in the assembly area to catch problems before they make it to the start.
2) at the entrance of the start area have a punching clear and check box which will turn on the SIAC radio
3) before the start, have a SIAC Test station to allow the competitors to verify their radio is on and working, and test the range.
Jun 15, 2017 9:51 PM # 
edwarddes:
6m is the minimum for an IOF ski-o finish, and 9m is preferred. In regular ski racing, the finish is always 4 3m lanes wide in a skate race.
In practice, I think that for any IOF level event only two finish lanes (6m) is not enough to prevent conflicts between skiers racing to the finish line, especially in a mass start event.
Jun 16, 2017 12:04 AM # 
fossil:
Erik, your mtbo last year was the first one I've been to since SI punching started. While I enjoyed the meet immensely I agree that punching was a challenge. I tried repeatedly to punch without unclipping but only succeeded once. I was also at the ski-O champs and got to use the SIAC there.

Between those experiences I expect SIAC will be an even greater punching improvement for mtbo than it is for ski-O, with one possible exception.... punching a control on the opposite side from the hand with the e-punch. In ski-O this turned out to be not much of an issue. I was able to pass controls at speed and just cross my right hand under my left as I went by, and just being careful where the ski poles were while doing so.

I haven't tried this on an mtb yet but I will be at the above mentioned Saturday mtbo this week. The thought of having to cross hands on an mtb to punch a control that's on my left is... interesting. It would obviously be helpful if the controls were placed such that passing on either side is possible, but that's not always possible to do. I've tried to imagine a way to carry the SIAC such that I can grab it with either hand and thereby be able to hold it out to either side, but haven't yet thought of anything that seems safe. Perhaps it will turn out that just riding very close to the flag and putting right hand down by the water bottle will be sufficient.
Jun 16, 2017 12:14 AM # 
tRicky:
I'm fairly sure last years MTBO WC had a range of at least a metre, possibly two. As long as you were on the side of the track closest to the SI station then it activated, regardless of which hand you had the stick on.

if it makes a substantial difference in lessening the tricky dismounts to punch

Tee hee, a bit of practice and you can punch on the go (although I'm no good at doing it if it's on the opposite side to my stick) unless the control is in the bush, which it shouldn't be but sometimes is if the setter has tied it to a tree.
Jun 16, 2017 1:45 AM # 
JimBaker:
Instead of a confusing zoo of clear, check, test and start units, I'd want a single unit that did everything, and then when everything's good to go, beeped. Emit start units used to start the clock when you lifted the card from the unit. If people want more feedback, there could be a display reading:

Clearing....
Checking....
Testing....
Confabulating....
Pasteurizing...
Meditating...
Watching Netflix...
Oops, yeah, you're good to go. Remove card from unit to start...
Jun 16, 2017 3:08 AM # 
Delyn:
Just setting up testing the boxes for the Saturday MTB-O event. Quite excited. For the classic short range 1.2 foot / 30 cm using the BSF8 units on MTB-O I can imagine the occasional missed checkpoint having to back up or bias toward slowing and positioning yourself to get it in range to register, still an improvement. We will see how it goes at the event. On foot should be great.

According to SI AIR+ Information for organizers documents page 7.

4. Ski-O, MTBO
SI-Stations BS11-BS blue with a working range of 1.80 meters are recommended to be used for MTBO and BSF7/8 for Ski-O. Station’s working range meets the
IOF-specification for these disciplines.
https://www.sportident.com/support/documents.html



While testing I did notice something organizers should take note:
Besides the Finish needing to be separated from runner until they are finishing because it turns off AIR+ mode on the SIAC cards, the Start should be separate too.

Quick testing it seemed to overwrite the Start punch time even after the card had other checkpoints stored on it. With manual punching it will not register if you try to punch the Start after the card has a checkpoint stored on it. I will confirm this again at the event and report to SI if true and see if they want to do anything about it. Normally designed course this is unlikely to be an issue but possibly something to keep in mind.
Jun 16, 2017 9:51 AM # 
tRicky:
Can't comment on that. Every situation where I've used SI Air has involved a timed start so no punching start to consider.
Jun 16, 2017 10:55 AM # 
graeme:
Also, remember to punch the finish if you're waking up controls. Else your SI stick stays on and the battery goes flat a lot sooner than you'd hope.
Jun 20, 2017 1:09 AM # 
fossil:
please post here after the event to let me know how the mtb-o'ers like it and if it makes a substantial difference in lessening the tricky dismounts to punch, even with the smaller '1 foot' radius (the 2 foot height is good to know for bikes).

Well Delyn hasn't posted yet, but in my opinion a) the SIAC's worked quite well, and b) there was a huge difference between this event and the one ErikEddy put on last year. (Had a conflict so couldn't make his this year.)

Here's a scan of the map.

 photo roc-dryer-20170617.jpg

At Erik's DVOA event last year I found it was possible to glance at the map while riding and be able to plan a control or two ahead and thus be able to punch and go at each control. At the Dryer Road event on Saturday, rather than the sort of trails you see in a lot (most?) places that go from one place to another, the trails were the sort made by mtb'ers to amuse themselves on. It was pretty much impossible to read the map on the move except when crossing the open areas on top of the hill and the final few heading down to the finish. Everywhere else the trails were so technical that I had to stop to read the map. Consequently, my "flow" at most controls went something like: spot control, go there, wave hand, beep, unclip, stop, plan route to next control, start pedaling again.

It might have been easier for the locals who knew the trails well but that was my take. I should also say that riding there was a real blast and I'll definitely be going back there for more.
Jun 20, 2017 8:14 AM # 
tRicky:
You're not alone there. I can't ride technical single track and map read at the same time. I usually figure out which track I need to be on, ride it and then plan the next bit at the next junction.
Jun 20, 2017 11:44 AM # 
jayne:
Looks like it'd be a fun area for a sprint.
Jun 21, 2017 4:28 PM # 
ErikEddy:
thanks fossil. interesting trails on that map....looks like fast twisty singletrack. I see the purple arrows....so, for some trails you could only go one way?
Jun 21, 2017 9:55 PM # 
Delyn:
Yes Dryer Road is a Mountain Bike Park with runs surrounding a central hill rather than just a trail network. Some rather steep sections and built obstacles along with designated one-way trails.

I don't mountain bike, but I gave an extra SIAC to someone doing the MTB-O course. Didn't catch up with them after how it went but they finished the course.

My feeling is the short range of the BSF8 units at 30cm or 1.2 foot radius is serviceable for MTB-O especially on more trail network like area.
Obviously the BS11-BS with 1.8m range would be ideal but not likely at the added cost if clubs already have the BSF8 units anyway. For Enduro where you probably don't need so many checkpoints it makes sense and SI seem to be pushing that.

Even on a regular distance not just sprint foot course Air+ is nice to keep up the flow, not even at great speed. That seemed to be the shared feeling of people I talked to who did the foot courses. I plan to use Air+ mode for at least 3 more events this year for our club.


For Organizers:
I would recommend not using the start programmed in Air+ mode as Beacon Starts. A punching start is more than acceptable, you should be starting stationary anyways.

There is an issue with overwriting the start punch on the SIAC cards even without Air+ mode and even manually punching while in Air+ mode. I want to do some more testing and report the issue and behavior to SI and see if they have interest to fix.
This is not a big deal, you have to willfully try and do something dumb, and only outcome is you irritate the download person.
Aug 4, 2017 7:53 AM # 
MartinB:
My understanding is that when in-hole punching into a CLEAR station, the SIAC flashes and beeps. It then beeps and flashes when in-hole punching into a CHECK station, which turns on the Air+ sensing mode with a "heartbeat" flash every ten seconds.

But if you are using a SIAC in a regular event where the course controls are not set up in Air+ beacon mode, the SIAC is still using up its battery while sensing for beacon controls which are never there. So I conclude that the expected battery life of a SIAC, four years with 40 courses per year, would be the similar whether the courses are Air+ or not.

This raises the possibility that by not in-hole punching in the CHECK control after the CLEAR at non Air+ events, and not turning on the search mode, one could increase battery life. By doing so, one still gets the benefit of a beep and flash in the SIAC to confirm an in-hole punch.

Any comments on the above? The CHECK may be superfluous if one gets a beep and flash in the SIAC when in hole punching in the CLEAR.
Aug 4, 2017 7:55 AM # 
tRicky:
Cool, so with my four times per year use of my SIAC it should last for 40 years.
Aug 7, 2017 1:16 AM # 
undy:
@MartinB - yep, that's what people here do, if the check unit isn't mandatory them they don't punch it to save turning on the radio.
Aug 8, 2017 4:03 AM # 
MartinB:
undy: Thanks. Will pass this info on to our 12 SIAC owners in Tasmania.

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