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Discussion: SportIdent radio controls

in: Orienteering; General

Jul 10, 2023 3:12 PM # 
Tinnishill:
Could anyone point me at any publication which explains how to set up and use a SportIdent radio control ? SportIdent publish a pdf document entitled "SPORTident_SRR_en" but that just says that a radio equipped control unit called "BSF8-SRR" is available, it doesn't explain how to connect it with Event Headquarters. We want to do this for a Start unit so that a live stream of the SI numbers of those who have actually started can be seen back at HQ. This might be from a remote start of maybe 2km distance, so some sort of radio or mobile phone relay is going to be involved. How is it done ?
Thanks.
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Jul 10, 2023 3:59 PM # 
Frostbite:
http://www.gpprojects.com support this sort of thing in the UK. There are both radio and mobile network options.
Jul 10, 2023 6:33 PM # 
tadg:
Take a look at ROC, https://roc.olresultat.se/ver7.1/roc.php?mainmenu=....

They use a Raspberry PI and a cellular modem to upload punches from the SRR. Google translate is your friend for this.
Jul 10, 2023 7:08 PM # 
jSh:
But wait, are you looking for a suitable radio control system in general (above two answers seem to be following that route-choice) or are you already decided on SPORTident modems (SI-GSM or SI-LTE) and trying to integrate into your existing software-environment?

If the latter, then I'd like to point you to the SI docs (sportident.com -> Support -> Documentation), therein read the topics "Short range radio" and "Live data" - and then see if your favorite orienteering software is already covered there. I know of various software products that directly integrate SI Center data retrieval, however your specific request for start punches might be tricky. For SportSoftware OE2010 for example some trickery was needed based on code-numbers of the start stations and then separation of the SI center data stream using other software (SI reader or, insert shameless plug for my own software here, jSh.Radio controller). I believe the newer OE12.1 supports code-number-based function-assignments, so quite possibly this trickery isn't required anymore. MeOS has used such code-number-assignments for a long time.

So as you can see, next to the hardware question some software questions also need to be discussed.
Jul 12, 2023 1:04 PM # 
Tinnishill:
Thanks for the tips, folks. The GPP products and the Swedish ROC products are both interesting.

What I am trying to do is simply supply live information from the Start unit to the Download operator without having to send messages back and forward to bother the Start team.

Jsh asked whether we are using SI modems. Well, no. We manage all our local events (sub 200 entries) via SIdroid on an old Android tablet.

What I am feebly grasping towards, then, is a method to record the start time and pass it via a radio transmitter to a radio receiver and then onto a phone screen. We would then have one Android device showing actual start times and another Android device running the normal SIdroid download function.

Jsh, I found an old thread from 2017 ( http://www.attackpoint.org/discussionthread.jsp/me...) where you mentioned that you had used the SIdroid ROC app, which I didn't know about. Can SIdroid ROC be used in areas without mobile phone cover ? Possibly through a local wifi router to a browser on another device ?

Thanks again.
Jul 13, 2023 12:32 PM # 
jSh:
Hi Tinnishill,

right, those are quite specific wishes that you describe there - that's good, because it helps eliminate some options. So, here's a brainstorming session and I'm hoping you can follow my thoughts:

* you say your start might be 2km away from HQ, this probably eliminates "classic" (point-to-point or mesh) radio solutions. So mobile network it shall be, obviously this requires network coverage at the start *and* the HQ for up- and download of data.

* you're looking to display the start-punches on a phone or tablet, essentially that means the punch data needs to be accessible by web-browser or app.

* I have never worked with the GPP devices, but from their homepage it doesn't look like they have a web-GUI for punch display. SPORTident does, it's called SI Center, however displaying punches from modems is... not very pretty on small mobile devices. The ROC project homepage (server-side, so independent of the device at the start) does have a page for displaying punches from devices after you login.

* Additionally the ROC data is accessible for screenscraping by other uses, for example I have built a ROC-device status- and punches-view at http://radio.jsh.de/mobile/ - the devices listed there are ones I own or have worked with in the past, but if you're not afraid of manually editing the URL, you can use the MAC-address of any ROC, for example http://radio.jsh.de/mobile/?b827eb11c79a;punches;s... will give you a fairly mobile-friendly list of the most recent punches from a ROC with ID 'b827eb11c79a', and the displayed list auto-refreshes every 20 seconds too. I think that fulfills your description of your wish for the HQ-display.

* at the start, you can decide between either a "classic" ROC, meaning a Raspberry Pi with a powerbank and a mobile data stick, or instead an Android phone with the "SIdroid ROC" app available from joja.se (and then onwards to Google PlayStore). Remember that for the phone solution your battery needs to last the duration of use with constant data transfer (SIdroid ROC sends a "ping" every 20 seconds even if no punch is made), some smaller/cheaper phones will not last longer than 4 hours in such cases.

* whichever of those two you chose, you will additionally need to decide between a cable-bound SI-station (BSM7-USB or BSM8-USB) acting as the start punch, or a short-range wireless solution using SI-SRR. The latter will require a BS8-SRR station plus a SRR-USB-stick to receive the punches. Considering people usually prefer not to use a contactless start (to avoid premature "catching" the punch), a cable-station is probably just fine... BUT!

* BUT remember that the BSM8-USB doesn't have a battery of its own, which has two implications: one, your phone or Raspi-powerbank needs to power (1) the phone or Raspi+mobile stick and (2) the start station - and two, the lack of battery means the station looses the RTC (real-time clock) every time it is without power. So after powering up the BSM8 station, you would absolutely need to "time-master" it, otherwise your start-punches will be "just after midnight". If you can grab a BSM7-USB from somebody who still has one (they sadly are not made by SI anymore), that thing has an internal battery and therefore keeps the time running.

So... there you have it. Either (a BSM7-USB or BS8-SRR) and (a Raspi+datastick or Android-phone) acting as a ROC at the start, plus webbrowser-display of ROC-punches at HQ, that should do the tricks you are looking for.

Any more questions? Fire away :)
Jul 13, 2023 12:37 PM # 
jSh:
PS: you asked at the end of your message "Can SIdroid ROC be used in areas without mobile phone cover?".

I believe the answer is no. The classic Raspi-ROC can be configured to send punches by local WiFi to a TCP-receiver port speaking a protocol called SIRAP. However this normally means a PC with orienteering software on it (MeOS, OLA, OE2010+OE12 all "speak" SIRAP), I don't know of any Android-apps that would be able to receive and display such SIRAP-data.

Plus, show me a WiFi router that bridges your 2km start-HQ distance, I'd really like to see that beast! (I don't believe such a thing exists unless we're taking about massive Yagi antenna setups on both ends).
Jul 13, 2023 1:05 PM # 
Tinnishill:
Thanks a lot, that's a big help. I will report back if I ever get anythng to work.
Jul 19, 2023 7:18 PM # 
Tinnishill:
jsh pointed out that the BSF8-USB stations don't have a battery in them and therefore can't sustain a set real time when unplugged.

The SI datasheet published for BSF8-USB definitely says "The time is not kept in the station without external power!" I am sure that I remember seeing the "plug it in to see the time as 00.00.00" effect.

I did a bit of an experiment.

The BSF8-USB station can be configured as Clear, Check, Start, Control, Finish and Read Out.

Using SI config+ on a PC and SI-Droid ROC on an android phone, I plugged the BSF8-USB first into the SI config+ and set it as Clear, then into the ROC phone and touched it with an SI timing card (chip, finger or dibber according to where in the world you live). I then moved the BSF8-USB repeatedly between PC and phone and went through the sequence of Check, Start, two Controls and Finish, as if it was a real course with every control station a radio control. At the end I returned the BSF8-USB to Read Out mode and downloaded the memory of the SI chip into both the SI-Droid Event app and the SportIdent android app. All of the punches recorded had a time report which seems to have been taken from the mobile phone system network time. During the process I unplugged the BSF8-USB from it's power source 12 times.

I don't know whether this is happening because of a firmware change in BSF8-USB or if it is within the software of the SI-Droid ROC app. The BSF8-USB appears to now be usable for the ROC task to some extent.

I prefer the idea that the ROC station should have it's own long life internal battery rather than rely on the phone battery, that just seems more resilient. I will try to get hold of a BSF8 SRR and dongle and report back on how that goes.
Thanks again.
Jul 22, 2023 10:29 PM # 
jSh:
Hi there,
OK, so here's some technical mumbo-jumbo, please don't run away :)

The BSM8-USB (nitpicking here, it's BSM as in Base Station Master, because it has a cable to attach it to a PC, rather than a BSF, Base Station Field, which is intended to work out in the Field, uh, Forest) really does not keep the time without external power - at least when it is disconnected for more than a few minutes.

The effect you saw was due to the fact that there is a capacitor in parallel to the battery connection pads, and the RTC (real time clock) chip in the station can survive for a few minutes from that capacitor. If you punch the BSM after it was very recently unplugged, you probably would drain the capacitor and the clock time would be lost.

Background: in stations where a battery is installed, the capacitor helps reduce the current draw against the battery when the station beeps and blinks, because the Lithium batteries don't really like current spikes.

In BSM without the battery, the capacitor is kind of inadvertently charged from the USB power and this RTC-survival can be seen, but it really won't last long and you definitely won't get a valid punch from an unplugged station, or from one that is connected to a Raspi or phone that has died, so if Raspi/phone dies, that control effectively dies with it. Ergo, not a good idea to use BSM8 at radio conrols.

For your specific scenario, you might opt to use a BSM8 as the CHECK station connected to a ROC. This way, the Check-time doesn't really matter on chip, the ROC website will display the Server arrival time (note Swedish timezone!) as a fallback, and in case of CHECK dying it's not reeeally bad, some people might complain that their SIACs couldn't be activated, but for those you could have SIAC TEST around anyway (which allows contactless testing but also in-hole-dibbing activates the SIAC as a "secret" feature).

Finally regarding Raspi versus Phone decision - I'd always go for the phone if possible, it has a screen that shows it's working and connected to a network and thus allows some trouble-shooting options. With the Raspi and mobile data stick, it's very much a "switch on and pray" affair, even to the extent of the SD-card sometimes becoming corrupted if the powerbank dies or the Raspi is switched on and off to quickly. For the phone-based ROCs I've assembled I have soldered external LiIon-batteries to the phone battery contacts, thus my phones have 10.000mAh batteries (rather than included 2500 internal battery), that's more than enough for 16+ hours continuous use. It wasn't quite easy finding 4G-capable phones with exchangeable (not fixed built-in) batteries though... :(
Jul 23, 2023 12:41 PM # 
Tinnishill:
Thanks again, that clarifies a lot. Sadly I have been unable to lay my hands on a BSM7 unit but I have ordered a BSF8-SRR station and dongle. It might take three weeks to arrive, apparently, but I will report back on how that goes.
Regards.
Mar 26, 2024 2:22 PM # 
jSh:
Hello there,

Warming up this not-so-old topic to report some news I relatively recently found: there is an Android app called "O Checklist" https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=se.t... which allows a startlist-XML to be loaded and then either manual or SI-station-based "tick off" of athletes, plus recording late-starts, chip-changes and optional comments. A customizable report of started/late start/did not start/chip change/comment information can be exported as an e-mail report and/or YAML file, either triggered manually by the operator or on a time-interval.

Tinnishill, this probably doesn't immediately fulful your requirements from last year, but the mail-report on a timer might be close to what you were looking for. What I can also say is that Anders, the author of the app, responds very kindly and quickly to feature wishes, so if you can describe what you need added, there's a good chance you'll get it.

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