Monday, September 1, 2014

New (ish?) event tracking software

It looks like there's a new GPS-based event tracking application, RaceBeacon.  From what I can glean from their website it looks like they're consolidating GPS feeds from individual participants' personal smart phones.  This is probably reasonable for shorter (as in, very short) informal events, and may provide a solid basis for building out a more robust platform with more features in the future.  As much as I'm a fan of Trackleaders (and I'm a huge fan, for reasons I'll go into in the next paragraph), it's always great to see some competition in this space.

That said, just showing locations on a map is not that interesting, particularly for events with staggered starts (like sprint races).  A map alone can show you where teams are in relation to each other but they don't capture the dynamic nature of racing - the stuff that makes racing exciting.  Prominent among the reason that I like Trackleaders is that they really are both data guys and competitive cyclists, and they're interested in showing the story of a race as it unfolds.  Also, because they're data guys and computer scientists they've already dealt with some relatively difficult problems, for example calculating with some degree of precision the race mile at which a given team is currently located (harder than you'd think).  In this case, for sprint mushing races, the problem RaceBeacon is facing is how to demonstrate the relationship between two different teams' performances when the entire race is run in 20 minutes without stopping and the teams started 2 (or 4 or 18) minutes apart.  But, if you're not committed to using another tracking system and you're putting on a sprint event (and you can count on most or all of your teams carrying smart phones with data plans and having their batteries fully charged and being a platform supported by RaceBeacon), this could be very interesting to experiment with.

If you've used them for tracking your event, how did it go?  Who's planning on using them this fall or winter?