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Discussion: SI-Air didn't function properly

in: Orienteering; Gear & Toys

Mar 28, 2022 11:28 PM # 
At a local event yesterday, my SI Air did not act like an SI Air, that is, placing my stick very near a control did not induce a punch. At each control, I had to insert my stick into the unit, and then the stick worked as any other stick would - and after download, all my splits were there.

Everyone else I spoke to with an SI Air said that theirs worked as it is supposed to. Some of those people had been to all the controls before I arrived at them.

Any idea what could be wrong with my stick (battery?) and how to remedy this problem?
Mar 28, 2022 11:58 PM # 
Did you punch the check brick before you started? You need to do this to activate Air mode. Make sure you see a flashing green light on the end of your stick before you head out (it flashes green about every ten seconds).
Mar 29, 2022 12:08 AM # 
Someone else suggested that possibility, too. I certainly punched a Clear unit, and the Check unit was right next to it, but I suppose it's possible I didn't punch the Check unit. So, the next question is how can I determine if that was the problem BEFORE I get to the next event? Is it possible that what was downloaded from my stick after the event would indicate whether I punched a Check unit and that our results person could look at that and see?
Mar 29, 2022 12:15 AM # 
I think you have to either interrogate the check unit or else the event software should have a record of the check time in your list of boxes punched.

We had an SI Air event on the weekend (well multiple actually) where the initial event had the check box right next to the clear box so people were punching the second immediately after the first and not turning on the Air functionality (you need about three seconds between each). Of course we were using SI-11 boxes that don't have the hole so it wasn't possible to punch the brick. After that first event the clear and check bricks were placed well apart from each other.
Mar 29, 2022 1:59 AM # 
I have run into this as well, and I am pretty sure tRicky is right, you have to punch the Check. I have gotten confused because Valerie—our SI expert—told me that you don’t use the Check IF the boxes are not SI Air. And so I sometimes forget because at local events we don’t use Air. Most recently I didn’t Check at the DVOA NRE and I had to actually punch the boxes.
Mar 29, 2022 2:13 AM # 
It's good practice for everyone to use the check brick regardless of whether or not the event uses SI Air. The check brick can then be used to see who started (rather than a manual list) or alternatively if it's a punch start, the start brick can also be used. There's some way to upload the check or start brick to the result software to indicate starters (this is more relevant with a pre-entry event where people don't turn up but are listed in the registration list).
Mar 29, 2022 2:33 AM # 
OTOH tRicky, I avoid the check box if the event is not using SI Air. As I understand it, the check box turns the SIAC radio on, and by so doing I am prolonging the life of its battery. If I'm breaking a safety protocol I'm sorry - perhaps organisers could interrogate the clear box instead, to determine who's possibly out on the course.

Dennis, your symptoms could be explained by (a) not using "check" or (b) your battery being used up. There should be enough early adopters around, that batteries are reaching the end of their life. And that calls for provision of a "battery check" box at events; and discussion of methods for battery replacement.
Mar 29, 2022 2:33 AM # 
I'm assuming the rationale in Peggy's circumstance is that if the control boxes in the woods are not set into Air mode, then by skipping the Check, you leave the stick in non-Air mode and thus don't waste battery power needlessly (you want to be in Dennis's situation in that case).

I think it's very likely that Dennis either didn't punch Check, or more likely, punched it too soon after Clear. So next time, do it as per recommendation, and look for that green light.
Mar 29, 2022 4:19 AM # 
I wasn't overly clear in that post. I was referring to non-SI Air sticks that don't turn on beacon mode. Yes I had forgotten the instances where you're using an SI Air stick for a non-SI Air event and don't want to turn on the beacon. Some clubs will put out a third brick that turns off the beacon before you head out on course. I've tried not punching the check brick before but in some events the starter had a check brick and forces you to punch it before heading out so they can keep track of who's on course (and thus ruining the life of my battery). I think in that instance you can just clear it again.
Mar 29, 2022 4:32 AM # 
Sounds to me like a change in nomenclature might be helpful:

"Check" sounds optional - do this and it will prove the stick is working properly but you don't have to if you are confident it is OK.

If there is a situation where you need to punch the box in order to turn on a particular function you will need during the race then don't call it 'check'; call it something a bit more proactive:

"ACTIVATE" perhaps.
Mar 29, 2022 5:33 AM # 
Didn't realize that there was such a thing as punching the check box too soon after punching the clear box. In this case, the two boxes were literally right next to one another, so I think there's a very good chance that that's what happened (though I'm a little surprised that it didn't happen to other people at the event as well). Didn't know about the green light either - good to know. Thanks, all!

BTW, if the battery in the stick is running low, does it give you some kind of warning? If not, how does one check the status of the battery?
Mar 29, 2022 7:13 AM # 
There is a battery check unit that the owners of the SI bricks should have. It'll give an indication such as '298' (which is good) or lower. I think when it gets down to about 253 it's not so good.

Another indication is if you get multiple split readings from the same unit as I did at the end of year carnival in 2021. My split printout was a mile long with all the additional readings at each control unit. I think the battery level was so low that it didn't recognise that it had recorded the unit so immediately recorded it again multiple times until I left the recording area.
Mar 29, 2022 7:43 AM # 
It's possible to configure a station as "SIAC TEST/ON". This appears to be becoming a fairly standard third pre-start control in the UK, alongside the traditional clear and check. To quote from Sportident UK's documentation:

"Used to test that a SIAC is in contactless mode, and if it isn’t then contactless mode will be turned on. Dip any SI-Card or SIAC to turn the station on. As a SIAC is brought close to the station the SIAC will beep/flash if it is in contactless mode, otherwise dip the SIAC and contactless mode will be activated. No data is recorded on the SIAC and nothing will happen if a traditional SI-Card is dibbed in the station."

I believe it's also possible to configure a clear box so that it doesn't cause SIACs to beep and flash, so that you can punch check to turn on contactless punching immediately after punching clear.

Edit: realised I should probably just link to the docs:
Mar 29, 2022 12:42 PM # 
There was a previous discussion here a few years back in which it was stated that skipping check in non-air events in order to save battery was not worth worrying about. Calculations were included that made it a potentially believable argument. I don't recall the numbers but it involved factors such # of events/hours per year, battery drain, # of years it would therefore take to run the battery down to a marginal state, likelihood the stick would still be current technology by that time, etc. Maybe someone can locate that thread.
Mar 29, 2022 12:50 PM # 
Well the SIAC I acquired in 2016 ran low on battery last year but it hasn't yet been replaced by an updated model so I reacquired the same one. It rarely got used in SI Air events for most of that time due to a) my home state not using SI Air and b) Covid. I got told that the battery would likely have a useful life of up to three years but it lasted for five with minimal usage.
Mar 29, 2022 2:24 PM # 
Another possibility is that you passed close to the Finish box as you were starting which would have turned off the beacon. The Start and Finish are often quite close to each other at small events and we have learned to put the Finish where nobody would be tempted to go as they start their course.
Mar 29, 2022 5:05 PM # 
From the SI site:
The small internal battery in your SIAC is guaranteed for 2 years and should last 3 years. It is possible that your SIAC was not switched on successfully at a recent event and the battery is fine. Your SIAC is switched on for contactless use by dipping it in a CHECK or SIAC TEST/ON station. A number of SIACS are being sent back to us unnecessarily because they are not being dipped in the CHECK station for long enough to switch the SIAC on.

They also have a page where you can check when your battery should be replaced by entering your chip number. Where to get it replaced is another question entirely.
Mar 29, 2022 7:30 PM # 
The organizers might also have programmed the clear control with a code other than 1, which will make the check not turn on the si air unless you wait a few seconds for the beeping to stop.

Clear Recommended to be programmed with code 1 as this will suppress the SIAC feedback
beeps/flashes meaning the SIAC can be dibbed in a CHECK box straight away to
activate contactless punching.
If an alternative code is used for the CLEAR station there is the possibility that the
runner will dib in the CHECK station while the SIAC is still beeping/flashing. This will
not register and contactless punching will not be activated for the SIAC.
Mar 29, 2022 7:39 PM # 
I definitely did not go near the Finish between punching the Clear/Check and getting to the Finish at the end of the course, so that's not a factor.

Just got this from our results person: "You punched the Check at 09:57:07 and the Start at 09:58:51. No way to tell when you punched the Clear." He also pointed out that the new version of MeOS results software that we are using prints the battery level of a SIAC on the splits printout. Sure enough, mine says this:

Battery status: 2.98 V (OK)

So, based on this data plus things you all said above, seems like the remaining known possibility is that I punched the Check too soon and that my stick is OK. To test the theory out, given that we don't have another event for 7 weeks, I will have to track down my club's SI units and set up the appropriate units so I can do a trial. Thank you all for you input! I'll come back here after I've done this test and let you know how it went.
Mar 29, 2022 8:57 PM # 
I had been wondering about my SIAC battery status, being an early adapter back some 4-5 years ago. Nice to see this status appearing on the splits printout.
Mine is 2.88 V (OK). Assume this indicates there are a few years of events left on my battery.
Mar 29, 2022 9:19 PM # 
I've been told it's better to do the battery test prior to going on course. If you do it afterwards, it's likely to be showing a different reading because it's just been used.
Mar 29, 2022 10:36 PM # 
Dennis, I'd like to dig deeper on the statement "You punched the Check at 09:57:07 and the Start at 09:58:51. No way to tell when you punched the Clear."

If the backup memory of the Clear and Check stations was read, I don't see why the Check-backup was available but the Clear-backup wasn't.

If the statement comes from the contents of the chip after download, please note that there is a memory-position in the Chip that stores the Clear timestamp initially and then that timestamp is overwritten by the Check-timestamp, thus some software call this field the "Clear/Check time" and don't differentiate. There is a way to differentiate, because there is a "Clear_reserve" memory position which can be read separately - and thus if Clear and Clear_r are equal you can deduce there was no Check punch, while if Clear and Clear_r differ you can deduce that there was a Clear at Clear_r timestamp and a Check at Clear timestamp. Confusing, I know.

With a battery reading of 2.98 Volts, your SIAC looks very healthy. I am therefore placing my bets either on missing Check punch entirely or the Check not having an effect due to the SIAC still beeping from Clear (because Clear-code wasn't set at 1 to suppress the SIAC feedback).
Mar 30, 2022 7:15 PM # 
I'm the epunch guy that Dennis consulted. I haven't checked the backup memory of the Clear and Check. The stations are in storage right now and I don't have time to fetch them. When I get a chance, I'll also verify that the Clear stations are all set to unit 1. I'll also take a look at the document that lost posted the link to. I haven't had to work with the SIACs much. Clearly there are some complications.
Mar 30, 2022 7:36 PM # 
Hi Origami,
OK, so as you haven't yet consulted the stations, I am guessing your statement regarding Check time came from the o-software, possibly OE2010 (and at least for OE2010, I am sure there is only the "mixed" Clear/Check-time)?
The document lost linked to is rather good, I'll just note that it's from SPORTident-UK, which isn't actually the original manufacturer SPORTident (Germany), so just for completeness here's a link to the original docs, specifically with the slightly obscure tip to set Clear to Code 1:
Mar 30, 2022 8:03 PM # 
Yes the timing on Dennis's epunch came from the MeOS database for the event.
Thanks for the link.
Mar 30, 2022 10:10 PM # 
The stations are in storage right now and I don't have time to fetch them.

I can't believe you haven't gotten on top of this immediately to sort out the issue, one that will most likely come down to 'competitor error'.

This discussion thread is closed.