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Discussion: SI Air +

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 17, 2022 5:28 PM # 
MIclimber:
What’s the low down on replacing a dead battery for SI Air + cards in the US? Can you only send into Sportsident or is there a US vendor? What I was overhearing while on-site at 5 Days Italy is that SI doesn’t actually replace the battery, they just destroy the unit and reprogram a new one with your existing number?

My card is roughly 3 years old and died after only a couple of events recently having never used the Air + feature before, so I found that surprising the battery didn’t last a full week of events on Air mode. Perhaps just coincidence with timeframe of regular use and it would’ve died soon anyways.
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Jul 17, 2022 5:54 PM # 
Acampbell:
Need to be really careful to ensure you turn it off as well. Especially in smaller events/training.
Jul 17, 2022 9:43 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
You've been in Air+ at every event you checked after clearing. I suppose we can try to remember to have Air+ folks skip check after clearing since we don't run in beacon mode so being in Air+ is not immensely beneficial.
Jul 17, 2022 9:48 PM # 
jSh:
Hi there,
I can't say if there's a reseller in the US certified to sell the battery exchanges, but I can add two other points:
* what many don't realise is that from a battery consumption point of view it barely makes a difference if you're running AIR+ enabled stations or not - the feedback (blink/beep) is coming from your SIAC and that is draining your battery, especially if you stay in the field or station hole for longer than necessary.
* it's not quite true that SIACs are destroyed and new ones issued. What is true is that the plastic housing is destroyed during opening, but the electronics inside are reprogrammrd with the newest firmware, new batteries fitted, a functional test (classic and AIR+ punch plus radio control) is performed and a new housing and number label fitted. So from the outside, you receive a new SIAC, but the electronics live another life.
Re battery exchange, please check the links at the very bottom of sportident.com for regional services.
Jul 17, 2022 9:51 PM # 
Toph:
Not sure what the replacement process is other than Australia just sends them back to Germany.

Regards battery life, I time a lot of gravity enduro / down hill races with si air as well as being involved at most major orienteering events here in some capacity.. And the only time that I have had a siac die is when I’ve been trying to transmit times off the stick using the radio function. So I would be interested to know what the battery test unit said the voltage was before the race and did it die at a radio control?

The basics of my theory or reason why it happens is si air uses short range radio technology. Which I think would operate similar to normal uhf radio where you can listen a lot longer than you can transmit.
Jul 18, 2022 12:41 AM # 
SherlockHolmes:
From the SportIdent replacement site it looks like there is just one place to send them for North America:

https://www.sportident.com/siacservice/index.php?p...
Jul 18, 2022 12:47 AM # 
Juffy:
Which I think would operate similar to normal uhf radio where you can listen a lot longer than you can transmit.

From what I've seen (in a past life working for an embedded systems company) low-power radios like this are *ridiculously* sensitive to battery performance - both voltage and available current draw. Assuming the SIAir's are running close to the edge, by virtue of their size, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them get bricked while firing up the transmitter.
Jul 19, 2022 8:11 AM # 
Charlie:
Need to be really careful to ensure you turn it off as well.

How do you turn it off? Does that happen when you download?

How do I know if I should replace the battery? SI+ site says after 3 years, and mine is apparently 3 years old, but I haven’t used it all that much in the last 3 years. Worked fine across 9 events in Europe in the last few weeks.

Has anyone sent one off to get the battery replaced at the North American facility? How long is the turnaround?
Jul 19, 2022 9:44 AM # 
Uncle JiM:
@Charlie How do you turn it off? Finish punch or SIAC off
Jul 19, 2022 10:10 AM # 
Tinnishill:
You can find SIAC operating instructions on here; https://docs.sportident.com/datasheets/en/datashee... . It might be worth noting that when the SIAC battery inevitably fails it just reverts to a type 10 stick and you can keep on punching until such time as it is convenient to pay for their refurbishment procedure. Or, if you are old and slow like me, buy the cheaper type10 in the first place and spend the difference on cake.
Jul 19, 2022 1:07 PM # 
MIclimber:
Thanks all, my first day using it at the event it said Ok on the battery test. Then second day as well, but died mid race after just a few controls. When I checked the battery test station the third day it showed Fail. So not sure why it got drained so fast that it skipped right over Warn. Sounds like I’m mailing to Ottawa thanks again.
Jul 19, 2022 2:10 PM # 
Uncle JiM:
Mlclimber, was the control it failed at, a radio control?
Jul 19, 2022 4:23 PM # 
cedarcreek:
At the World Games, I provided two sets of clear, check, finish (CCF) to Glen Tryson for morning block vetters who were punching with a regular stick to turn on controls, then verifying the units were in beacon mode with an SIAC.

At OCIN we noticed two SIACs owned by two of our normal block vetter team had poor battery life, which I believe may have been caused by not ensuring the battery is off after vetting.

I’ve heard from SportIdent that they shut off after 20 hours, with minimal impact to battery life, but I’m skeptical. One of OCIN’s regulars DNF’d earlier this year after one control, on a Sunday, and he reported the tip was flashing until Wednesday.

So, make sure you hit finish. And I think download people should maybe have a beacon control after download to verify SIAC OFF. I learned this week that the SIAC TEST unit is a beacon testing if the SIAC radio is on, and if it is not, it turns the radio on (normally done by a check unit) by punching normally. I need to see if they have a corresponding VERIFY SAIC OFF unit that beacons (without beaconing off), but turns the radio off by punching normally. For now, I’m planning to have a beacon control after download to test the radio, and an SIAC off to turn it off.

I just added a battery check to download that I’m asking everyone to punch. I’m hoping the download of that unit using Config+ will let me track battery levels over time. (I’m doing it after the course so the battery will have just been exercised.)

I mentioned the CCF for block vetters at the World Games. I expected the block vetters to be nowhere near runners on-the-course, but I realized that a runner passing a beaconing finish unit would be disastrous. I got the CCF units back before the Friday sprint, and a finish unit was on and beaconing (7-hour on time). So I reprogrammed the finish units to SIAC off with a 5-minute on time.

One more: On Thursday at the technical model, I had four just-used SIACs on a table and I used one to punch a finish unit (that was off). Instantly, all four SIACs flashed and shut off. So if you’ve got rental SIACs, wave a beacon finish around them as you pack up.

Full disclosure: The World Games results and downloads were done completely by SportIdent and Swiss Timing. I sent them course XMLs and lent a hand when needed.
Jul 19, 2022 4:37 PM # 
tRicky:
Tash and I got SIACs at the same time in 2016. Hers was borrowed by someone at the 2018 WMTBOC and he didn't finish the training course we were riding so didn't shut the stick off. I noticed later that evening that it was still flashing so we called around an organiser with a finish brick to shut it off. She loaned the stick out again later that week to our team coach but the stick failed on her course. Mine lasted until the end of 2021.

Our team manager at the current MWTBOC told a story of one of their local events where someone had placed a finish brick underneath the table where CP descriptions were collected (by mistake) so it was shutting off everyone's SIAC before they even went out on course!
Jul 19, 2022 6:48 PM # 
Charlie:
Seems to be a lot more to know about this than I was aware of. I will be interested to see how quickly the battery replacement works, MIclimber, but I guess I won't worry about it for now. I certainly know how to punch the old-fashioned way, so if my battery runs out I'll be prepared. If it is relatively quick and painless to replace the battery I'll at least do it before I head off to a multi-day in Europe again.
Jul 20, 2022 1:52 PM # 
Toph:
@juffy. Gravity enduro nationals in south Australia around 2017. 2 day event. 4 stages each day. Data collection points between stages, Usually every 1 or 2 stages. Programmed to with the radio function of ‘send all unsent’ or ‘send all’.( I forget which one too long ago.)

I had 4 or 5 siac die on day 1. On Day 2. My front sweep riders siac failed at the first data collection point after 1 stage.

That was the day I started to click what was going on. To me it’s very much. Transmission issue. (Test runner at Easter this year had his die at a radio control as well.)

I had enough siac that day to hand out double siacs to those with older sticks so I got through without issues. but I pretty much never use the ‘send all unsent’ or ‘send all’ radio functions since. that day and haven’t had problems.
Jul 21, 2022 6:00 AM # 
gruver:
Toph and Juffy I presume you're talking at an expert timing system level, rather than a competitor level. AFAIK I only transmit when the stick is in the download box.

Not to sound alarmist but my first SIAC failed to work in air mode within a year. It was all very new for me then (prior to 2017) but my supplier "fixed" it as a warranty issue - completely new number. That replacement was July 2017 and its still working. When air mode was not offered I have avoided the check box (if I remember.) But a couple of years ago my club decided to leave all its stations in beacon mode, so the battery is being used quite frequently now. I use it about 50 times a year.

That would suggest that predictions are worthless. But in scientific terms this is an experiment with N=2.
Jul 21, 2022 6:08 AM # 
gruver:
PS: I looked in vain on the back of my SIAC for a battery date, as promised on a Sport Ident website. Maybe they weren't doing it in 2017. I got the date by lookup at https://www.sportident.com/siacservice/
Jul 21, 2022 7:39 AM # 
tRicky:
They've only just started putting battery replacement dates on recently. My 2016 stick didn't have one but my 2021 stick does.
Jul 22, 2022 7:25 PM # 
TimMcL:
The more recent versions of Meos give the SIAC voltage at the bottom of the splits printout. Same as for the battery test control. I think that would be a much more reliable indicator of need for replacement than a date.
Jul 23, 2022 7:35 AM # 
simmo:
Tim is that the case just for events using Air, or including events where people use their SIAC in direct punching mode, and have not turned their battery on?
Jul 23, 2022 8:36 PM # 
TimMcL:
Afaik, anytime you download a SIAC the voltage is read. Normally a SIAC would be off at the download station. It seems to report the same results as from the battery level control. Just like si controls, if the battery has not been used in many months, the voltage reported might be lower initially and then rise after a few minutes.
Jul 24, 2022 5:19 AM # 
simmo:
Thanks, I'll remind our Techperson to update to the new version of MeOS.
Jul 24, 2022 8:33 AM # 
gordhun:
Had an interesting SI Air+ experience recently.
I'm glad someone knew what was going on because I sure didn't..
I was at the second day of the Barebones event of the Canadian Rockies Orienteering Festival. The event arena was at a ski lodge in Blairmore, AB. The Start was quite a way up the ski hill.
I dutifully cleared and checked my timing stick while at the ski lodge then started up the hill. For part of the way I walked with an official who happened to be carrying a start box to a second location.
As we split to go our separate ways the official told me that she had heard my stick beep (I had not heard it) so that I had better clear/check my stick again when I got to the start. Just being close to the start box had got my timing stick going.
So much for social distancing being enough!!
I did clear and check and my time for the event was correctly recorded.
Jul 24, 2022 12:49 PM # 
Tinnishill:
On a side note. If a club decides to accommodate SIAC cards at their events then the timing stations all need to be set on beacon mode. As explained here, https://docs.sportident.com/datasheets/en/datashee... , that increases the power consumption of the station battery. Returning the stations to SI for a new battery can be expensive. We are lucky in that we have a club member who is a keen hand with a soldering iron and has a stash of the correct batteries, that keeps the cost down.

We had a couple of cases of units failing during an event so we now occasionally check the voltages and change the batteries before trouble happens.
Jul 24, 2022 11:31 PM # 
gruver:
Am I right that SI initially discouraged user change of batteries in the stations? Now I'm hearing that it is widespread. Will the same thing happen with SIAC sticks?
Jul 24, 2022 11:41 PM # 
gordhun:
User changing of batteries for SI stations? Not me!
I know of only two people in North America I would trust to change out the batteries in my club's 75+ stations.
There is a saying about something not being rocket science but in this case it is a bit like rocket science as not only does one have to be deft at taking out, replacing and soldering in the new battery but also careful in sealing back up the case. Just a little moisture in migration can rust out the parts of a station for good.
How does Suncoast Orienteering pay for the inevitable battery replacements? We charge an extra dollar on each entry to go into an equipment repair and replacement fund. When the fund reaches $1,000 we suspend the fee for a while.
Jul 25, 2022 5:17 AM # 
tRicky:
There is a SIAC battery changing service at Oringen. Costs something like SEK 150 and is done overnight. They'll lend you a replacement stick while you wait.
Jul 25, 2022 3:17 PM # 
Mr Wonderful:
For our boxes, we had nowhere near the needed volunteer interest in learning the procedure, plus Eric was easy to work with and did a great job. I'd rather point whatever coax able volunteer effort I can get to having events.
Jul 25, 2022 3:50 PM # 
jjcote:
I don't know if I'm one of the trusted people on Gord's list, but I've changed quite a few SI batteries, and have another batch waiting when I get home from Europe. I wouldn't call it rocket science, but I did do similar stuff for my job for many years, so it's a cinch for me (now I work at a bigger company where we have special people who focus on that stuff so I can just do firmware).
Jul 25, 2022 5:28 PM # 
gordhun:
No you weren't on the list jj but now I know three.
Jul 25, 2022 5:37 PM # 
crawfordsl:
Gord - this is what I understand about the SI Air+ cards. When you put your stick in the check box before walking up the hill to your start, what that did is turn on the internal battery in your stick and put it in radio receiving mode. Then when you happened to get near a start box being carried up the hill, your stick was close enough to read that box and inadvertently started your race by writing its current time in the unique start memory location on your card.

When you hit the real start box at the top, I think it would have ignored it, and not overwritten the earlier start time, unless you had again cleared your stick, and restarted it with the check box.

Once your stick's radio receiver is turned on by the check box, it remains on, writing in itself the box numbers/times of any boxes your pass near enough to, until you punch a finish box (by insertion into it, or waving within its zone, if Air touch is enabled for it.) The finish box then also takes it out of receiving mode by turning off its internal battery and radio receiver.

The way you can tell if your SI Air stick is on or off is to LOOK FOR A FAINT GREEN FLASHING LIGHT on the tip of your stick, which was turned on by the check box.

I do this every time I use the check box after clearing my stick; and then after I finish, to make sure the faint green flashing light is now turned off. You have to cup your hand around the SI stick tip to make it dark enough to see the green flash, which seems to flash every 4 or 5 seconds. It is really faint, and I reckon most people have never noticed it!

If you want to save battery, do not use the check box until just before you start, and make sure to turn it off at the finish, even if you DNF.

I learned this a few years ago at a Ski-O in Europe. (Air touch is especially handy in Ski-O so people can merely ski by the control, and not have to stop and get their skis tangled up with other skiers coming or leaving.) SIAC Air touch was then new, and at the practice event the day before the competition, the start and finish lines and the control boxes were all set up for SIAC Air touch. I skied the short course, then went back out through the start to re-ski a few controls, not bothering to go through the finish a second time.

Back at the hotel that evening I noticed a green flash in my pile of equipment. It was coming from my team loaner SI AIr touch card. I quickly found Greg Walker, an expert in these things, and he went on line and was able to figure out what was going on! I had restarted the stick at the start, but not turned it off by going back through the finish. It was still in receiving mode, and remained that way presumably eating up battery all night until the competition the next day.

The moral of this story is that SIAC Air touch sticks work a little bit differently than regular sticks, and that most people have never had it explained to them how.

With both a normal SI stick and an Air touch stick, when either is put in an SI box, the box will do three things: write your stick number and the time in its memory; write on your stick its control code number and the time; and flash and beep.

If an SI box also has SIAC Air touch ability, that means it also has a little radio transmitter in it, and once awakened will continually broadcast a little signal with an adjustable range of about 30-100 cm. The signal contains the box control code number and the current time. Your Air touch stick, when put within the range, will pick up the signal, write it in its memory, and then beep/flash to tell you. Note - the box has no way to record your SI number/time, as it does otherwise, since you did not stick it in its hole as with normal SI cards.

At the WMOC this year in Italy, all the boxes were SIAC Air touch enabled for those who wanted to use Air touch sticks, but many people just used their regular sticks. The start had a 4 minute callup. You could clear your stick before the callup, but the check box was not positioned until after the second start line.

Note to organizers providing Air touch. It is probably a good idea not to enable the Start box to have Air touch mode. At big meets like the WMOC there were no start boxes - we started on the clock at assigned start times. Imagine at a local meet, though, if the maps are near the start box, your stick might record a start time prematurely before you had actually started.
Jul 25, 2022 6:39 PM # 
Sandy:
At our local meets we don't enable the Start box to have Air mode, but it is for a second reason: by making participants insert their SIAC card into the Start Box to start instead of using the beacon mode, we have a record of who actually has started a course.

(Except, of course, for the occasional runner who does not punch start. But that's an issue independent of using SI Air.)
Jul 25, 2022 7:04 PM # 
tRicky:
Hard to not check the SI stick at Oringen - they force you to at the verification area (which is anything from 1km-4km from the start) and there's no choice but to do it. Then you check again at the start and there's no SI Air off brick. SI Air isn't active at the foot events (it is for MTBO).
Jul 25, 2022 11:20 PM # 
jSh:
Hi Sharon,

Thanks for the slightly lengthy, but nearly completely correct writeup :)
Two very minor corrections:
* When activating AIR+ beacon modes in the SI boxes, you are not activating a little radio transmitter, the same radio coil around the hole that handles the "classic" sticks is used, however the signal strength is slightly increased and the SIAC, having an active receiver, can receive the signal from much further away compared to the "classic" sticks, which need to use induction to sap off energy to write the punch to the internal chip.
* the AIR+ range of the SI boxes is not adjustable. There are different models of stations with different, but fixed, ranges: BSF7/8/9, used for classic orienteering, with ca. 50cm AIR+ range / BS11-BS (small box) used for SkiO and MTBO with ca. 180cm range / BS11-BL (large black box) not usually used in orienteering, but rather for MTB Enduro high-speed finish timing, with ca. 300cm range. And then there are the special "loop antenna" mats and stations which are used as linear timing points, for example at the finish, they come as 6m or 9m wide mats.

Cheers!
Jul 26, 2022 2:36 PM # 
crawfordsl:
Hi, jSh,
Thank you for your corrections and additional information. The more people actually understand how SI in general works, the better. I spoke with someone at WMOC, new to AIR+, who was DSQed with a missing punch. She was sure she had been there and heard a beep. I suggested after waving her stick near the box, she move it to her face and look for the flash. She didn't know it flashed. The finger stick strap was threaded through the slots backwards, so the flash was only visible on the other side, and the beep she had heard was probably from someone else nearby punching.
Jul 26, 2022 2:50 PM # 
tRicky:
Put it to your ear.
Jul 26, 2022 3:16 PM # 
MIclimber:
$30 to send my stick to Ottawa internationally. Sad the US doesn't have a vendor. Guess I won't worry about air plus for awhile.
Jul 27, 2022 3:10 AM # 
PhillipH:
I have put up a video of how I change the SI Air batteries in my chips if any one is interested in having a go themselves....
https://youtu.be/ih6KqERoxF0
New tips have to be fitted as they are destroyed opening up the chip. My 3D printer design file for the replacement tips is available at ...
https://www.printables.com/model/248728-siac-timin...
Jul 27, 2022 3:46 AM # 
Uncle JiM:
Thanks Phillip, might give it a go myself when I need to
Jul 27, 2022 8:43 AM # 
WR:
First hand info:
https://docs.sportident.com/user-guide/en/airplus_...
Aug 4, 2022 11:10 PM # 
undy:
@Uncle JiM
Use something translucent/transparent for the tips or you can't see the flashes (I imagine,, of course I'm not so dumb as to find out the hard way)

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