Why build / use the Dart Data system?

 The idea for Dart Data initially came out of a weekend when I timed and ran comms for an ultra distance event that went really really badly. The saving grace in the event was the GPS trackers, as it allowed several small situations from becoming critical. This coupled with my experience of being asked at every race I timed, "where is X?", "is X on the right route?" and similar, meant I was looking for a way of bringing the benefits of GPS tracking to shorter events, or events that could not afford GPS trackers.

I was already running RFID and NFC timing options using Webscorer as the driving software. I liked and still like Webscorer. However, there are situations when it's handy for multiple people, on multiple devices, to edit competitor details.

Here's a list of the features of the Dart Data system, and why they were chosen-

  • Long battery life - for long races!
  • Cloud based reporting (google sheets) - allows multiple people to see and, if necessary, edit information. Device agnostic.
  • NB-IOT communication - in short 3G / 4G is patchy on the events I time
  • Meshing communication with LoRa - allows devices with no NB-IOT signal to pass their messages to a device with NB-IOT signal and relay it to the google sheet
  • As waterproof as possible - I live in the UK....
  • As cheap as possible - at time of writing the cost of each device is around £200. I would love to halve this but with the cost of components I'm not sure this is possible. NFC wrist tags are fairly cheap online.
  • Open source - anyone can build it and use it, for free.
  • Discrete - it's a black box with two antenna. All together it's less than 1/4 the size of a shoe box.
  • Doesn't rely on marshals counting runners - I want marshals to be free to help people.
  • Doesn't need expertise at the checkpoints - no network issues or computer issues to troubleshoot. Set and forget.
Obviously it doesn't give the same resolution as a GPS tracker, but if there are 3-5 devices on a 32 mile ultra, then at least it's easier to tell that runners are on the right route and how far they have got.